6 April 2012

How Deep Is The Sky?

Is this a picture of the moon taken from the space station as it glides silently through deep space?

No, it’s more mundanely the view from under the eaves of the house, with the new guttering looking all glossy and high-tech.

The bench I sit on to have my morning coffee rests directly against the back wall.  Sometimes I look directly up into the blue sky and wonder how much sky is above me.  How deep is it? How much does it weigh? We could go and Google those questions right now and find out precisely, but let’s not.  Forcing the beauty of the sky into a straight-jacket of numbers and statistics will not adequately convey that spine shivering feeling when you realise how small you are compared to the enormity of the Earth.

Scientists like Richard Dawkins would perhaps disagree with me:

“The feeling of awed wonder that science can give us is one of the highest experiences of which the human psyche is capable. It is a deep aesthetic passion to rank with the finest that music and poetry can deliver.”

In a way he is right, in that I am a child of my times. At school I was taught about weather systems, now I passively watch BBC 4 programmes on the wonders of the universe, and at the weekend idly read newspapers. Without really trying I know far more about the natural world than any generation before, and so any feelings I have about it are informed by scientific facts and theories. And yet, if any of us pauses for a moment and really looks at the sky, or the sea, or inside a flower, surely that sense of awe is instinct alone?

Does science allow for spirit?

Earth window astronaut
When I was 10 I wanted to be an astronaut

earth's atmosphere
How thin and vulnerable the sky looks from space