Quarter-Moon and Venus
From my new home on the Cumberland Plateau I sit in my Lazy Boy and look out the big great room windows across a canyon of trees to another plateau across the way. Except for a large leaning tree with high branches the sky occupies the biggest portion of the window scene.
On Sunday night last a radiant quarter-moon sat next to Venus in a totally black sky. As the earth rotated, the Moon and Venus lined up squarely in the center of the window, and the beauty of that black sky scene was lucid and spectacular. My thought at the moment was that the scene would make such a beautiful picture to hang somewhere in the house but I was too relaxed to get the camera and shoot the scene – the idea being to have an artist capture via that picture that stark and lovely moment on canvas.
Each night the moon got larger. On Wednesday night it was a near half-moon – luminous and beautiful against the dark sky but no Venus.
So, why all this business about the Moon and Venus out my window? You likely know the answer – scenes like the Moon and Venus perfectly framed in a window can get an artist, a philosopher, even a writer like me to thinking.
For me, the thinking was about the upcoming anniversary of 9/11, the day that seemed to change our lives to a great extent, the terrorist trail of blood stains on so many families, the sobering reality road our country was now on. The scene induced a thought about Benghazi, 9/11, one year ago when four more of our great patriots were killed. We still seek answers and hunt for the killers. Was Benghazi a mere unmindful-date significant event of hatred against America? Or, was it a symbolic trophy day for the raging fanatics of doom?
Thoughts continued to roll on the film strips of my mind, school massacres of elementary school children, racial hatred that impelled some to commit awful murders of innocents, a movie theatre that became a slaughter house… So many thoughts did such a beautiful night scene create in my mind. The thoughts were unbidden. They just came.
How does our country, our world, assimilate millions and billions of people of different cultures and hope to satisfy the needs of so many? How does the order of the universe manage to set itself along predictable paths, like the magnificent moon there in the black sky alongside Venus? How is it that the Universe with all of its galaxies and planets, a universe estimated to be ten billion light years in diameter, steadily expanding for thirteen billion years, can present such order to mere mortals, while said mere mortals cannot create in relative terms some sense of order for themselves? We seem to repeat the same mistakes over and over. Our history teaches us of wars and the leaders who take us to war. Our history teaches us how deranged dictators can destroy countries and sacred parts of culture and soul. Why is it we cannot resist the Satanic impulses of greed, hegemony, manipulation, and power? Is there hope for humankind? Is it impossible for a world to orderly unite and thrive? It seems impossible from where I sit, but perhaps that is the unconscious lure of Space. Perhaps it is out there in the void that we find our parallel universe of peace and perfection. Perhaps it is God’s plan, His ultimate heaven. Perhaps for the unbeliever of a Deity it is merely our destiny – to become part of all those billions of years of order where our bones become part of the dark expanding cosmos of infinitude.
William Wordsworth, one of my favorite English poets, wrote in 1802 or thereabout a sonnet:
“The World Is Too Much With Us”
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon,
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. –Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.
Wordsworth was satisfying the cynics of his day by criticizing the first ‘Industrial Revolution’ and claiming the world was too much into materialism and not enough into Nature and matters of the heart and soul. I particularly love the metaphor/paradox line:
“We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon.”
Little did I know when starting this post about a beautiful quarter-moon and Venus that I would end up quoting Wordsworth, but he was a worthy wordsmith of his day, and not too far off the mark for some of us today, dare I say. Then, we will always have our cynics, our dreamers, our scientists, our technical authorities…
See how a little sky gazing can erupt into a post?
Now, how do I get out of this post with some relative sanity?
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