Finneran: Awe, Part 1

Friday, January 12, 2018

 

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We live in humdrum times, or so it seems.

Eric the Red, Magellan, Columbus, Cook, and da Gama took their voyages of discovery many moons ago. As did the Polynesian adventurers

Marco Polo’s journeys were centuries ago.

Lewis and Clark, Zebulon Pike, and John Fremont mapped America’s Western frontier in the 19th century. Alexander Humboldt’s adventures are of a similar age.

The actual discovery, passage, and mapping of rivers and mountains, lakes and canyons, forests and deserts, oceans and islands, those physical acts, are now well behind us.

Today we cruise along interstate highways littered with signs announcing Taco Bell, Mobil, and McDonald’s. The excitement of discovery today comes in the form of the newest location of Dunkin’ Donuts. And while a DD location is always handy knowledge, it’s not quite the same as navigating the Missouri, Snake, and Columbia Rivers for the first time.

Yesteryear was filled with awe, today is filled with yawns. Except, except...........

That evening sky. Outer space. Check it out.

A PBS special on the Hubble Telescope opens one’s eyes to this unimaginable frontier. It is astounding.

The Hubble engineering is awesome. The Hubble math is awesome. The Hubble physics are awesome. The human imagination to pull it all together is awesome. And then comes the really impressive stuff, the universe itself.

For all of mankind’s collective brilliance, the universe reveals just how puny we are in the scheme of things. For people of faith the majesty of the universe reflects the words of Scripture- “But, as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”

Two words kept coming to mind as I watched the program. Two very humbling words—puny and awe.

We are truly puny microscopic specks. And the universe is a place of unimaginable awe.

Our little green planet orbits the sun. That sun is just one of about 300 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy. That’s right—300 billion stars in our very own galaxy. And the universe has more than 100 billion galaxies. The sheer immensity of such numbers boggles the mind. The scale staggers the imagination.

The Big Bang theory? Intelligent design? God’s sense of humor on display?

Is the universe, as well as our place in the void the result of just one big chain reaction nuclear accident or is there something grander at work? A Carl Sagan quote comes to mind:

“Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality”. Sagan seems to suggest that some scientists are as filled with wonderment and awe as we civilians are, peering around every corner and curve, bewildered, perplexed, in awed amazement at the complex arrangements of our world and its place in the universe. Could it be that all that they see and begin to understand is the result of a series of random events? Or, is there something more “spiritual”, more meaningful, more eternal at play?

A second thought arises. We may be puny but we are earnest. And the awe we feel is as irresistible as the awe of Magellan and his fellow adventurers.

Those humdrum times I mentioned? Let me change that. The universe beckons our minds and our souls.

We go forth in awe.

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Tom Finneran is the former Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, served as the head the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, and was a longstanding radio voice in Boston radio
 

 

Related Slideshow: GoLocal: Benchmark Poll, October 2017

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Sponsor: GoLocalProv

Sample: N=403

Rhode Island General Election Voters Margin of Error: +/- 4.9% at 95% Confidence Level

Interviewing Period: October 9-11, 2017

Mode: Landline (61%) and Mobile (39%)

Telephone Directed by: John Della Volpe, SocialSphere, Inc.

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Are you registered to vote at this address?

Yes: 100%

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When it comes to voting, do you consider yourself to be affiliated with the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, Moderate, or Unaffiliated with a major party?

Unaffiliated: 49%

Democrat: 32%

Republican: 15%

Moderate: .4%

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Next year, in November of 2018, there will be a statewide general election for Governor and many other state offices. How likely is it that you will vote in this election?

Will you definitely be voting, will you probably be voting, are you 50-50...

Definitely be voting: 78%

Probably be voting: 13%

50-50: 9%

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In general, would you say things in Rhode Island are headed in the right direction or are they off on the wrong track?

Right track: 39%

Wrong track: 45%

Mixed: 10%

Don't know/Refused: .6%

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What would you say is the number one problem facing Rhode Island that you would like the Governor to address?

Jobs and economy:  21%

Education: 12%

Taxes: 12%

Roads: 12%

State budget: 9%

Corruption/Public integrity: .8%

Healthcare: 3%

Governor: 3%

Homelessness: 2%

Immigration: 2%

Other: 7%

Don’t know: .9%

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Over the past three years or so, would you say the economy in Rhode Island has improved, gotten worse, or not changed at all?

