I stand in the pitch darkness listening to absolutely nothing.
There is no sound, none. A hammer of silence has fallen and it is deafening. In a frantic attempt to find any kind of auditory stimulus, my young brain chances upon the faint noise of my own heartbeat and focuses in on it with feline concentration. While nature smothers all around under a deep blanket of snow, the heavens explode. This isn’t juststars, this is like the gods have tripped on their race across the heavens and scattered glitter in a chaos of immortal phosphorescence.
There I stood, a barely teenage boy, astounded by the natural world. The muffled drum of my own heart providing the soundtrack for an epiphany. I was outside a remote cabin in Telemark, Norway. In that moment an enduring fascination was born in me. It’s a curiosity that defines me now and I cherish it.
One of the most magical things about being far from human habitation is the stars. The lack of man made light allows them to shine in a way that is lamentably unfamiliar. The lack of urban hubbub allows the mind to focus with renewed clarity. In ancient times our ancestors gazed at the very same timeless view. These pinpricks of luminescence emanating from so far away that the light itself only shows what has been rather than what is now. As Douglas Adams once wrote, “you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist, but that’s just peanuts to space”. While I grasp the concepts and science of why, the emotions around them persistently overwhelm.
Standing and gazing up I can suddenly understand with crystal clarity how people created fables of gods to explain something so vast and amazing that it begs to perplex any mind seeking to understand it. But why understand it?
I read once that the ancient Bedouin people had a story that the stars were the campfires of travellers in the sky. I love that sentiment. In some ways it may actually be true. Some of those stars likely do have orbiting planets, some of those may have life, perhaps some of those will have other beings, who, like me look to the stars and marvel and rejoice in the perplexion of life. It’s the stuff that magic and mysteries are made of.
Magic and mysteries. Those very things that delight not because of how or why they are but because they simply are. Those delicious moments of amazement and wonder.
That quintessence is enough for me.