Monday, 29 April 2013

In the Presence of the Divine

This weekend I came across this video on my Twitter feed. The headline - "Some Strange Things Are Happening to Astronauts Returning to Earth" - piqued my interest (because I've watched far too many sci-fi/horror type flicks), so I clicked on it and started watching, and quickly found myself captivated for the entire 20-minute running time.

The footage is all pretty stunning - from the glimpses out the window down to the earth below, to the shock of recognizing the outlines of coastlines, to the time-lapse sequences showing cities lighting up at night or auroras shimmering in the atmosphere, this video was one of the most beautiful things I've seen in a while. That, and the sense the astronauts describe of feeling awe, got me thinking about how we react to things that are so profoundly bigger than we are.

Now, I've already written about religion on this blog. But I feel it's worth adding that pictures of space - particularly of deep space - have always filled me with something close to religious awe, to an extent that I've never gotten from being in church. This is probably why I've always enjoyed Star Trek and other ship shows so much: there really was a sense of wonder at the sights we were seeing each week. And this extended to shows like Babylon 5, which used actual shots from the Hubble space telescope as backdrops, as well as Firefly, later on. But frankly, even sitting on a hill out in the country and watching the sky was enough for me.

Perhaps I'm a hopeless romantic. But there's something mind-expanding about looking up at the limitless ocean of night above you, lazily pointing to a star, and announcing, "I want to go there."

I wish more of us did that, and that we didn't stop after a certain age. Maybe we'd get to go out and see those things for real.