The night sky is particularly crisp. I lay in bed looking overhead through my skylight at a brilliant Jupiter and feel small all over again.
Delphine is an astronomy buff. Her favorite nighttime bauble is twinkling Capella. Some years ago I gave her a telescope. We hauled the forty-pound monster to an empty parking lot and figured out how to turn this knob and that to aim it at a bright dot in the sky. Tweak this, focus that and she gasped, “I see it! I see it!”
I took a look. There was a sphere with a ring around it. Certain it was a plastic sticker we forgot to remove from some lens, I looked at the front of the scope. Nothing. I looked again through the eyepiece and realized I was seeing Saturn – not a NASA photo of Saturn or an artist’s rendering of Saturn, but actual Saturn. Saturn!
The sense of scale, of distance, of how big the sky was literally made me dizzy. For just a moment I needed to hold on to something to avoid being flung off into the vast nothingness above us. I was on a cosmic Tilt-A-Whirl spinning through space and suddenly the ground I was standing on didn’t feel so solid.
On clear nights like this one, staring through my skylight, the conceit of humanity seems so ridiculous. Who controls what majority in the Senate? Will the gun lobby protect the right of citizens to bear Cruise missiles? Will big oil or big pharma win the race to own it all? Who cares?
The entire planet could blink out of existence and, except for a little wobble in our neighbors’ orbits, the cosmos wouldn’t even notice.
Sometimes I wonder if, maybe for a doctoral thesis or a fourth grade homework assignment, our planet was visited by an advanced race of aliens. They took one look at our corporate pandemic and checked the NOT VIABLE box on their survey form because what moves us is control instead of collaboration, fear instead of hope. I imagine one sixteen-fingered creature (programmers know that advanced races have a power of two fingers on each hand) saying to another, “They really don’t get it. They only have a hundred years to avoid the approaching black hole and they’re spending their time pissing in each other’s soup.”
Well, okay – they probably wouldn’t actually speak English. Maybe they’d say, “C57D 0A28 4678 E4C3 0C80 79C4 5304 EA6A 11DE F708 7E75 C397 soup.” (I’m pretty sure the word soup would show up in there somewhere because everybody everywhere loves soup.)
“We are stardust. We are golden. And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.” Joni got that right.