Changed for the better: 35%

Changed for the worse: 16%

Not changed at all: 43%

Don't know/Refused: 5%

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Over the same time, has your family's financial situation improved, gotten worse, or not changed at all?

Changed for the better: 26%

Changed for the worse: 19%

Not changed at all: 54%

Don't know/Refused: 1%

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Recently, a proposal has been made to permit the issuance of $81 million in bonds by the State to build a new stadium for the Pawtucket Red Sox. If there was an election today on this issue, would you vote to approve or reject issuing $81 million in financing supported moral obligation bonds to build the stadium?

Net: Approve: 28%

Definitely approve: 15%

Probably approve: 14%

Net: Reject: 67%

Probably reject: 19%

Definitely reject: 48%

Don't know: 4%

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Could you please tell me your age?

18-24: 7%

25-34: 15%

35-44: 15%

45-54: 20%

55-64: 17%

65+: 25%

Don't know/refused: 1%

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What was the last grade you completed in school?

0-11: 2%

High school grad: 16%

Technical/Vocational school: 1%

Some college: 23%

College grad: 34%

Graduate degree: 24%

Don't know/refused: 1%

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The next question is about the total income of YOUR HOUSEHOLD for the PAST 12 MONTHS. Please include your income PLUS the income of all members living in your household (including cohabiting partners and armed forces members living at home).

$50,000 or less: 27%

More $50,000 but less than $75,000: 13%

More $75,000 but less than $100,000: 13%

More $100,000 but less than $150,000: 17%

$150,000 or more: 13%

Don't know/refused: 17%

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What particular ethnic group or nationality - such as English, French, Italian, Irish, Latino, Jewish, African American, and so forth - do you consider yourself a part of or feel closest to?

American/None: 21%

English: 13%

Italian: 13%

Irish: 12%

Black or African American: 6%

Latino/Hispanic: 6%

French: 6%

Portuguese: 3%

Jewish: 3%

German: 1%

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Would you say that Donald Trump has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as President?


Excellent: 13%
Good: 12%
Fair: 14%
Poor: 57%
Never heard of:  0%
Cannot rate: 3%

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Would you say that Jack Reed has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a United States Senator?

Excellent: 22%
Good: 29%
Fair: 23%
Poor: 15%
Never heard of: 6%
Cannot rate: 6%

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Would you say that Sheldon Whitehouse has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a United States Senator?

Excellent: 17%
Good: 22%
Fair: 21%
Poor: 28%
Never heard of: 6%
Cannot rate: 7%

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Would you say that David Cicilline has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a Member of Congress?

Excellent: 9%
Good: 29%
Fair: 21%
Poor: 27%
Never heard of: 6%
Cannot rate:  8%

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Would you say that James Langevin has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a Member of Congress?

Excellent: 7%
Good: 30%
Fair: 20%
Poor: 18%
Never heard of: 13%
Cannot rate: 11%

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Would you say that Gina Raimondo has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Governor?

Excellent: 6%
Good: 28%
Fair: 30%
Poor: 31%
Never heard of: 1%
Cannot rate: 3%

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Would you say that Daniel McKee has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Lieutenant Governor?


Excellent: 3%
Good: 16%
Fair: 21%
Poor: 8%
Never heard of: 26%
Cannot rate: 25%

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Would you say that Peter Kilmartin has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Attorney General?


Excellent: 3%
Good: 20%
Fair: 28%
Poor: 17%
Never heard of: 13%
Cannot rate: 19%

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Would you say that Seth Magaziner has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as General Treasurer?

Excellent: 4%
Good: 18%
Fair: 24%
Poor: 13%
Never heard of: 21%
Cannot rate: 21%

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Would you say that Nellie Gorbea has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Secretary of State?

Excellent: 5%
Good: 21%
Fair: 21%
Poor: 10%
Never heard of: 20%
Cannot rate: 23%

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Would you say that Jorge Elorza has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Mayor of Providence?

Excellent: 4%
Good: 24%
Fair: 24%
Poor: 22%
Never heard of: 9%
Cannot rate: 15%

 
 

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