Friday, February 8, 2008

S and T

This morning, lounging again in my golden kimono, sipping my second cup of coffee, in front of my computer, I took the fateful step of subscribing to Sky and Telescope. I subscribed to it once before, in my teens, when I was a member of the Astronomy Book Club and attempting to teach myself calculus so I could understand Black Holes, White Dwarfs, and Neutron Stars: The Physics of Compact Objects.

I say fateful--not because I am afraid of encountering the back end of a bird when I am looking up, looking backwards into time. I say fateful because, ever since September 11th, 2001, little by little, I have been remembering, or trying to remember things I have not thought about in a long time.

Before that day, things which seemed so vital to me once, had lost some of their life--Ovid's Metamorphoses, Astronomy, Laurel and Hardy, falling in Love. We drift away from so much over time. Or we find coarse or convenient substitutes for the things we once loved, for one reason or another: changing tastes, changing faces, lack of time. Suddenly these much neglected pieces of my past were important to me again.

There is one line of Auden's famous poem, September 1st, 1939, which has been echoing in my head recently:

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages...

In the context of the poem, of course, which takes place in a seedy bar on 52nd Street in New York City, these ironic points of light are cigarette butts smoldering in the dark. But as an isolated stanza, we might very well perceive these pointed words as stars.

And if we are to orient ourselves toward the future we must first understand where we stand in relation to these celestial objects and the ancient light they shed on us today.

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