Industrial Fire, Spiritual Light

Light pollution is one of those things that’s a mixed curse. On the one hand, there’s all the material benefits (and a few cultural ones) which come from industralisation and living in cities. On the other, I’m sure there’s a loss of spiritual connection through not being able to see the stars.

While I was in New Zealand a few years ago, I made trip out to One Tree Hill Observatory in Auckland so that I could see The Southern Cross, something not visible from northern hemisphere. Although it was a bit cloudy, there were still billions of stars shining and I also got to see Andromeda, our nearest galaxy. It was a chance to marvel at many other beautiful celestial objects too and it put many things into perspective.

Living near the city, I can still see stars when I look up at night. Cold winter evenings are usually a fine time to look straight up and pause for a moment before quickly getting inside to warm up. Looking straight up, however, is the only option where I live. All around the horizon is pink for the whole night and I remember a friend driving me across north Yorkshire some time in the past. The stars seemed to literally press down on us through his sun roof. Very cool. Cosmic, even.

I think being able to see the night stars is actually really important for giving us a sense of wonder about the universe and for reminding us of our place in it. Seeing the stars symbolises our hopes and dreams. Seeing burning skies every night and never having true darkness–notwithstanding what that does to our circadian rhythms–isn’t the best way to live.

I wonder what impact this is having on children who’ve never known any different from the orange-red night skies? Do they hope and dream in the same way? Or are they more disconnected in a way they can’t understand? So many people live in the opening of Fight Club–chasing material gratification and lose sight of the magic of being alive. I wonder to what extent a lack of experiencing true night to contrast with the day plays a part in that disconnected feeling.

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