I had a conversation over dinner last night with a weaving friend that reminded me of this memory.
It was 15 minutes after midnight, and a still, moonlit night last winter. I was lying in bed, head tipped back to watch the moon through the window behind my bed, as it moved across the skeleton of the tree branches, imperceptibly yet definitely moving. My peripheral vision did that photographic flash thing of sometimes being light rimmed, and sometimes dark-rimmed, as if someone somewhere unseen was switching a light on and off at irregular intervals. That always intrigues me, and makes me aware of how illusory our perceptions actually are. Both those effects couldn’t possibly be happening – it was all within the workings of my eye, or the part of my brain that controls or perceives periphery vision.
I lay there, focusing on just being aware of the movement of the moon slowly easing its way across the night sky, and began to think that, of course, it wasn’t the moon that was moving so much as us. Whirling round at a high rate of knots (30 km/s or 108,000 km/h, which just defies thinking about!), we were the ones moving through space, although of course the moon does revolve around us as well. Trying to see the orbits of the planets and their moons just in my mind has always been a struggle to visualise. I thought about the comparative sizes of the two orbs and the comments I’ve read from astronauts where they say they always looked up to the Earth, no matter where they were in comparison. Earth is always up, never down. That, for us with gravity as the ever present constant in our world, is a weird thing to contemplate.
Then my mind switched over to people – firstly the people in my village, most of whom would be asleep and unaware of this moment. Secondly, the people who weren’t yet asleep, but getting ready for bed and for work tomorrow morning, caught up in the doing of things and unaware of this quiet moment outside their window. Thirdly, people who might be awake in another country, and what they would be doing, all of them unaware of what was going on in other’s lives.
It’s very salutary to remind myself that my life is really only important to me and those who are directly involved in it. We all have our own little universes, our own little worlds of ups and downs, pleasure, sadness, apprehension, excitement, boredom, depression, worries, eagerness, and those worlds are totally individual. They interact with others in a seemingly random way, yet somehow connected. With hindsight, chance meetings are rarely just chance. I began to wonder what it would look like if those personal universes were visible, like some kind of plasma or gas cloud (astronomically speaking!!). How would they comingle with others? In what way? In wisps? In streams? I think we would be amazed at how much we do share our worlds on a level that we’re generally not aware of.
We’re the same, you and I. Different – oh, so different – and yet we live and share the same human condition.