Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Blue Ball (the one living dot)

Reading Simon Winchester’s A Crack In The Edge Of The World (Harper Perennial), about the ’06 San Francisco earthquake, he quoted Lewis Thomas regarding the view of the earth from the moon with the earth looking alive. Astronauts saw the moon they were standing on as “dry, pounded surface… dry as an old bone. Aloft, floating free beneath the moist gleaming, membrane of bright blue sky, is the rising earth, the only exuberant thing in this part of the cosmos…organized, self-contained look of a live creature.” Winchester himself described the planet as “one entire and immense system….It is a living system four and a half billion years old….meanwhile there is life, almost in global terms a brief irrelevance…the blue and green and white ball that was hanging in the ink black sky.”

In my poem Lazarus on a Spur Line I described the contrast between a deserted railroad train car, a rusting inanimate—lifeless—object, upon which, inexplicably, life begins to grow. The greatest mystery of all. But I’d never thought about that on such a cosmic scale as Thomas or Winchester.

The universe, the cosmos, I wonder which word describes the “out there” with the greatest immensity? Scientists have pondered what lies at the outer edge of the universe? One physicist says it doesn’t end. Can that be? If the universe is nothingness, then I suppose that nothingness doesn’t end, because if it did, it would have to end in something. What something? I mean, is there anything more nothing than space? Is there anything more dead, more silent, more cold, more black, more forlorn, more empty? Well…it’s not empty. There’s planets and stars. But look at the other planets—the ones we’ve been able to see. “Dry pounded surface…dry as an old bone.” Gray as concrete dust floating in the cold, silent, dead-black, black-dead, ghost-gray, dead body gray, mummy-dust they are. Yeah, certainly as far as the eye can see or Hubble can be, and maybe as far as far is, and is is forever. Except…except…what the bloody-hell is that? The one thing in that immenseness that never ends, the one thing that is not a star, yet glows; iridescent, luminescent, bright as first life…a baby’s smile…the blue ball…“…the blue and green and white ball hanging in it’s ink-black sky…one organized entire immense living system…with the self-contained look of a live creature…a gleaming membrane of bright blue sky, this rising earth…the only exuberant thing in this part of the cosmos.” One solitary, tiny ball suspended in eternal and endless nothingness. What are the odds? Join me for a drink, Laz?

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