The Passing of an Era

I heard something on NPR today that really tripped me out. The passing of Venus will occur tomorrow evening. For a few hours, we will be able to see a seemingly insignificant black dot pass across the face of the Sun. Hundreds of years ago, this was a huge deal. Astronomers across the world were able to coordinate with each other in order to estimate the distance between the Sun and the Earth using the passing of Venus as a gauge.

Today we know the distance from Sun to Earth within a matter of meters, no triangulation between Venus transit spots needed… we’re also probably far too busy checking facebook updates  and twitter feeds to look up at the sky for a few minutes and watch an event that will not happen again until 2117. Numbers can be tricky. Let’s rephrase.

No one alive today will be around to see the next passing of Venus. If I had a child in the next few years, that child will not live long enough to witness this event.

If you really let that sink in, you realize that we take so many moments for granted. We put things off because there’s always tomorrow. This whole passing of Venus thing certainly puts things into perspective.

Yeah. Maybe if you put off calling that old friend or going on that trip you’ve been secretly planning for years you can somehow justify the procrastination by saying anything I could have done today, I can always do tomorrow.

Venus would beg to differ. If you put off watching poor Venus drag its sorry black spec of a body across the sun tomorrow, you will never be able to see it again.

I’m making this my year of actively pursuing the things I want in life. I will not let laziness, fear or expectations hinder my progress…. and you’re damn sure where to find me tomorrow at 6pm. I’ll be looking up at the sun through my handmade pinhole projector, hoping to catch a glimpse of that fleeting little dot making its way across the Sun for the last time in our era.

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Will I get credit for this?

On August 25th 2011, I decided to apply for leave of absence from my graduate program at the University of Chicago. I know the exact date because it was one day before the expiration of my fellowship offer. Yeah, cutting it a bit close.

I’m confident that the interwebs need one more writer taking a swing at legitimacy. I mean, come on, who doesn’t love writers? We supply the world with insight on only the issues we deem to be important. Take, for instance, what I was writing about last year… 19th century French poetry. If I can make a career writing about something that obscure, why shouldn’t I try writing about things more people might be as passionate about as I am?

So if you happen to be interested in food, books, travel, art, music and maybe even French poetry from the 19th century (hell, I’ll widen the net on that… any type of French literature), join me in my rebellion against my day job. You’ll just have to bear with the slight delusions of grandeur and the moments of self consciousness that lie on the path to the aforementioned legitimacy. Because, let’s face it, that behavior just comes with the territory of those of us who should probably have a day job.