Monday, March 06, 2000

Solar Dance 1: Entering a Living Cosmos

(Image credit: a beautiful coronal mass ejection captured Feb. 12 by SOHO's C2 coronagraph, from

The sky is alive. All around us, from our solar body’s heart, the sun, center of our family of planets, on outward toward infinity, earth is forever spinning within a grand dance, one that humans have glimpsed at moments during our history. From Incan astronomers who first charted the 24,000 year precession of the equinoxes (thus offering to them the experience of the way our solar system wobbles in Long Time within the galactic turning), to pueblo skywatchers carving spirals in rock to announce the coming and going of the sun and moon (and so honoring our daily dance partners), we have explored a fascination with our greater context.

For most modern humans, the sky is a beautiful tapestry cast overhead, one of earth’s more sublime wonders. But while the sky is appreciated, our experience of it is vastly simplified, distorted by our tendency to let mere abstractions replace any sense of bodily connection. For the cosmos, from the solar disc to the galaxy and beyond, is NOT simply a pretty dome spread overhead, with planets, comets, and constellations appearing now and again on the cue of some invisible director—it is a vast landscape of gargantuan physicality. It is bodies, bodies made of smaller bodies, cauldrons of creation and forges of destruction. To begin to have a palpable physical experience of the sky is to enter into life at a scale that is reminiscent of profound spiritual reverie. To feel the fires of starbirth in Orion, to exclaim in joy with the adolescent exuberance of the Pleiades, to marvel at the power of age in a red giant like Aldeberon, and to actually feel yourself on a planet spinning at a tilt around the sun, is to enter into a sensuous connection with life that is altogether new.

These short essays will offer glimpses of this expanded view, various perspectives, fragments that, when taken as a whole, will, hopefully, synergize to help open an awareness of a three-dimensional sense of place, in space. To enter into this view, where the sense of direction you are familiar with on the planet’s surface is stretched into space (first to the solar family’s circles upon circles, then on into the galactic immensity within which we move in even larger circles), you need not devote yourself in any strenuous way. Simply going outside for a few minutes, a few times a month, will be enough. Heck, if you only get inspired enough to go out on those few crescent moon evenings and dawns, you’ll be able to go far. Each time, you will look for one or a few tidbits of direct connection with that starry expanse overhead. And by the time summer settles in, you’ll be living in a world much larger than the one you now inhabit. Come along for the show. . . . .


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