Sometimes it’s hard not to believe we’re the centre of the universe.
Not literally, of course. We’ve known the truth about the rotation of the planets since Copernicus, since Galileo Galilei was questioned by the Inquisition* and put under lifelong house arrest for supporting the solar-centric theory.
The thing is, knowing the universe doesn’t rotate around us doesn’t stop the feeling that it does.
Don’t judge yourself too harshly for believing all life would surely fall to pieces if you didn’t move among it. After all, from the second we’re born, we rattle around in out own heads, interpretting the world the only way we know how – we learn the colour of a buttercup through our eyes, a baby’s cry through our ears, the resistance of a lover’s skin through our fingertips, the flavour of tears through our tongues, not through anyone else’s … Who can blame us for having an overblown idea of our own importance.
But then, you look up …
On a frosty morning last Wednesday at around 6.20 a.m GMT, I stood on our doorstep. Frost prickled the lids of the wheely bins, the roofs of the parked cars. Some of the neighbours were up, kitchen lights too dim to have much impact on the pre-dawn darkness. I was still in my slippers, but the creeping cold didn’t drive me to the fire and a second cup of tea.
I stared into the clear, orange black sky over Bristol. There were stars – winking suggestively – and more sober planets, with their steady, unswerving gaze. I was scanning the South West, about four fists above the horizon – waiting.
Then I saw it, the brightest object in the sky – as brilliant as any star, unblinking as the nearest planet, moving fast as a jet plane in a shallow arc across the black. I called my son, who tried to take a photo and failed. I rushed upstairs to find my husband – still sleepy, still ruffled and pillow-creased – and pulled him to the bedroom window, where he glimpsed the gleaming speck before it vanished behind the houses.
It was no comet, no shooting star trailing dust and gas.
It was the International Space Station, whizzing past at 7.66 kilometres (about 5 miles) per second. Inside the station, seeing a fresh sunrise over the earth every 92 minutes, is Britain’s own Tim Peake.
It’s a lovely thing, the ISS, for not only does it show what human beings are capable of, it shows a level of cooperation between nations rarely seen on earth.
It also puts a single human life into some very deep perspective.
So today’s Wednesday Word Tangle is
meaning the universe and all of creation.
Because, when you’re standing on a frozen doorstep in Bristol and look up to see such an immense and complicated product of human endeavour – and it’s completely dwarfed by the huge, star-stuffed sky, the cosmos really puts you in your place.
*Monty Python said that you never expect the Inquisition, but considering the control the Church had over daily life in the 16th century, Galileo must have done. Which makes him a very brave man, if you ask me.
I could have snuck in the Spanish Inquisition sketch here, but couldn’t resist The Universe Song instead … Pray that there’s intelligent life somewhere up in space, cos there’s bugger all down here on earth
Do visit the NASA site to find out when the ISS will next go flying over where you live. There’s also some amazing photography of the planet and tweets from the crewmen – yes they can tweet from orbit. Weird.
Thanks to Kat, the founder of the W4W feast.