August 12, 2008

Always keep your childlike wonder (no matter the news from Russia)

I’ve been following the news coming out of the North Caucasus the way my brother Ben and my cousin Cody usually follow the Mets, obsessively, analytically, and with an underlying potential for heartbreak. I spent most of my last semester in college studying Russia and separatist conflicts, and reading the news I see beyond the conflict between Russia and the westward looking, though eastward facing Georgia. I see the 50,000 South Ossetian refugees spilling into North Ossetia, where the infrastructure already struggles to provide for its citizens. And I think of the wider geopolitical consequences in an region where every territory (Chechnya, Ingushetia, Dagestan) has the potential to be a tinderbox, having suffered through decades of indiscriminate violence, first under the Tsars, then Stalin, and ultimately Putin’s KGB tendencies. I feel pessimistic about peace and stability; I cannot help it.

And then I saw the only BBC story in the Top 5 Most Read that had nothing to do with the conflict in South Ossetia, but with “materials that could render people invisible.” Scientists at UC Berkeley have discovered a process that bends light around 3-D objects, and it is thought to potentially be the first step in the development of invisibility cloaks. It is easy to get caught up in war and conflict when reading the news, and while I am informed, I sometimes forget what we humans are capable of, yes the worst of violence, but we are also capable of the once thought impossible, of startlingly ingenuity, and of the fantastic. Maybe we will never have invisibility cloaks (they are currently making objects invisible on a nanometre-scale) and until the “power of love, overcomes the love of power” I’m not really sure we should, but when I read about the scientists at UC- Berkeley, it restores in me a childlike wonder and optimism that I need in my life. Stories of human empathy, and of activism (that’s why I read and write for elephant), sustain me, but it is a childlike wonder that I most seek to cultivate and that helps me look forward to the future, as I live in the present.

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