The Milky Way is still up there. I have visual confirmation, along with second-hand verification from several other people. Good to know it's still there, because I haven't seen it in quite some time.
I went to Garner this past week with my family. That's Garner State Park in the Texas Hill Country outside of San Antonio. The nights were so clear I could see all the way to the edge of the universe like I did when I was a kid in East Texas. There were the stars, the constellations, and for a while I thought it was a cloud bank way up high and clear.
Then it hit me. That's the Milky Way! Holy crap it's been a while since I saw that thing. See, I've been in the city since I was twelve years old. I moved to a small town, but it was outside of Houston toward Beaumont, and all those refinery lights bled out the Milky Way. You can see the stars, but not that cluster-cloud so deep in space that you can feel it tugging at you.
I saw it and stared at it for a while, and then I called the kids over and we all looked up at it. Funny what happened next. There was this long moment of silence after I explained what it was, and then my daughter, 13, says, So I wonder if we can see Dastan's star.
I said, Nope. His star is not visible with the naked eye.
Silence. Then she said, I bet if all the stars were visible, the whole sky would be one big star.
Then she explained how right and left were relative to the way you were standing, and she turned and showed me the MW was now on her left, turned, now on her right, but it was always in front of me and to the right of her brother.
I said, Now you understand Einstein's Theory of Relativity. Same thing, only he uses a lot more math to make that simple point.
I wasn't trying to be smart, she said.
You don't have to. This is what happens when you get outside the city and de-hypnotize yourself from all the advertising and consumerism and look up and see the universe. You feel it, don't you.
It's like there are strings everywhere. That was my son who said that.
What do you mean?
I mean it's like you can feel the stars tugging at you. Like there are strings.
That's what scientists used to think. They thought there was this thing called Aether that everything flows through. It wasn't until Einstein chunked that theory and developed relativity that they abandoned the Aether. Even so, Einstein and his contemporaries believed the Aether would probably come back into play later, after we evolved better theories. That's the string you're talking about.
Hmm. I wasn't trying to be smart, he said.
It's the Milky Way. It does that to you.
So we talked about Dastan, and who else we wanted to see when we died, and that got us onto the subject of God, and at that point we had to sit. So the three of us sat on a parking curb-stop and kept looking up. I saw a shooting star but they missed it. They missed the other one I saw later, too. Maybe I was seeing things.
Why don't some people believe in God? my daughter asked.
There are only two types of people in this world. It has nothing to do with belief. There are only those who realize God, and those who do not. It's like discussing whether a fire is hot or cold, but you never touch it.
Like with a tub of water, she said. Like if you never get in, you never know if it's hot or cold.
Like that. You have to experience God. You feel him, don't you?
Yeah, she said.
Yeah, my son said.
But why don't people believe when you tell them? my daughter said.
Well, it's like explaining a rainbow to a clam. They don't get it.
You think every planet has its own God? That was my son again.
What do you mean?
Like, we have our God here, but way out there is another God, and we all see something different. Like different rainbows. Like, do they see the same red we see?
That's actually a common philosophical argument. They wonder if your red is my yellow, and her blue is your green, and so on. We don't even know if we see each other the same, like does my human look like your dog, and so on. Some people believe there is either one universal consciousness, or maybe patches of consciousness in the universe. That we all seem to see the same red when we see red implies a common consciousness.
So we all have the same God.
Right. And if there is other life, which there is bound to be, we may not even be able to see each other. We'd pass by and never even know we'd passed.
Like one is a clam and the other is a rainbow. We'd have no common God and would never see each other.
Right. You know we have five senses. You know there is only one that is common to every known living creature.
Sight? My son said. Then he thought about the clams and ran through his senses with his sister. They touched their noses, tongues, ears, eyes, and finally my son said, TOUCH!
It was a eureka moment for him, and I said, Aristotle reached that same conclusion.
I wasn't trying to be smart.
It's not you. It's the Milky Way. Keep looking up. Even trees have touch. They feel gravity and the sunlight and know when it's cold and time to drop their leaves.
They like water, my daughter said.
Yep. Touch is the common link between life. Feeling. What you feel right now looking up is life. Can you feel the Milky Way?
Well. Can you?
Eric W. Trant is a published author of several short stories and the novels Out of the Great Black Nothing and Wink from WiDo Publishing, out now! See more of Eric's work here: Publications, or order directly from Amazon, or wherever books are sold.
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