A Barbaric Yawp

I am fairly certain I am publishing this post because I am an old man unable to restrain myself from responding to that thing Walt Whitman once called a “barbaric yawp” (I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable, I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world).

The author, apparently a true and unrestrained barbarian, overcome by the need to yawp

I begin this, to me, irresistible urge to yawp with the following graphic depicting the actual size of the Earth to the Sun:*

Earth’s average distance to the Sun is about 93 million miles (on average due to Earth’s elliptical orbit), which is so far from Earth that it takes light emitted by the Sun (and traveling at 670,600,000 mph) 8 minutes and 19 seconds to reach us. In other words, the Earth is a mere speck in the Solar System when compared to the Sun.

The following image shows the location of the Sun, which is but one galactic speck among an estimated 100,000,000,000 stars in the Milky Way Galaxy:

The Milky Way is so large that it would take an imaginary spacecraft traveling at 670,600,000 mph approximately 80,000 years to cross from one side of the disc-shaped galaxy to the other.

The Hubble Deep Field, an extremely long exposure of a relatively empty part of the sky, has provided evidence that there are about 125,000,000,000 galaxies in the observable universe (approximately 273,400,000,000,000,000,000,000 miles in diameter), which means the massive (to us) Milky Way is itself a mere speck in the Universe.

The notion that a species of primate living on a speck of stardust so inconsequential as to be invisible, a primate that shares a very high percentage of the same DNA as a chimpanzee, would be able to make definitive judgments as to the existence and actions of a “designer being” sufficiently intelligent and powerful enough to create a universe, which is so vast as to be unimaginable to us, seems to me at least, to be simple fantasy; and the notion that such a “designer being” is responsive to a single human’s prayers, or is responsible for the fate of each of us, or will reward us with an eternal paradise if we follow a set of rules created by (mostly) male humans, rules of fealty that mimic the expectations of human kings, seems to be completely delusional.

So much more rational, I think, would be for humans to be focused on what we can control, which includes applying the teachings of prophets (Jesus is my favorite but there are many) regarding how we should interact with one another in “the pursuit of happiness.” Prophets are people who are wise enough to suggest ways for us to rise out of the slime of the world of fang and claw, to rise above our biology: our human tendencies to put greed and power above all else, which is the predominant condition of humanity in the world today.

Instead of practicing rules of obeisance to an imaginary, all-powerful being, wouldn’t it be better to use our intellect to interpret the wisdom of prophets to make this virtually invisible speck of stardust on which we live a tolerant, loving, and hospitable home for our children and grandchildren and all those we hope will follow?

I realize I don’t know the truth of such things with certainty (can anyone?). It’s why I’m asking the question, and not declaring an answer.

The author, restrained and yawp-less


Despite whatever subconscious yawpiness is likely at the root of this post, my writing it was prompted by an Evangelical Christian whose email blasts I have allowed myself to be subjected to for six years (primarily out of curiosity). Occasionally, I would respond to those emails by simply asking a rhetorical question, but his last email prompted the definitive response that is this post, which I intend to be my last response to his emails. Ever.

*diameter of the Earth = 7,918 miles; diameter of the Sun = 865,370 miles: the illustration has been drawn to scale.

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