Photo credit: NASA/NOAA/GSFC/Suomi NPP/VIIRS/Norman Kuring
The image above is home. It is the place where all but five hundred of the over ten billion humans have lived and will live their entire lives. It is the only place we know of that contains our scale of life. This place is amazing to us, for it gives us physical locations of shelter, warmth, chilling, cyclical seasons, and the chance for us to learn about its inner-most workings.
If you've recently been hiding under a rock (or not reading r/atheism), you might have missed the amazing story of 16-year-old Jessica Ahlquist and her recent lawsuit to remove a prayer banner in her public high school. Just last week, a federal judge ruled in her favor and it looks like the school district will take down the banner rather than continuing to futilely challenge the Constitution with taxpayer money.
July of this year will mark the ten-year anniversary of an experience which would alter my life forever. In 2002, I attended the Oregon Country Fair in Veneta, Oregon for the first time. I had no clue what to expect other than it would be filled with the unwashed hippies and sparkly-woo new-agers of Eugene. I was still living in Corvallis at the time, and was attending the Fair with the belly dance troupe I was in. While I had studied belly dance for about five years, I didn't actually do any dancing in the troupe. Instead, I was one of the musicians, playing the flute. We had been invited to perform, not at the Fair itself, but at one of the campgrounds along the lake. It was a sensuous experience with the pungent aromas of food carts, incense, and body odor; the visual cavalcade of wild costumes, painted faces and breasts, and glow sticks splattered on shirts; and the aural ambiance of music and drumming and dance. It was overwhelming.
I want to start with a word. It's a simple word; it's only four letters long and not at all difficult to pronounce. It's anatomical in origin, it's almost 800 years old, and yet it still is considered by some people to be "one of the few remaining words in the English language with a genuine power to shock."