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The sun, as many people know, is located some 93 million miles from Earth. That’s a large, even incomprehensible number. Yet, it’s the number that afforded just the right conditions for humans and all other current forms of life to evolve and thrive. A few million miles closer or further, and it would be a completely different story.
Our recent project, Living Deep Time Calendar Year 000001, led us to think about the sun quite a bit. After all, over millennia, earth/sun/moon dynamics have been the cycles of change that we humans have referenced in our attempts to develop meaningful calendars and understandings of time on Earth.
During year 000001 of our project, we paused with the reality that — when we’re outdoors, everything we see is bathed in eight-minute old sunlight (except for those few photons around that are actually older and have traveled farther to get here).
It’s amazing when you actually stop and think about this. The sun you see in the sky? It’s an eight-minute old image constantly being re-created. See your friend or partner across the yard? You are seeing them through eight-minute old sunlight. That “getable” eight minute duration somehow renders the extreme distance of the sun more accessible and relatable. Though it doesn’t lessen the imaginative effort it takes to grasp the fact that those photons that left the sun’s surface only eight minutes ago got here at an incomprehensible speed of 186,000 miles per second. Not to mention the fact that their journey from the sun’s core, where they were produced, to the surface, where they were sent off into space, took many thousands of years. Or the fact that there will be a moment in the very far future when the sun becomes a white dwarf and its streams of photons slowly fade to black. And that will inaugurate a very different sort of “last” eight minutes …
For now, the photons just keep steaming into our habit on Earth, showering it with energy that fuels pretty much every living thing. And the sun’s steadfastness as producer and deliverer of light actually offers some reassurance in the (recently) scientifically accepted epoch of the Anthropocene. So far, that reliable steam of photons feeding and illuminating us is one aspect of our Earth-bound habitat and our experiences of time that remains beyond human ability to alter.
We made the eight-minute relay of life-affording light the theme of our fourth and final postcard dispatch from the Living Deep Time Calendar Year 000001 project. And we plan to stage The Last Eight Minutes in a variety of experimental and theatrical forms in coming months.
We’re happy to announce that we will release the Living Deep Time Calendar Year 000001 through a Kickstarter publishing campaign in early October. So, stay tuned for details on how to get your own calendar for living time differently in the Anthropocene, and enjoy the sunlight.
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