"One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture
and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words." ~Goethe

~ also, if possible, to dwell in "a house where all's accustomed, ceremonious." ~Yeats

Friday, November 28, 2014

An Interstellar Thanksgiving

Ancient Space Travel
" . . . the vast expanse of interstellar space . . . "

Our family's day - after - Thanksgiving activity was going to see the new movie Interstellar, then coming home to expand our knowledge of interstellar space with a few episodes of Neil deGrasse Tyson's Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey:
"Deeper Deeper Deeper Still"
"Hiding in the Light"
"A Sky Full of Ghosts."
I thought of that old favorite by Walt Whitman and wondered if only he had heard de Grasse Tyson or Carl Sagan, he might have been mesmerized rather than unaccountably "tired and sick":

When I heard the learn’d astronomer;
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me;
When I was shown the charts and the diagrams,
to add, divide, and measure them;
When I, sitting, heard the astronomer,
where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick;
Till rising and gliding out, I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

~ from "By the Roadside" (Book XX) in Leaves of Grass

Coincidentally, although we didn't think of this before going to see it, Interstellar fit right in with a couple of things that we had watched earlier in the week: the movie About Time, with its somewhat under - utilized subplot of traveling back in time to re-direct the course of personal events; and Bob's Burgers, particularly the episode in which Bob gets stuck in the crawl space and communicates with his family from behind the wall.

November Moon & Millennium Sundial
On the John T. Myers Pedestrian Bridge
between Lafayette & West Lafayette, Indiana

Later in the day, with thoughts turning toward Christmas, I made an additional connection -- not stars and perfect silence, but stars and a sky full of "the sweetest music":

A Spaceman Came Traveling
[Click to listen]

A spaceman came traveling on his ship from afar,
'Twas light years of time since his mission did start,
And over a village he halted his craft,
And it hung in the sky like a star, just like a star.

He followed a light and came down to a shed,
Where a mother and a child were lying there on a bed,
A bright light of silver shone round his head,
And he had the face of an angel, and they were afraid.

Then the stranger spoke, he said, "Do not fear,
I come from a planet a long way from here,
And I bring a message for mankind to hear,"
And suddenly the sweetest music filled the air --

And it went la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la . . .
Peace and goodwill to all men, and love for the child.

La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la . . .
Peace and goodwill to all men, and love for the child.

This lovely music went trembling through the ground,
And many were wakened on hearing that sound,
And travelers on the road, the village they found,
By the light of that ship in the sky, which shone all round.

And just before dawn at the paling of the sky,
The stranger returned and said, "Now I must fly,
When two thousand years of your time has gone by,
This song will begin once again, to a baby's cry."

And it went la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la . . .
Peace and goodwill to all men, and love for the child.

Oh the whole world is waiting, waiting to hear that song again,
There are thousands standing on the edge of the world,
And a star is moving somewhere, the time is nearly here,
This song will begin once again, to a baby's cry.

~ Chris De Burgh

This mystical song always arouses my curiosity. The spaceman halts his craft, that seems to become the Star of Bethlehem; yet he himself "followed a light" -- the light from his own ship which others are following? Or a different light? He seems to become the Christmas Angel who says "Do not fear" and brings glad tidings; but what is the source for the "lovely music" filling the air and "trembling through the ground"? More angels? Or the Spaceman?

He flies away, bidding farewell to the mother and child and other assembled Earthlings, promising the song again and "a baby's cry" in two thousand years' time. Does this mean a new baby Messiah? The Spaceman doesn't promise his own return, though the song's haunting conclusion suggests it. Is the Spaceman the baby, all grown up (like Jesus or Mad Max or Dad / Joseph Cooper / Matthew McConaughey in Interstellar)?

So that bright start might be some kind of complicated spaceship from the past or the future; but equally appealing is the possibility described in The Littlest Angel. The star could be a treasure box containing the smallest items -- two white stones, three blue eggs, a butterfly orange and a black, a feather -- insignificant in every way aside from the fact that they are dear to our hearts. The little time traveler leaves Eternity for a short visit Earth, where only mere seconds have elapsed since his departure. But days have passed in the afterlife, and he misses his wooden treasure chest:
"All these things I love best I have kept in this old chest.
Sorted and counted hundreds of nights,
they all have have given me a thousand delights.
Who can say how much they are worth?
They are the miracles of the Earth."

[click to hear Johnny Whitaker sing: @ 57:15]

Story by Charles Tazewell, Illustrated by Sergio Leone

More space time continuum holiday viewing:
Ghost of Star Trek Christmas ~ Primer ~ Ink

Next Fortnightly Post
Sunday, December 14th

Between now and then, read
my shorter, almost daily blog posts

Looking for a good book? Try
my running list of recent reading

1 comment:

  1. Bruce Carriker writes: "I'd forgotten THE LITTLEST ANGEL. Yes, that's a good one. Herman Munster is in that movie, isn't he? I think so. It was a Hallmark Hall of Fame special, if I recall correctly."