A friend of mine wrote me last year describing the kind of ecstasy and at-oneness he felt walking his dog in the foothills of the Blue Mountains in North Carolina, near Saluda. Moments of great peace are a treasure amidst the distractions of this noisy world. I also have known the rapture of seeing the Milky Way or Sagittarius on a clear night in the mountains, or in this river valley in Wisconsin.
Truth is an awesome truth, and wonderful, and we only catch a glimpse of it. Doesn't a falling star make a fascinating, eerie sight? I recall Whitman shaking his head and walking out after hearing "the learned astronomer" discourse. He went out and gazed at the stars in silence. This need not be the case. Science and the sense of wonder need not be at odds.
We are one grain of sand on the ocean floor. The vast vastness of the night skies skies makes us realize how minuscule we are, and should make us humble - but does not. We want it all for ourselves, and hope to spread like a cancerous cell throughout the body of the galaxies of the universe. Perhaps "Earth is room enough" as one science fiction writer wrote. In any case, we should tread modestly through the solar system or beyond.
The issue is awe. At stake is wonder. We're proud of having surpassed mystery. The mystery remains. We just don't see it, because (in part) we're preoccupied with our own manufactured realm. We must return to primitive awe, or lose an essential component of being human. Are we better than our predecessors? Or has war, abortion, and divorce - the brutalization or trivialization of human relationships - put us on the verge of a true age of darkness?
But to return to the night sky, a riddle:
When can you see farther, in the day or night?
Because you can see the stars.