Did you know that every star in our galaxy revolves around a black hole? That this black hole is named Sagittarius A*? That Sagittarius A* weighs 4 million times as much as our sun and is 27,000 light years away? (http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2011/12/warning-black-hole-dead-ahead.html) That it will eventually consume “everything” in the galaxy? (New York Times, Dec. 20, 2011, “Black Hole Forecast: A Cold Gas Cloud” P. D3). Now, a large, cool cloud of “gas and dust” is (arguably) hurtling toward the black hole’s event horizon. According to some scientific projections, by 2013 portions of the cloud will be engulfed by this maw, setting off an X-ray burst in the process.
Why do I feel like a speck of dust in that cloud?
And why doesn’t the news that “we” (our atoms) are going to share with every other bit of matter in the Milky Way the eventual fate of plunging into that hole do anything whatsoever to alleviate my distress at the knowledge that our unique biosphere appears to be hurtling towards a level of near-term destruction–describable in shorthand as the climate tipping point that many climate scientists believe represents a sort of event horizon for global warming, a benchmark beyond which the warming process would continue in a feedback loop essentially irreversible by human action–apparently as difficult for us to imagine and take effective steps to forestall as is this remote, essentially fictional experience of being engulfed by a black hole?
Dust to dust. I am drawn to this image. The other day, I read in Red Pine’s translation of Poems of the Masters (Copper Canyon, 2003) that “[r]ed dust (hung-ch’en) was a term used by Chinese Buddhists when referring to the world of sensation” (312).