Faraway Castle

29th May 2020

Looking at faraway objects is like looking at images on screens (tele-vision), we stare at them in a way that is unlike how we look upon something that is physically close, like if we were to examine the fingerprints on a glass screen for example. Looking at an image is different from what we are accustomed to doing, which is looking through images, because they themselves are like screens.

And what a screen represents is the unreachable, the distant, the unreal and unexaminable. In the same way that we cannot explore faraway lands while our feet are firmly planted here, we cannot explore the contents of an image with anything but our eyes, being limited to whatever is presented to us, rather than being free to roam. It is in this state of restriction, of desiring to know and discover more while being impossibly held back, that an uncomfortable mystery arises. In this way images are more like mirages of desert pools that the hands of our conscious minds try to grasp at, leaving our thirst unquenched.

Yesterday, after a slow, hot walk through the late afternoon forest, one where I was as alone as one can be while surrounded by nature: the wind coursing through the avenues of pines, a nearby deer undisturbed, foraging among the new growth that sprung from the remains of a tree not so long ago felled, all punctuated by a feint hum characteristic of summer that washed over the entire scene, I wearily made my way out from under this canopy of activity to rise above it all, arriving at the highest point set in a clearing of rocks surrounded by a sea of short bushes. I didn’t know what I had come for, and perhaps that was the exact reason that I found myself there, sat atop a rough but rounded stone, taking large gulps of cool water, uncertain of what to do or where to go next.

As it had been preordained that I should find myself at that spot in that exact moment, I decided to comply with fate and edged a little further down into the shallow hollow of the rock that now held me like a hammock as I gazed into the flat, empty, vivid blueness of the sky. I held my hands behind my head as if to support its untenable weight, and drew in a deep breath followed by a restrained sigh. At that moment an anomaly distracted my unfocused stare like a ripple breaking the surface of an otherwise still pond. A white wisp; a familiar semi-circle hanging awkwardly in the heavens in full view of everyone, and I, its only observer, the sole witness to this seemingly unnatural natural phenomenon. Now forced to take note, rather than allow myself to continue to drift off into the vast ocean of blank space before me, I tilted my head in the moon’s direction and cast a look towards its pale, half-formed image, in hopes of finding something to latch on to.

What I found was a mere symbol, an insignificant crescent cut from paper and pasted onto a 2-dimensional plane above me like a collage in a child’s bedroom. But I tried hard to convince myself that this was just an illusion, that the sky was not a screen, and that this uniformly distant image was actually a celestial body of unimaginable size, incomprehensibly far away. In order to see clearly I had to use my imagination. Slowly, whether through force of will or due to optical illusion I began to see the rest of the semi-circle, as the dark side of the moon revealed itself to me, its curvature and third dimension becoming unmistakably apparent, like a flower blooming for the first and only time in 100 years. I started to perceive the vacuum between us, not as an empty portion of a collage, but as a space that we both occupied, that could actually be physically traversed, breaking the spell of the imagination, rendering the real, real.

Sometimes the moon danced before my eyes, as if playing up to my intentions of examining it more closely, contradicting the entirety of my revelation, calling into question the veracity of my vision. But with extreme focus I managed to will it still, to calm it and to tame it gently like a wild horse in my field of view. From that moment onwards, in the broadness of day I saw the moon in a new light. With a clarity I had never previously felt it occurred to me how immense a dream it must have been to imagine leaving this earth in the hopes of landing on another, in an age when it had never been done before. Such a strong attraction, an irreversibly magnetic desire pulling at humanity from across the space of time, a signal received by our most primordial selves, a call to explore, investigate, and discover, to satiate our hunger for knowledge, and ultimately to bridge the gap between here and there, wherever that may be.

Like an astronaut overcome with the awe of seeing his home as a pale blue dot, I felt the grandeur of the universe and my connection to it all through the rock I lay upon, without even so much as a hint of my own insignificance.