A Thin October in the Milky Way
Last night, to my surprise, I stepped off the front porch into the middle of the Milky Way. It’s where we live, in the middle of the Milky Way, and last night I was able to perceive that bright band of millions of stars encircling me. There was the black upon black of the sky, the bright blue white of individual stars, the gathered glowing band of multitudinous stars thickly gathered, and little me stepping off the porch into the arms of the galaxy that is home.
This is what my Celtic ancestors might have called a thin place, a place where you can see through the veils of illusion into the great beyond. Here you can step out your door into the reality that the world is unimaginably bigger than you, even with the baggage of all your cares weighed in. Thin places are necessarily also thin times. To look out into the deep black depths of the sky is also to look back in time, till I am looking at the infinite depths of my own body in its context of time. Here is my lineage of mammals with hair and teeth and breasts, and deeper down again, the vertebrates with their nerves and muscles and bones, gifting me with the ability to move myself out into the world, and further back, deeper down, eyes to see, ears to hear, noses to smell, all bringing that world out there into my private experience. Deeper down in the temporal body, I find my cellular relations, the 90% of me that is other, my bacterial renters, and the 10% of me that is my own particular human lineage, moms and dads going back, and back, grandpas and grandmas, bless them every one. And deeper yet in this body, I find the molecules and chemicals formed so long ago in some distant reach of the vast sky.
With my self-importance framed in this way, in the middle of the great galaxy that is home, my suffering diminishes and my joy increases. Nothing else has changed, just the size of the context around me. As equations go, I'd say this one is worth calculating daily!