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Thursday, 4 June 2015

Above Us Only Sky

There's a not-much-noticed novelette by Thomas Hardy, called "Two on a Tower". It's a tale of star-crossed lovers, set against their nightly explorations of the depths of space via powerful telescopes. He knew how to tell a raunchy story, did Tommy H, when he put his mind to it.

There is a ghastly nature to space, when you have to face it. It's not as infinite as many think, except in the same way that the world is limitless - if you head round the equator in an easterly direction, you'll eventually come back to the same place. And the theories say there's a similar kind of feel to space. Not that you'd go right round its curvature, as if you're lucky the expansion will stay ahead of you. Depends how fast you go, I reckon.

Sorry. Got distracted.

Just been out watching the International Space Station go over. It's only about 200 miles or something up. But it's eerie watching it as it sails on silent wings around the old blue ball. Beyond it today were Jupiter and Venus - mere millions of miles away. The Andromeda Galaxy contains a trillion stars, and is two and a half million light years away. But it's local, all things considered.

If you get this far in musing as a Christian or Jew, there's only one thing that comes to mind, I reckon:

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
    the moon and the stars that you have established;
what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
    mortals that you care for them?

Psalm 8 is the context for a sense of abandonment, a horror of the vastness of space; a kind of holy shock as we realise just how small we are. As the prophet said, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist, but that's peanuts compared to space.

I like to think, if I ever got shoved into a Total Perspective Vortex (the possibility is remote, I realise) that when I saw a map of the Universe, in all its terrifying immensity, and in one tiny corner a little tiny sign saying "You are here" - that the place where I am, would be marked by a cross.

Not my cross. Somebody else's. The cross that says I may live in a mind-numbingly huge universe, and death may be inevitable, and the world may move with the cruelty that only the unthinking laws of Physics and chance can provide, and the meaning may - for a moment - be totally lacking. But I am not alone. Zaphod Beeblebrox survived the Vortex because the universe he was in, was built simply for him. And, deep down, I do believe that this universe I am in was built simply for the Word who gave the song of creation its grammar, died on a cross, and did it all for me. Not just for me. But for me as well.

It's big and empty and terrifying, the sky, innit? But it's beautiful and comforting as well.

1 comment :

  1. You've obviously not walked from Little Sodbury to Chipping Sodbury. There's one stretch across the common that we call the walk of doom - goes on forever.

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