Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Wealth and Power of a Nation

I stepped out on my deck last night before hitting the hay. A gentle breeze was blowing out of the south and the air was cool, but not uncomfortable. I know it must have been my imagination but I could almost smell the salt air from the Gulf of Mexico. The starlit night sky was clear and I could see the Little Dipper and Orion’s Belt.
I saw the lights from a passing airplane and although the sky was dark, I could see a vapor trail behind the plane that looked like gray rope stretching across the night sky.
I tried to imagine what it must have been like a few thousand years ago when pollution was nonexistent and the stars did not have to compete with man made light. Even today with modern telescopes and a vast amount of knowledge about the earth and sky, the natural world is still a mystery.

I read a news article last week where scientists recorded a giant infrared flair which they deduced could only have been produced by a star, possibly the size of our sun, being swallowed by a black hole. This event happened so far away that it took years for the light to reach earth...light traveling at 186,000 miles per second....take a second and absorb that.
I know the nature of my entries for the last few days has been a lot different. I think it's because I'm reading the book on Alexandria. It is remarkable to me what they knew then. Euclid wrote Elements. It's a book about math...only the Bible has been read more. They understood how the body's organs were connected and mapped the circulatory system. This was disquieting, but the king back then let the medical students practice on condemned prisoners.
A great deal of the wealth amassed by Ptolemy was funneled into education. They understood that the wealth and power of a nation lies not in the vaults, palaces, statehouses and the armories, but in the minds of the people. Ptolemy spent an enormous fortune collecting books, and providing research facilities for the students of that day. I think the current inhabitants of earth should stand together and demand that our governments stop squandering our resources and start investing in things that matter.
I'm only part way through the book, but I know how it ends and it makes me sad to think about all that was lost when the greatest library of all time was destroyed.
This I know....we are living in remarkable times today. Never before has knowledge been so accessible. Sometimes I think I'm pretty smart but this I've come to know......the more I learn, the more I realize I don't know squat.

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