I was born to see two thousand years
Of man’s effect upon the planet
Extinction seems to be a plausible risk
Whatever happens I’m a part of all this
–“Pandemonium,” Killing Joke
Is freedom so great
To fight for food?
Compete for shelter?
Who is the top dog?
Is this the winter of humankind?
What has become of us?
What made us blind?
After disclosure comes
Man takes his rightful place
Amongst the stars
The celestial barge awaits
One by one, we embark
To the sun behind the sun
–“Into the Unknown,” Killing Joke
I got to know my wife under the gaze of Orion. I wooed her under nods to Caseiopea and the “seven sisters” of Pleiades. I spend winter nights soaking in the hot tub staring at all of these, enjoying the clear sky in the crisp winter air.
Pleiades resonates almost universally with stargazers for being visible “from virtually every place that humanity inhabits Earth’s globe. It can be seen from as far north as the north pole, and farther south than the southernmost tip of South America.”
There is something wonderful about staring at these parts of our universe so far away knowing people so relatively close — yet so far — are staring at them with me.
In these settings I get humanity’s historical fascination and attachment to the stars, its projection of irrational meaning and attachment to them. They are constant in a world that is not. They offer some form of structure or packaging to the vast chaos that is our home.
As I sit in the hot tub pondering the infinite — or is it a vanishing point? — horizon of life and time, I think of these visuals that draw us together across physical space, time zones, generations, time.
As I watch a plane’s lights far up in the night sky literally fly in between me and Pleiades long enough to briefly block the constellation of stars 425 light years (!) away, I think of the frightening fragility of life, the relatively brief window in time of our civilization, and the many ways we can destroy ourselves in an instant.
Donald Trump, climate change denier, reality TV-emboldened narcissist and oblivious friend to all those who too easily place their own lifespans above everyone who might follow, is president-elect.
It gives one pause.