The Silence of the Stars
“Close your eyes and listen to it, what would you think it was?” The silence. Can you hear it? Can you grasp that elusive sound that carries through the ether, across time, culture, and geography? No. I should think it is impossible now, for even if it were possible some years ago to isolate the silence in conjunction with the wind, the spirit, or the conscious mind, all of which contaminate that primordial sound of silence, even if it were possible then to obtain that fleeting sound, it is not possible in this present ever-busy world where silence is polluted with technology and with the crusade of progress. If there is one entity we lack in present times and, indeed, throughout our history, it can be unveiled in our dreadful inability to ever attain that blessed silence.
It is when I sit in the hot tub, seeking peace and relaxation, that I look up in perfect silence at the stars and realise what wonders we have lost in our quest to continue progression. There have been few times in my life when I have been so far geographically removed from society that I have been able to witness the vast, unmatched artistry that can be presented by the night sky. It is a gripping experience, one that leaves you rooted to a singular spot, mouth agape, eyes overtaxed, and mind overworked as they hopelessly try to conjure how all that they are taking in could be possible. To view the taintless heavens is an experience of the modern world that stays arrested in your memory, and which haunts you, begging to be seen again. When I sit in the hot tub and look up at our polluted skies I feel unclean and vulgar. I detest the knowledge that I have helped contribute to the desecration of one of life’s most magnificent wonders, but this goes beyond my own personal detestment. We as a society feel powerful — we feel as conquerors who have defeated or abated the ills of life, and the defilement of our skies is seen as necessary collateral in this silly quest for progression. It is, of course, a false sense of power that has been perpetuated.
The most acute affliction of our modern society has arisen as a result of our own doing: we have obtained an inflated sense of egotism, size, and power, in short, we have contracted a worldwide case of narcissism. For millennia civilizations were capable of beholding that fathomless, unpolluted night sky which has now become a rarity in modern society. They would look to the skies at night and marvel at the wonders and at their smallness among a universe so vast. As the stars would twinkle and the planets glimmer, these people would recognise the inordinate opportunity that had befallen them in their being able to participate in the immense mechanism of life. Purpose was found in the desire not to waste the opportunity they had lucked into receiving. I fear we have lost that purpose now. I fear that in clouding our skies with our progression we have also obscured our minuteness as individuals in a landscape that stretches far beyond the capabilities of our collective imagination.
Silence is not possible now, nor has it ever been possible among the perpetual static of existence. True peace and serenity will always be muddied by the conscious of the living mind and by the sounds of the restlessly churning universe, but there are moments that can bring us nearer that peace and that serenity. There are still moments capable of arresting our speech and retarding our thoughts so that we may rest in near perfect silence as we ponder our smallness and our improbability of existing. We must step away from our pursuit of progress in order to take time to address our narcissism. We could set aside moments to surrender to near silence, to shut off the lights, and to allow the heavens to arrest us. Indeed we must — lest we lose sight of our smallness and of our own impossibility.
Beckett, Samuel. “Embers.” In The Collected Shorter Plays, 90. New York: Grove Press, 1984.
Whitman, Walt. “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer.” Poetry Foundation, accessed June 30, 2017, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/45479.
Simmons, Avery. “Marvel at the Wonders.” JRS.Stories, 18 May 2017, http://jrsstories.com/marvel-at-the-wonders.