Monday, May 31, 2021

An Observation of Venus

Hey folks!  I have a new astronomy community over at Locals.  Come join the fun! 

An Observation of Venus

Memorial Day ‘21

“See these eyes of green?  I can stare for a thousand years.”  

  Hear the roar of the crowd, pressed together like innumerable matchstick men, ready to ignite at the right words.  Dizzy with vertigo and pressure, the stage flexes slightly as you stride across it to take the microphone, peering down into Times Square, New York City.  A special convention has been called to hear your thoughts.  The world is waiting.  What do you say?

  Most of the time, I come up empty.  That’s bad for a blogger and podcaster.  But tonight, I should like to share with you an observation of Venus.  It’s an evening star this time of year, looking like an airplane following the liquid silver of the Potomac river, mirroring a clear sky at dusk.  

  Crunching along the gravel road, my brain throbbed.  It was a day in Hell.  The old people I work with can be mean or pleasant, uplifting or heartbreaking, just like any of us.  I think the focus is sharpened for me, because they invariably die, sooner rather than later, and often go insane, scratching at chronically bloody faces and sobbing to go home.  “My parents are calling!  I need to go meet them!”  (This is not a metaphor for death, simply a wish of a mind wracked with dementia, believing me to be the obstacle of seeing a cherished relative approximately 138 years old.)  Mix that with 90 minutes of “B-13….I-27” and you’ve got a lot to think about.  

  A chorus of gray treefrogs greeted my wondering face.  I plopped down on an ancient millstone, once worked with enslaved hands, my back to the plantation house. Gazing out across the now-still fields, sprinkled with early fireflies, my eyes settled on the Virginia shore.  The gathering twilight settled over the land like my great grandmother’s popcorn comforter, soft, authoritative.  Blinking red beacons signaled to airplanes that there was more there than met the eye, and I had to concur.  

  Life sure can be complicated.  Taking the view in front of me, I pondered:  I’m moving soon, across this very river.  The past and it’s memories faded like the sunset, and the beacons signaled a path forward towards new lands.  I’ll be sitting this summer out, getting ready for the journey ahead, yet previous summers whispered of good times and regrets only half realized in the murk.  White clover blossomed pale in the evening, scenting the air as bugs danced a strange courtship in the air, and one crawled up my ankle.  

  And there she was - Venus!  Blazing in the sunset, beautiful to behold from a distance, toxic in person, not unlike some celebrities.  Why do we gaze to the heavens, or at least to the opposite shore of the river?  What captivates us?  

  I was watching Bevis and Butthead the other day on YouTube.  I thought I should do something else, so I watched a talk on Heidegger, the German philosopher.  (Then I watched some more Bevis.)  He talks about the mystery of Das Sein, or “being” in English.  It’s weird it all exists as it does in the first place, and then one leaps to the Zennish question “well, who’s watching it?”  Consciousness sure is weird.  

  My gaze traveled 150 million miles to Venus, and then five miles across the river to Fort Belvor.  “ZIP!  ZAP!”  Back to Venus, and it’s pearly cloudtops, hiding the surface upon which metal spacecraft endure only a matter of hours before melting into puddles.  Now back to the clover with it’s gentle scent in the night air.  “Who’s observing?”  Perhaps the act of noticing the Universe is to experience our capacity for doing so, and to engage one of the profound mysteries of Das Sein.  Extending one’s hand out to touch a wall defines the house and our body.  To quote the other YouTube viewing... “We’re there, dude!”  

  At the end of the day, so what?  I got up from the millstone, and shot a glance over the plantation house’s roof.  A light shone from an empty room, and a star called Arcturus twinkled orange 36 light years away over the dormers.  That house holds a lot of baggage, as empty as it is.  

  Crunching back down the now-dark cedar lane, the thoughts continued.  Do these questions even matter?  I stated long ago that “I’ll never figure “It” out.”  After spending many years on the Search, I’d have to agree.  But a new idea bubbled up this evening.  

  A definitive, all-encompassing, popsicle-stick simple motto might prove elusive.  Indeed, it’s often frustrating and futile, trying to cram everything into oversimplifications like “Life is Good.”  But what if the Search moves one closer to the answer, and that’s preferable?  The Ultimate answer may be unobtainable, but vicinity to the Truth seems preferable.  Milton defined Hell as a distance from God.  Making progress on that gap sounds prudent.  

  I’d prefer not to die (I think.)  Too bad.  I’d definitely prefer not to spend my final days tearing at open wounds, seen or unseen, surrounded by wadded up tissues and ghosts.  Perhaps I have some say over that, and perhaps not, but I’d like to look at where I’m going.  

  As such, I’ll continue to pay attention, to notice, to search, to observe.  Venus dances over the silver ribbon of the river, a haunted house broods silent on a hill with a single light burning, and my footsteps crunch on along the road.  Hey, looks like it’s going to be a beautiful night for stargazing.  

Clear skies,