I’ve written about it before and I’m writing about it again. The stars. What wonderful majesty. At least, when you can see them. One of the downsides of living in a populated city like Pittsburgh is the light pollution. On a clear night one can look up to the sky and barely see a flicker. The pin-dot diamonds are there, but they’re just not visible. And all because our personal safety is more important than nature. Damn you street lights. Damn you.
On those brief nights when I’ve ventured far enough away from downtown and my hopeful look up is rewarded with some nighttime artistry, the sight always reminds me of where I want my next adventure to be: Scandinavia. I’ve heard and read so many good things about that part of the world that I’ve prospectively made it my next “trip”–sssshhhh don’t tell it. A big part of my reasoning relates to what I’ve already been talking about: the night sky. To venture that far north, as close to the Arctic Circle as it is, means one thing: Aurora Borealis (see first image on link below)–the Northern Lights to the average soul–one of the most spectacularly natural wonders this world has to offer.
Although the sight of such is said to be breathtaking, and could no doubt be seen over and over again by the same set of eyes, I haven’t yet been witness to its colourful choreography. When I visited Iceland a few years ago, I thought I might be, having booked an excursion to travel to those untouched spots of the country that were free of any man-made light.
Lo and behold, luck wasn’t on my side, as the clouds made an untimely appearance and spoiled the potentiality of seeing what I had gone, nay, paid to see.
Nevertheless, my trip to Iceland was far from a wasted journey. Although the “lights” escaped me, traversing a [receding] glacier, relaxing at the Blue Lagoon natural hot springs resort, tripping to two of the biggest waterfalls in Europe and all-round loving the country and the charm of its people, didn’t. In any case, I’ll certainly be going back to discover more of what I missed last time.
It is fascinating to me though to think that the human body is made up of what is generally considered, at least by the expert astrophysicists that tell us, stardust–leftover remnants of the Big Bang which took place over 13 billion years ago. Essentially, the atoms we have in our bodies today: the calcium in our bones; the carbon in our genes; the iron in our blood, to name but a few, came from the skies all that time ago. Granted, not everyone out there is a believer of such a theory and may find more comfort in the view that our existence was the work of an intelligent creator. I accept that’s the case. I don’t necessarily agree with such a position but that doesn’t mean there aren’t those who do–of course, many do.
To me, however, it’s all too easy to place the wonder of our universe in the hands of a divine entity. In my eyes, it takes away the spectacle of nature by definition. It placates the notion that the natural world is a multiplying, producible, livable, breathable and survivable manifestation unto itself. It dissolves the responsibility the environment has had around, and on us, literally, and passes it on to 2,000 year old scripture, literary. Inspired by such a concept, I am not. Inspired by the magnificence of Mother Nature, and science, I am.
But to some, the ideas are collusive. A few days ago, as I was walking downtown on my way to the gym, I was stopped by a Christian Bible-study “recruiter” (who, ironically, did his best Moses impression by parting the sidewalk as people walked on by). Rather than do the same, I decided to hear him out and listen to what he had to say. Amicable though our conversation was, as soon as he began to proclaim that the Good Word was indeed “scientific”, I’m afraid he lost me. Faith is faith and science is science. Why pretend it’s anything other than that? If ones convictions about the existence of a God are that strong, why play them off as science, and in turn, give them a fact-based benchmark they won’t be able to live up to? It surely does no favours to the arguments held.
It’s a common misconception–and insult–of believers (not Beliebers) that atheists must lead unfulfilling and miserable lives because of our refutation of “Him”, but specifically, our outlook upon it being the end and not the beginning at the time of death. Quite the opposite in fact. It’s exactly because of this reasoning that we realize we must enjoy and appreciate our beautiful time now. Unlike the religious, atheists don’t welcome death with open arms in the belief that Paradise awaits. It’s just a sad case of life. We also don’t look upon a detestable event like the Rapture (where believers are taken up to Heaven with Jesus after His final resurrection leaving the rest of us to perish on Earth) as something that makes our hearts fill with joy. But hey, where would we get our morality from if it wasn’t for religion?
These thoughts and opinions are my own, of course. Believe what you want to believe. By all means belieb what you want to belieb (if you like his music that much), but I do, however, invite you to click on the top link featuring the most recent winners of the Astronomy Photography of the Year competition, and to watch the above clip of the late Christopher Hitchens as he delivers one of his most famous speeches about the universe in which we live and then ask yourself this question: What sounds more awe-inspiring to you?
Whatever your answer, keep twinkling like the lovely little star you [really] are.