Tonight is the new moon. I was expecting maximum waned symptoms from the minimum visible moon. That has not happened. Now I am thinking that the symptoms still wax and wane on a lunar cycle, with maximum symptoms at the moon’s separate zeniths of full or new. I expect in a week, I’ll have a different observation: a new one, a mid-moon one, another useless one.
The observations are not completely useless…they give me something to do. All in all, I am still much improved than prior to taking the ruxolitinib. I’ll make do with improvement, considering where I was when I started.
Meanwhile, the Milky Way is blazing overhead in the absence of the moon’s light. If you give yourself enough time for your eyes to get accustomed to the darkness, you’ll be astounded at what the heavens reveal. The visible Wanderers, as the ancient Greeks called them, are easy to find if you know where to look, as they ascend into the sky in a near perfect line, one by one, as the Earth’s rotation reveal them: each planet rising with a wave and a nod as if to say, “It’s good to see you out here.”
Spend an hour or two lying on your back with a pair of binoculars. Look at the Seven Sisters (The Pleiades) and know that there are far more than seven siblings there….there are millions, with dozens and dozens more being visible with a cheap set of binoculars. You don’t need a fancy big telescope: Some $75.00 8×56 binoculars can reveal things you never thought you could see. Those big 56mm objective lenses can grab a lot of light. It’s not the magnification so much as it is the light gathering capacity with binoculars. Your view of the heavens will not look like pictures from the Hubble Telescope, or the Palomar Observatory, but it will be more than impressive; it can, in fact, be life altering.
As you look at the stars, you are looking back in time and seeing them as they were then at the now moment the light reaches your eyes. It may have taken years for the light to reach here. It takes nine light-minutes for sunlight to reach the earth. It takes about four years and two months for light from our next closest stellarly neighbors beyond the sun, the Alpha Centauri system, to reach us. The Alpha Centauri system is composed of three stars which revolve around each other….The much brighter stars, Alpha Centauri A and B, and the dimmer Proxima Centauri, our actual closest ex-solar system star, which is 4.22 light years away. Imagine living on a planet with three suns, or being on Saturn and seeing the rings on display in the sky, or on Jupiter and seeing Ganymede, Io, Europa, and Callisto in the night sky, along with their many sibling moons.
Imagine your place and significance among the heavens as you see a single band of our spiral home galaxy, the Milky Way, knowing that it stretches around 120 million light-years years across its bands, contains over a hundred billion stars, and perhaps a hundred billion more earth-like planets, anchored at its center by a radio-wave emitting source called Sagittarius A, which is most likely a super-massive black hole. Now imagine that that seemingly endless expanse of everything we can see with our own eyes is all contained within our massive galaxy. Then imagine the estimated one hundred billion other galaxies in the observable universe. We are smaller than small.
The reverse is true, as we are larger than large. The cells that make up our bodies are tiny. They carry things called DNA and RNA, which are smaller yet. Matter is made up of atoms which are mostly empty space, but seems pretty solid to us, especially when the weak force that is gravity causes an unexpected collision of our bodies with the concrete sidewalk, which turns out to be more solid than we wish it was at the moment of impact, we wondering where all that empty space went to. Atoms are made up of smaller electrons, protons, and neutrons, which consist of smaller particles called quarks, of which there are up quarks, down quarks, top quarks, bottom quarks, strange quarks, and charm quarks. The strange quarks seem to be overly represented in some people I know. I, on the other hand, have a super-abundance of charm quarks.
Then there are leptons and fermions, several classes of Baryons and Mesons, and several varieties of Bosuns, finally culminating with the elusive Higgs Bosun, also referred to as the “God Particle.” If these particles have their own consciousness, they stare up at me in wonder of the heavens above.
In the grand scheme of things, I am not really important or significant, though to the chiggers (redbugs) that have occasionally made their (temporary) home embedded in my skin, dining on my flesh, I am more than significant. In a strange twist, the virus that invades my body and uses my own DNA to replicate itself, and may destroy me in its multiplication, seeks only to find a new host, which could be you.
In the contemplation of all this I am assured of my insignificance and my significance, depending on which way one looks at things. I am too tiny and ephemeral to be of much interest to cosmic events. I am too tiny and ephemeral to be of much interest to geologic events. I know that my wife loves me most of the time, and my dogs love me all of the time. I know that the cancer in my body seeks to replicate itself in such a way as to destroy its host, thus destroying the thing that gives it its life. Hmmmm! You’d think the cancer would be wiser. It is, perhaps, no more or less wise than we who destroy ourselves for any number of reasons.
I am reminded of rabbit hunting with my granddaddy. On a cold January morning hunt a long time ago, I killed my first rabbit. I got the rabbit with my 20 gauge single-shot Revelation shotgun, a gift Santa Claus brought me straight from Coleman’s Western Auto Store, and proudly ran and picked it up placing it in the game sack in my new deluxe hunting vest. Granddaddy said nothing. He then shot a rabbit, and I ran to retrieve it. I placed it in the game sack, also, now toting around two recently dead rabbits in the sack on my back. Before you knew it, there were two more rabbits in my sack.
“That’s enough, now,” said Granddaddy. “We’ll head back home and clean them for your grandmother to cook up with some gravy.” My mouth watered at the thought of Grandmother’s first fried, then stewed-in-brown gravy rabbit.
On the way back to Granddaddy’s truck, I was soon overwhelmed with flea bites. I jumped and howled, slapped and scratched as a thousand fleas seemed to attack me all at once. Granddaddy didn’t say a word, nor did he seem to be bothered with any fleas.
“Put that vest with the rabbits in the back of the truck, not in the cab,” said Granddaddy. I flung it over in the back, and off we went towards home, chug-a-lugging in his old ’62 GMC pickup with a straight-six that only fired on five.
“Putt-ahhh-fttt-ftttt-puttahhahhhhh-fttt-ftt,” said the truck.
“Owwww!” said me, as I squirmed and scratched.
Granddaddy just laughed.
“How come you don’t have no fleas?” I asked him.
“All those fleas on those dead rabbits you put in your knapsack were looking for a new home,” he replied. “I reckon they found one.”
I then learned the secret of avoiding this, which I had seen before but had not understood. One hangs the newly dead rabbit in the fork of a tree as one continues on his hunt. The fleas, ticks, chiggers, mites, and every other blood-sucking critter on the rabbit, sensing the drop in the rabbit’s body temperature now say to themselves, perhaps in English, but most likely in some dialect of parasitese, “Time to move!” And en masse, they move to the first thing they can find which exudes carbon dioxide and has a body temperature of at least 98.6°F. That would have been me that day. When they move, you don’t want to make finding a new home too easy for them. Let them work hard for it. Putting them freshly killed into your game sack is making it a little too easy.
Granddaddy just laughed, enjoying the joke that was on me. It was worth it, as I still enjoy the joke today, though I did not seem to enjoy it too much at the time. To those fleas, I was at least as significant as a rabbit. To the universe, I am every bit as significant as the rabbit. To the rabbit, I was the cruel universe. To the sojourning mites on the fleas, I was their inter-planetary expedition.
I take my leave now. Go outside and marvel at YOUR universe. It is there for you to admire and wonder at. If you begin wondering, you’ll soon start speculating. Then, you’ll reckon, only to start wondering all over again, wondering, perhaps, if that sudden nip was a flea bite.
With that, you’ll forget a few aches and pains, and join company with all the humans across the millennia before you who ever gazed up at the heavens in wonder at their own insignificance.
©2016 Mississippi Chris Sharp