Atheist Aesthetic

earth-772992
Standard

“After sleeping through a hundred million centuries we have finally opened our eyes on a sumptuous planet, sparkling with color, bountiful with life. Within decades we must close our eyes again. Isn’t it a noble, an enlightened way of spending our brief time in the sun, to work at understanding the universe and how we have come to wake up in it? This is how I answer when I am asked—as I am surprisingly often—why I bother to get up in the mornings.”

— Richard Dawkins

Quote via my friend Brick’s very sexy, thoughtful, work-unfriendly blog.

Magnification

Standard

first-keplerian-diagram-lg

Sex therapists are fond of saying that size isn’t everything. They’re right: size isn’t everything. Size is the only thing.

Seeing the world through your everyday eyes, at 1x magnification, you take it all for granted:

  • The dust in the utility room that never goes away.
  • The dingy white baseboards, peeling and cracked.
  • The armchair you pilfered from your parents for your first apartment and never returned.
  • The book of mediocre photography that an ex-boyfriend gave you two weeks after you’d met, five months before you broke up.
  • The people at work, on the sidewalk, in your bed, who circle you like electrons, reliably invisible.

Every time you see these, your eyes slather them in a thin layer of varnish. Every time, they become fuzzier, until the world looks like the edges of a Doris Day movie: vague, shadowy, unremarkable.

But zoom in and observe the magnificent horror of the dust mite under an electron microscope, the chaotic fibers that make up the pages of every book on every shelf in every house. The arms of that chair, at very close range, reveal long-dead cells of trees — trees that might’ve lived for centuries, and could’ve lived for centuries more if some average-looking lumberjack hadn’t risen from his breakfast table and decided, screw the sickness he could feel coming on, screw the allergies and the lack of sleep, he was going in to work that day because he needed money for rent, food, his wife, a baby crib, some meds. Witness the skin of your lover, constantly shedding, renewing itself, as if he is saying, “I’m remaking myself for you”.

Or zoom out, see your house from 10,000 feet, as the roof that badly needs patching joins a patchwork of roofs, the crazy quilt of your block, with highlights of blue swimming pools, green oaks, little red Corvettes. Go higher, until all you see is the lights of your street snaking their way to the edge of the city, then zig-zagging around hills, beside rivers, across dirt roads that dead-end like faint capillaries overwhelmed by trees.

Higher still, the picture is obliterated by clouds, feathers of moisture that will eventually fall on your roof and perhaps leak into the attic, onto the old steamer trunk you bought at Goodwill a decade ago, stuffed with high school memorabilia, and will never look at again. Float farther out, and farther still, until the blue marble becomes just another reflection of the sun in a universe of bodies creating and reflecting light, playing catch with luminescence across billions and trillions of airless miles.

And somewhere out there, in some cozy corner of the dark, is a couple caught in the first blush of love, looking up at the sky, our planet, your house, sharing secrets, exchanging alien kisses, weeping alien tears beside a methane sea because they have not yet begun to ignore one another and realize that it is all overwhelmingly beautiful.

World AIDS Day Reminder: It’s The Stigma, Stupid

Video

AIDS and the virus that causes it have been around for at least a century. But in 1981, the syndrome that was first called GRID, or Gay-Related Immunodeficiency, began affecting large numbers of people in the West — specifically, white, middle-class people. Soon, it was dubbed a “global phenomenon”.

Today, more than 34 years after its first mention in the New York Times, some scientists are still trying to identify the origins of AIDS. I’m sure they have good reasons for doing so, but to me, it seems like a waste of time, energy, and money. In my decidedly non-scientific view, searching for the source of AIDS is little more than an encouragement to point fingers. Communities always want to blame disease on outsiders; once we can definitively say where AIDS and HIV “come from”, we can say, “It’s not our fault, it’s theirs”. In the process, we remove ourselves from the obligation of doing anything about it.

The actual science of AIDS is far more important, and it’s something we know much more about. With every passing month, we uncover new details about how HIV works, how it evolves in the human body, how it’s transmitted from cell to cell. We also learn its weaknesses.

Over time, such discoveries have made HIV a chronic, manageable disease. If you’re HIV-positive and take your meds, you can live as long as your HIV-negative peers. (Granted, access to those meds isn’t always easy, but it’s getting easier.) Once your viral load is suppressed, it’s also nearly impossible for you to pass the virus to others.

What’s not manageable, what hasn’t evolved over the past three decades, has been the stigma surrounding HIV. As you can see in the video above, HIV-positive people are still called sluts, still told that they “deserved” to contract HIV, that they’re vile, diseased, unlovable.

That’s not just mean-spirited. It directly contributes to the spread of HIV. Stigma scares people from getting tested, and it prevents sexual partners from speaking honestly with one another about HIV status.

So, next time you’re skimming through Grindr or Scruff or Growlr, take a good, long look at some of the profiles there. Guys who describe themselves as some variation of “clean” are probably dicks (and not just because they are what they eat). Guys who say that they’re on PrEP or poz or undetectable are a far better bet. At least they’re willing to talk, and I don’t know about you, but nothing turns me on quite like chatter.