Arizona? In July?? Are You Kidding???
Hey, do I look like I’m kidding? Well, okay, yes, I usually look like I’m kidding. But in more ways than one, I’m serious when I say that Metanexus 2009 promises to be our hottest conference yet.
The year 2009 has been named The International Year of Astronomy. According to the official website of the program, “The International Year of Astronomy 2009 is a global effort initiated by the International Astronomical Union and UNESCO to help the citizens of the world rediscover their place in the Universe through the day- and night-time sky, and thereby engage a personal sense of wonder and discovery.” In its Resolution declaring 2009 a time for promoting an increased understanding of astronomy, the United Nations noted “that astronomy is one of the oldest basic sciences and that it has contributed and still contributes fundamentally to the evolution of other sciences and applications in a wide range of fields, that astronomical observations have profound implications for the development of science, philosophy, culture and the general conception of the universe, [and] that each society has developed legends, myths and traditions concerning the sky, the planets and the stars which form part of its cultural heritage.”
The year 2009 is also the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin’s paradigm shattering work, Origin of Species. The wonder of his project is illustrated by the book’s closing lines:
It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. These laws, taken in the largest sense, being Growth with Reproduction; inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the external conditions of life, and from use and disuse; a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less-improved forms. Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.
The 2009 Metanexus Conference, Cosmos, Nature, Culture: A Transdisciplinary Conference will celebrate these two events with outstanding speakers from the fields of cosmology, astronomy, physics, evolutionary biology, and environmental sciences, coupled with philosophical and theological reflections on the cultural, personal, and moral significance of our explorations and discoveries about the natural world and our place in it.
Sounds great, you say. But what about the weather???
Here are some things to consider:
- You may find it surprising to learn, but people actually live in Phoenix all year long! That’s right! Even in July! Arizonans do everything “regular” people do in the summer time. They even seem to be happy!
- In Arizona, they have this amazing new invention. It’s called air conditioning! It’s great! No matter what the temperature is outside, you can make it as cool as you like inside. I bet this air conditioning thing is really going to catch on!
- When it comes to weather, it really is the humidity. And in Arizona, they don’t have any! If you’ve been to a Metanexus conference in Philadelphia when the temperature was 97 and the humidity was near 100% and you had to walk all the way across campus to the sessions, you may find a hotel conference in Tempe to be a pleasant surprise—even in July.
- Some metaphysicians argue that “seeming is being.” It if seems to you that it will be hot no matter where you are in Arizona in July—even indoors—it probably will be. So dress accordingly. Feel free to wear shorts and a t-shirt for all the sessions (although when I recently attended a conference in Tempe…in August!…I suffered no ill effects from wearing a jacket and tie).
On a more serious note, if you come from a temperate climate (as I do) and you have never visited an area that has an extreme climate (as I had not, prior to last August), you may find something about being in extreme conditions spiritually awakening. I found myself reflecting on the fact that billions of my fellow human beings around the world live in extreme conditions—heat, cold, drought, famine, war, political oppression, and grinding poverty. One can forget how comfortable one can become. One can forget how suffering is apportioned unequally. One can even forget about nature, and that nature, too, might somehow suffer. I found myself thinking about these things in the desert heat. You might, too.
If you have been to a Metanexus conference in the past, you know that we strive to combine open exploration, engaging new ideas, deep thinking, and an openness to intellectual and even spiritual transformation, as we bring together the knowledge from the widest array of academic disciplines in a common quest for wisdom. And we try to have a good time in the process!
So get cracking on those abstracts and send them in! Metanexus 2009 will be here before you know it! It’s going to be hot!