The universe is alive

Lately I have taken to going out in my backyard and looking at the moon and the stars, after work and before bed. I live in an urban area so I don’t get the full effect of it, as some who are fortunate enough to live where you can actually see the Milky Way. But it’s inspiring nonetheless. I read once that getting out and seeing nature is good for your happiness, or your health, or maybe both, even if it’s only for a few minutes a day.

I noticed tonight, as I have before, that when you gaze at the moon and the stars, and the moving clouds, that the universe really feels alive. You’re not looking at dead rocks and empty space, you’re looking at movement and light, strength and persistence. I see the exact same moon that Aquinas and Aristotle saw, the same constellations. One of my neighbors has a stand of cypress trees, and tonight a half moon was visible just above and to the left of the cypresses. It was easy to imagine myself in ancient Greece, looking up at that very same moon in the midst of its cycle. What would it have felt like? I see the same things that they saw, but I doubt that I feel what they felt.

This set me to wondering, why do we feel so out of touch with the universe as living and moving in modern days? Then it occurred to me, it’s because it’s so noisy. I look up at the moon but I hear traffic. Street lights are as bright or brighter than the stars; cars are noisier than the breeze. I stopped up my ears with my fingers and then I felt it:  The moon was alive. The power of the universe speaks in a still, small voice. It’s always there, and it’s just as awesome as ever, even surrounded as it is with technological noise. I look at the sky and I think:  Modern technology can’t touch this. We can’t control the moon or the stars, or even the clouds. Technology is entirely dependent on nature.

My sister tells a joke that goes something like this:  God challenges three scientists to create life from scratch. One of them thinks he’ll go about it by gathering up some dirt, adding some moisture, putting it under a heat lamp and maybe charging it up with electricity. So he scoops up a shovel-full and God says: “Nah-uh, get your own dirt!”

Technology is nothing, nothing whatsoever without nature. It pretends to be above nature but it’s absolutely nature’s slave. Why should I serve the slave? Why be captivated and entranced by a cheap imitation?

I think this is why I’m fascinated with the “olden days”. I was reading recently of the American Civil War, and as interesting as those events are, what really fascinates me is to think that when those things were going on, there was no electricity. No electric light, no traffic noise, no amplified voices. Only horses-and-buggies and candlelight. In the evening you talked, told stories or played music, read a book or amused yourself with cards. When you looked up at the moon, now — what did you feel? Was it so much easier to feel the alive-ness of it, not being drowned out by artificial light and noise? Is it any wonder it was so much more religious an age?

[H]e who sends forth the light, and it goes,
    called it, and it obeyed him in fear;
the stars shone in their watches, and were glad;
    he called them, and they said, “Here we are!”
    They shone with gladness for him who made them.
This is our God;
    no other can be compared to him!

[Baruch 3.]

I have thought sometimes that we should have one night a week where we ban electricity. Let’s just turn off all the lights and devices and light candles. Amuse ourselves with whatever is left. Read books to each other, talk, play games, sing songs. Be in tune with … what? Nature. God. Our ancestors.

This feeling of being one with my ancestors, I never feel so strongly as at Mass in the traditional Latin. Thank God, until now, the Mass is still primitive. That is, it must be done in person. It must use actual bread and wine; there’s no technological substitute. You put on your robes, climb the stairs, kneel, stand, read. You must use candles and not LED lights. No recorded music. Now if only we could get rid of the microphones …

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