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Constellations

It's January in the northern hemisphere, so it's not surprising that I saw Orion tonight. The air was cold, the sky was clear, and as usual, Orion was the first thing I noticed when I looked up.

I remember seeing Orion almost every night in the fall of 1993 when I was on my three-month NOLS course in the wildernesses of the West. Although my life has changed in many ways since then, and although the scenery on the ground is very different, the constellation looks the same. Somehow, that's comforting.

Even though we tend to glorify change, and dynamic is almost always taken as high praise, I don't think human beings can thrive without a few permanent things in their lives. Most of us need some things that we can anchor ourselves to. Without some anchors, we'll probably be miserable at best; at worst we'll be lost, confused, misguided, and dangerous.

Richard Sennett wonders about the consequences for real people of a culture that most highly values a kind of person that doesn't exist (or at most is very rare).

"A self oriented to the short-term, focused on potential ability, willing to abandon past experience is - to put a kindly face on the matter - an unusual sort of human being. Most people are not like this; they need a sustaining life narrative, they take pride in being good at something specific, and they value the experiences they've lived through. The cultural ideal required in new institutions thus damages many of the people who inhabit them."

With all apologies to Jack Horkheimer, I hope you'll read the rest of Sennett's essay, and I hope you'll keep looking up.

Comments

I see Orion almost every night these days, because I have a sick horse that requires nightly medication. As I walk to the barn, I follow Orion even more than the lights of the neighbor to the north. (Flashlights? We don't need no stinking flashlights.)

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