Mysteries of the Universe

Nature is an infinite sphere whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.

~ Blaise Pascal ~


More Latin phrases, courtesy of one of my brothers:

Vocatus at que non vocatus, Deus aderit: Bidden or unbidden, God is present.
de minimis non curat lex: The law does not deal with trifles.

Though Latin is a “dead” language, it is spoken in specific contexts, including certain ecclesiastical, legal, and educational environments. I read that the Harvard Classical Club has a weekly Mensa Latina – a Latin table for any Classics members for whom free food is provided as long as participants attempt to speak Latin at the table. I wish I had been sufficiently intelligent, motivated, and had access to adequate wealth to have gone to Harvard. I might have enjoyed an entirely different—and far richer and more engaging—professional life than the wasteful one I pursued. Speaking of which, on a side note, the other day I came across the certificate proclaiming that I had successfully achieved the designation, Certified Association Executive (CAE). I discarded that ultimately  meaningless proclamation. It served only to stroke my ego and the egos of people like me who were similarly persuaded to believe its assertion of value and distinction.  Translated into Latin, the intellectual value of the CAE is tan vanum: meaningless. I have acquaintances who disagree; they still cling to the misguided belief that their careers meant something. Oh, well. If nothing else, association management allowed me to pay my way into retirement. Of course it meant something; it just was not nearly as important nor as consequential as my colleagues and I tried to believe it was.


The sky is dark, lit only by the dappled light of sparkling stars occasionally peeking out from behind rivers of clouds as they flow past. Every breath I take is infused with the mysteries of the universe; I almost can feel the beginning of time as it floods my lungs with history. Not just my history; the history of everything and everyone. Every triumph, every defeat, every inconsequential victory and every momentous loss.

I wrote those words long after the experience to which they refer. Writing after the fact is a poor facsimile of contemporaneous experience. The real thing lights up the synapses with enough electricity to power a mammoth city during times of peak usage. Words are inadequate substitutes for raw emotions; but they’re the best we can muster in the absence of actual experience.

For most of my life, I understood loss in the abstract. Even during those terrible, early moments of loss that were real, my comprehension was undeveloped. Understated. The experiences were painful, but they did not crush me the way a true lesson in loss does. That loss explained to me, in ways my imagination could never have done on its own, how loss empties the universe of everything that matters. That loss explained how one’s world can evaporate entirely, while simultaneously burning with flames so horrible and hot one feels as if all the pains felt by all of humankind during the entire expanse of time were being inflicted on one’s mind and body at the same instant. Emptiness, fear, horror, agony, hopelessness, depression, rage, and every other negative emotion—erupting in perpetuity.

Loss became real and permanent when I experienced that one true lesson of loss. The pain has subsided into a miniscule fraction of what it was then, but burning embers still remain. Sometimes they spin into blazing, uncontrollable, tornadic whirlwinds. Consuming everything in their path, they leave dry, dead ashes. And the cycle begins anew. Memories, even beautiful memories, can spark a new conflagration. Sometimes, the flames promise to set fire to everything all over again. But I manage somehow to quench those new blazes for long enough to start a new chapter in my life; hoping to avoid burning the book I am attempting to write.


The mathematician, physicist, and theologian whose quotation I used to introduce this post is responsible for another one I find intriguing. That other one brings me up sharply in response to my comments about my own curiosity:

Curiosity is only vanity. We usually only want to know something so that we can talk about it.

~ Blaise Pascal ~

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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