Hope Index, Vol. 9: Across the Universe
Happy Friday & welcome to Hope Index, our weekly roundup of things on the Internet that made us think, feel, and desire (Amazon wishlists excluded). This week's theme touches on one of our endless fascinations here at the magazine: the question of how our stories reach us as complete, each one a constellation that connects us with one another other across the universe of our individual understanding.
Whether it be lingering on past events or struggling to grasp the limits of our bodies in relation to the cosmos, "inspiration" is a driving force and the muse can be as fickle as it is generous. Let's visit some ideas, shall we?
OK, so we generally try to avoid words like "conjuring" on Upwrite, but this piece on Catapult that dives into the origin of our best stories is worth the mention. Through the lens of craft care, we are able to understand the way that literature "can be more than the sum of its parts," as it became for the writer. Writing is a magic, but like any magician will tell you, the trick evolves from thoughtful practice.
Speaking of stories that touch the universal! "Whereas human beings had previously seen created things as signs that pointed towards heaven, shifts in popular thought meant that now the individual was what gave things meaning. The stars no longer signified God; they meant whatever we felt them to mean." This article is a video game review on Christianity Today but you should still click on it because it explores the limits of our modern conception of infinity and references Charles Taylor and C.S. Lewis as celestial philosophers.
The review of No Man's Sky led me to reconsider one of my favorite fiction works ever, Perelandra by C.S. Lewis. "There seems to be no plan because it is all plan: there seems no centre because it is all centre," remarks C.S. Lewis's space traveler hero, Ransom, as he muses upon the nature of story when he thinks about the history of a planet. Reminded me actually of this poem by Tony Hoagland, "How it Adds Up." Thing is, "it" does all add up, but mostly because... it doesn't. The consistency and valuation of meaning relies entirely upon our interpretation of it, and each soul that we encounter might be a moving piece of the equation of our lives (a theme also visited in another ambitious little story about theoretical universe traveling, The Little Prince).
The idea of "another earth" , both in reality, imagination, and function, is endlessly interesting. You probably have heard about Proxima Centauri before, but the NYTimes reporting on Proxima b, the newest "earthlike" planet with "life-sustaining" conditions to be discovered, might feed your fantasy for other lives and dimensions (and finally a love poem). (PSA: This is a friendly reminder that both Ashley and I took astronomy in college and I almost failed. But I do know that above-linked Bob Hicok poem by heart.)
Maybe you wish for other realities, missed connections, and forgotten opportunities -- or maybe, you're content to treasure the sweetness of what life has brought you in this season. Chances are, you feel a little bit of both. But may this be a weekend where you encounter multiple stars, that speak to all of your dimensions. Cheers.