Essays About


The light of stars must travel so far and takes so long to reach us that we see the cosmos not as it is, but as it was eons ago when the light now arriving first left its source. Thus, we have no idea what is happening out there right now. All astronomical discoveries are stale reportage. Stars die as scientists witness their birth. For all we know, doomsday has already come to the far side of space, and it will be ten billion years before news of it crosses the wires. We are like generals in old wars, who had to wait for updates to travel hundreds of miles by courier to army headquarters. Often, by the time the message came that the ranks were holding strong, luck had turned and the fort lay in enemy hands.

Stargazing is a boring hobby unless one supplements gazing with thinking. Visually, the night sky is among nature's plainest paintings—a black canvas speckled with dim white dots. Its most interesting dimension is its depth, a dimension wholly undetectable to mere sight. No wonder the ancients, having only eyes for instruments, conceived of a rotating dome embedded with fixed lights, a short distance above earth.

Only a mind to match the sky can make the stars worth looking at. If outer space inspires us, it is because we soar through the inner infinity of imagination.

Theologically, outer space presents a riddle. Why did God leave creation so uncreated? The vast empty regions separating the faint stars suggests not so much creation from nothing, but creation of nothing—the calling into being of nonbeing. God is said to have made the world through his word's omnipotence, but I have never heard explained why the great phrase of Genesis, "Let there be light!" should have come to so little fruition.

Many past philosophers taught that the cosmos is a thought in the mind of God. If so, how strangely blank is the all-encompassing brain! Is the divine mind still in infancy, formed but not yet filled? Conversely, has some tremendous disease eaten away the aging network of neurons until we alone are left, a last synapse firing off in the dying omniscience?