Starry night

It’s a clear-skied starry starry night, penetratingly cold, and I am at prayer, awe-struck as I gaze upwards. The slender new moon calls for my attention and delight, every bit as much tonight as it did when I was but a very small boy, and beneath this grand dome I know myself a very small man. Though the marvel of my capacity for contemplation and wondering seems great and wonderful a thing indeed, we humans don’t know as much as we would like to think we know!

Last evening I revelled in moving pictures of life in Jaipur, India – colour, exotic cuisine and candle-lighting prayer ceremonies beside the Ganges River – all beamed to a small tv screen in the heart of my home in England by innumerable wonders working together. India seems so far away – a culture largely beyond my imagination and outside my personal experience to date, like those of Asia generally, and Africa, the Americas, much of Europe, Australia, and Antarctica.

Huge continents to my little eye – as the cottage garden must appear to the field mouse living in our wood store – yet for all the infinite variety and diversity upon earth, it’s a little planet “just” 8,000 miles in diameter, floating for the past 4.543 billion years in a universe whose proportions humankind is really only just beginning to contemplate and “measure”, warmed and illuminated by a burning sun 92 million miles away. Oh, and look! – there’s Betelgeuse in the constellation of Orion, 642.5 light years away from earth, with a diameter of approximately 850 million miles – about 1000 times greater than that of the sun.

And in these awe-struck moments, craning my neck and gazing up into the mystery, and the silence, and the little groups of stars that I try to count but always end up lost amongst, I sense it may well be that the most important thing that our evolving humankind needs to fine-tune is our sense of perspective – before, in taking our tiny selves and our limited opinions too seriously, we do ourselves too much more damage.