I have been lately avoiding too much political news, because being informed is not the same thing as making a difference, and because the winter months are hard for me. Instead, I’ve been reading books that put humanity (and the universe itself) in perspective. One is Katie Mack’s The End of Everything, which is a delight. I find it perversely cheering to be reminded that the universe will not last forever. Not only that, it quite possibly could be ending right this moment. There are many, many ways astrophysicists can imagine that reality itself will unravel;, and Mack explains all of those possible ends with the maximum possible clarity. That doesn’t mean I actually understood all of it, just that I had faith she had done the best possible job of presenting something utterly incomprehensible.
The other was A (Very) Short History of Life on Earth by Henry Gee, which presents a paleontological/geological/biological overview and is just as clear and thorough as Katie Mack’s book. Hominins only appear in the 9th chapter of 12, and though the book is aimed at human life forms to read (we being the ones who read such things), it is most decidedly not upbeat on the prospect of our continued existence. He isn’t blaming the usual culprit, global warming. He’s just pointing out that extinctions are routine on Earth and we’re due for one some time. Catastrophes have many times nearly ended life on Earth, whether they were asteroids, volcanoes, or just the routine ice ages that come and go.
Yes, I find it cheering to read such things in the holiday season. I am reminded that my little life (the one that is “rounded with a sleep” as Prospero says in The Tempest) is most unimportant in the larger scheme, and I might as well enjoy what I have, while I have it.
That said, I received two physical copies of The Stick Princess in the mail yesterday and every time I looked at them, my eyes welled up. How lucky I am to be alive, if just for this specific moment in the Anthropocene Age! I happen to know of three typos in the book, thanks to the diligence of a reader, but I haven’t corrected them because I am all too aware it would throw off the formatting. Jess Johnson, my cover designer, worried that the files she made for me wouldn’t do for a physical book, but I am here to tell you the book looks just wonderful.