I won’t be the first or the last person to comment on this seminal statement from Arthur C. Clark and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (in fact, it actually was in the book AND the sequel film, 2010: The Year We Make Contact.)
To the point: there is nothing I enjoy more – and rarely get to do with an exhausting work schedule – than sit in a reclined chair, outside and wait until my eyes adjust to the dark…
And then, that precise moment in the history universe reveals itself to my naked eye… most astonishingly.
Planets, stars, constellations, Milky Way Galaxy, and of course the shooting stars and man made satellites.
I count them.
On the few moonless, clear nights of July-September, the amount of activity in the Heavens is completely amazing. And of course, this is only what one sees without magnification.
I liken leaning back and viewing the infinite universe as some of my life’s profoundly sacred moments; in that everything that every was, and will be, is right up there in view. The common mistake we make as human beings is to view everything, and I mean everything, with relevance only to ones lifespan. And, the average life span of humans is simply too short, especially when viewed in a universal sense.
80 years versus 13+ billion years
80 vs 13,000,000,000
Or, one would have to live 16,250,000 lifetimes. That’s a lot of taxes! (insert wry wink here)
But back to the night sky. Last night I counted 28 satellites and 10 falling stars. Not quite close to my personal record of 35 satellites and 26 falling stars, counted in Greensboro VT fifteen years ago.
When the evening is quiet (and we are grateful and fortunate to live in a mostly quiet neighborhood) it only adds to the star gazing splendor. If you can share it with a close friend or loved one (or both) its even more rewarding.
Contemporary hand held technologies, i.e., your smarty pants phone or tablet have many “app” options for night sky revelation and calibration… calling out individual stars, constellations, planets and more. Plus, most will operate in a “red” mode that won’t disturb your night time vision. These apps can greatly expand ones knowledge of “what is what” in the night sky.
My reverence for the night sky is long in my own years… many significant events have happened while looking up…first kisses, dreams of future, recollection of pasts, philosophical ramblings of epic proportion, etc. And finally, like many who can’t help but exorcise emotion as creative endeavor, the night sky often makes its appearance in my songs, verse and stories, as well as drawings and paintings.
My long standing hope is for every single person on this planet gets at least a few nights a year, to drop their troubles for just a few moments and look up.
Look up to the future, look up to the past. As life itself came from the stars, when we look up, we see all of Life (yes, the big Life with a capital L). All life that has been and has yet to be.
For me these bodies of light in the night sky remain uniquely humbling and comforting – – at the very same time.