Thoughts on a dark starry night01 Jan 2000
All the most important moments in my life have occurred under very clear starry nights.
When I was in my teens, or maybe before that, I can’t remember exactly when, I spent a couple hours in a very small boat in a very large lake in northern New Hampshire during the dead of night. I’m not sure how I managed to accomplish this if I was alone or with people or what the context was, but there I was, late at night in the middle of rural New England, lying on my back staring up at the sky, no city light to distract me. Above me was a vast exapnse of sky, puncutated on the edges by large trees and mountains. Above me, nothing but stars, thick stars, more stars than you can ever see in the city. At that moment, sitting in my little rowboat under a very large sky, I felt the usual clichee’d thoughts: I felt like the smallest most insignificant speck in a very large universe. All my problems at the time — feeling kind of lonely and depressed, the sorts of things teenagers have felt for thousands of years — all seemed rather unimportant, given all those stars and how many there were of them compared to the little thing that was me.
As I grew older I came to doubt this moment of importanace in my life. Sure, I had gone off in the lake in the night and felt very small. But then I had occasion to relive this experience. Twenty-two months ago I went scuba diving on a very small boat in a very large sea just off of Australia. And on that very small boat I sat in the prow and watched the sun go down on the horizon, watched the sun pass beyond the edge of the world, and the stars come up as the light darkened into orange to purple to blue to black. This time there was no edge of the lake, no trees to block the edges of the stars; nothing but night from horizon to horizon. All I saw was a thick blanket of stars above, all my familiar northern hemisphere constellations upside-down, and all I saw below was dark smear of ocean. No land, no street lights, no reflection of the city; nothing but stars and sea and me, alone on a very small boat feeling like there was nothing else left in the world to hold onto.
I figure that in our small little existences we have two, maybe three moments that define the way we live, that we remember as the most important moments of our lives. For me, they have always involved the feeling of being one sole person under a massive blanket of stars.
I figure that if you tallied up the most important moments of a thousand of us, a hundred thousand of us, we’d come up with a wide, rich, complex variety of experiences.
And I don’t think anything to do with the internet would make the list.Posted on 01 Jan 2000 • in essays •