Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Out There

"Welcome home"
"It’s good to be back..."
The shuttle has entered the atmosphere, cutting through a thick layer of gray clouds… they are home…on earth. Welcome back… to everything you understand as "human," as "home." Our cities of concrete and steel and glass, our domesticated dogs and our oxygen and our shopping malls and warm beds that have awaited you. Here is gravity, here are fish and continuous waves and continents full of talking people that can’t understand each other and green trees that exchange our waste for invisible gold. Out there, in the vast blackness of a space that has no sentimentality, among rocks that spin just like ours, amid air devoid of oxygen, our planet is one of many. Our sun is one of millions.
Floating in the darkness, looking back at what you know as home, does anything seem relevant?
A lone astronaut fixing the side of a satellite, a glimpse of earth, of swirling green and blue and white… "we are so small," she thinks to herself. On that globe, there are battles for water, a baby cries for its mother, a handful of people die in a car bombing in Iraq. Does any of it matter?
Our sun continues to burn, sending fiery explosions our way, our moon orbits faithfully, waxing and waning month after month...how long has it cast its silver light? A man dies in the street, hungry and crippled. A young child walks to school with her friends on a sunny day.
The astronaut sees the swirling white, she sees the orb. She cannot see the woman being raped in the Congo, she is not watching the flood waters rise on TV… floating, breathing through a tube, she sees the whole, the one sphere where we know people breath and fuck. Where people die with a gasp and are born with a push.
Does any of it matter at such a distance? At that distance, is any death a tragedy? Or is every single action a hiccup absorbed into the greater blend of green and blue? Looking out…past home, into the true vastness of a space that moves past the threshold of logic and comprehension, does our home, does this one planet even matter at all?
Somewhere on an oxygen filled planet, a young woman sits in a small apartment on the crust of a complex system, she types diligently on a device invented just a little while ago, a blink on the watch of time. None of them know her, the astronauts, the sun, the comets that streak across what she knows as the sky, does her life matter amid the chaos of floating rocks? Do her tears matter to the moon? She feels the tie that connects one thought to the other, the thread that connects one small life to the system that spins around it; she is the spinning, she is the wonder, the lifetime of rocks, the wars that continue without end. Century after century, there is another conflict and stars flicker out and new ones are born and some planets merely turn half a degree and the century passes like a blink, a mere flutter.
From out there, does any of this even exist at all?

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