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Stargazing: Continued

For instance, no longer does physics need to be taught from an arid laboratory perspective of false total objectivity, devoid of human spiritual values. Brian Swimme writes about the creation of the universe as being the story that touches and encompasses everyone, deeply:

The universe began as an eruption of space, time, matter, and energy out of all-nourishing abyss, the hidden source of all creativity. The universe began as a titanic bestowal, a stupendous quantum of free energy given forth from the bottomless vaults of generosity.


Doesn’t that begin to explain a lot? Cosmology is starting to integrate not only how matter came to be, but also the subtleties of human spiritual and psychological nature: how we think, how we desire to create.

My interest in things cosmic heightened, the opportunity seemed ripe for me to begin watching the night sky. I’m not entirely sure why. But soon my stargazing became a several nights a week event under the cool summer night sky canopy, usually from our small second floor balcony. Using printed sky maps, my initial idea was just to identify a few constellations and the brightest individual stars and planets visible from our city.

I started to enjoy leaving the confines of my normal consciousness to get acquainted with the “naked-eye” planets - Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter - and stars such as Arcturus, Deneb, Vega and Betelgeuse and the constellations Draco, Bootes, Cassiopeia and the Perseids, among others. To assist in this practice of sorts, my supportive wife Lydia gave me a great pair of binoculars for my birthday, while other community members contributed astronomy books and encouragement.

Stargazing, informed by our cosmology discussions, was surprising to me in several ways. I felt like I didn’t really have much of a direct relationship with thepull-out quotation universe before, except through textbook knowledge. It seems so odd that we tend to get a strong feel for our local, and even world, geography during our lifetime, yet we look up at night and we don’t have the faintest idea where we are when it comes to our astronomical home. In fact, don’t we spend most of our lives working, breathing and worrying about our personal problems cut off from the surreal fact that we are held by gravity to a spinning, living blue marble hurtling through galactic space at impossible velocities?

However new this more direct experience felt, gazing at the night sky actually took me back to a long-held yet dormant interest in things related to space. I remember, for instance, when I was seven listening to the radio news of Armstrong and Irwin’s landing on the moon late at night while sitting in our family’s Chevrolet in a southern Ontario campground, in a state of youthful wonder.

I found out that looking at the heavens, in even small ways, connects us to history, the past contained within the present. When my friends Dave and Lorna and I took his telescope out to a park outside the city to view Jupiter, we saw its four largest moons for the first time! I was struck that this experience was a connection, however slight, to Galileo himself who turned his telescope in the same direction so long ago.

Looking at the stars also connected me to community late last summer when we camped at Birds’ Hill Park. Away from the glare of the city lights, we spent an evening gazing at Mars (then near its closest approach to Earth in 70,000 years) and the Milky Way. We had fun taking Swimme’s advice to lie on the ground with our feet up so we could get a feel for us “falling” through space rather than assuming we live with strict spatial directions as if the ground needs to be “down” and the stars are “up”. We then looked “down” to find our neighbouring Andromeda Galaxy, or actually light that had been travelling from the galaxy for 2 and a half million years! It seemed like we had a collective experience of awe that could not be contrived.  

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