June 6, 2012 § Leave a comment
It is hard to imagine what life must have been like in the pre-Copernican Revolution days. To believe that you are living at the center of the universe must have given you a terrible amount of anxiety. I no doubt would have panicked until I put stones in my pockets and walked into the sea.
Few things are as comforting as a major celestial event, the sort of event that happens on a scale of time and space that we can put our numbers but not our senses to. The sort of event that reminds you that the only things that really matter are gravity and light, the things themselves and not the objects that swim in and from them. The sort of event that is wholly indifferent to the fact that an entire generation of humans will live and die before it happens again. The sort of event that invokes the sense of sublimity Kant had in mind when he called it the beautiful and the terrible.
Oh to feel small! It is like being wrapped tightly in a soft blanket and laid supine on some warm sand during the gloaming. Or having a dark corner to yourself and something to suck on.
I tried to look at the sun with a sideways glance, to see if I could glimpse the Transit with my naked eye. How many ancient humans sacrificed their sight just so we could have this one bit of certain knowledge – do not look directly into the sun? And yet, I tried. How volatile it is to be a thing in which facts and actions are independent of one another. How unstable choice makes a system. Imagine if the planets had choice. I can’t imagine the universe lasting very long, a second, perhaps a day at most.
We believe we can choose and that our choices have meaning. And it gives us a crushing paralysis that sucks the joy and beauty from the universe. A sense of freedom and significance is a dangerous cocktail that leads only to sadness, anger, regret, loss, guilt, angst and suffering. The planets and their stars have neither and they seem quite content.
It’s funny how we call it “The Transit of Venus,” as if it had somewhere to be, as if it were on its way to a date. Certainly it moves, but not with purpose. To be going toward a place you must go much slower. When you reach a certain size and speed, you stop moving and become small.