Incipit Vita Nova

Where and when did your life really begin? Or are you waiting for it to begin? Part of the Wellesley College seal is Incipit Vita Nova, “Here begins new life.” I feel like I have always been waiting for something to happen in life, for my life to start. Did it start at Wellesley? Did it start before or after? Or has it started even still?

I think my new life begins now. I think we all have many lives which begin in our new roles in the development of our different life stages. I started a new life at each new institution of which I became a member with new environments, communities, ideas, and activities. I start new life today too. We all wear many costumes and masks, and this is just a new one for me. A perpetual Mardi Gras. We are all actresses playing new roles and starting new lives for our characters every moment.

I remember during a summer cosmology internship funded by the National Science Foundation at the Harvard Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, my supervisor took me to a Harvard Junior Fellow luncheon. I think these lunches occurred weekly, and I was impressed by the quality of the gourmet food served, as I recall, on silver platters. The conversation that day was posed by another junior fellow, “What is life?” This is a question which has baffled scientists, from biologists to astrobiologists to computer scientists, for eons. Can a computer program which reproduces be considered life? Is life determined by its material composition or its behavior? At a recent talk about searching for life on Mars at the University of Winnipeg, I recall Ed Cloutis talking about how life alters its environment and builds a home for itself. There is life even in barren parts of Manitoba which he explores to see how life can thrive in hostile environments like Mars. Life can survive in hostile environments, I suppose, which we see not just in the remote North and potentially off the Earth but in our communities as well, at the office, at home, in war zones, and in our own minds.

I have often felt as though I am existing without really living. I bet I am not alone in this. And I have often felt I have been waiting for something to happen. Maybe it is up to me to make things happen. Carl Sagan wrote in Pale Blue Dot that it is up to us to save ourselves. His intended meaning was to save the Earth from the violence we inflict on it. No one will save us from ourselves. Maybe this applies also to individuals. We cannot wait for that knight in shining armor to whisk us to our new life. We must save and create new life for ourselves now.

There is an urgency to begin new life. We can begin new life every day that we awaken to cook a new recipe, create a new character, or learn a new scale on the piano. It is on a continuum. Our new life begins each moment as we evolve.

So how did you begin your new life today? Or are you waiting for something to happen?

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