The night sky at Lake Ellesmere, forty minutes from Christchurch.
Perhaps if we stared Time in the face we might be less inclined to believe our so-called  political representatives who speak only in terms of budget and election cycles.

THERE ARE LIKELY to be few of us who have not stood outside and stared up, in awe and amazement, at the vastness and beauty of the universe in which we are all privileged to live. I fondly like to believe, perhaps more out of hope than any real expectation, that we have all felt the planet beneath our feet and have been reminded of our common humanity. After all, humankind emerged from Africa to traverse across the globe. It kind of puts the chants of 'send her back' into some kind of perspective, I think.

The size of our universe, which none of us can really grasp, is best understood in terms of time. Many of the stars that we can see in the night sky are some 2000 light years away. A light year represents how far light travels in a year at about 186,000 miles per second. That is, about 5.87 trillion miles.

 The star Polaris, which we refer to as the North Star, is 680 light years away. The light takes 680 years to travel to Earth, so it is 680 years old when we see it. It began its journey to Earth in the year 1339.

It is said that the distance between the Earth and the edge of the observable universe is 46 billion light years. I think most of us can read such figures, understand them in one sense, but not really comprehend them.

The Earth itself is some 4.5 billion years old. The earliest fossils of anatomically modern humans are just 200,000 years old. If the history of the Earth is scaled to a 24 hour day all of human history would transpire in the last fraction of a second before midnight. Industrial capitalism, the corrosive and destructive economic system which is engaged in destroying our precious planet in the name of growth and profit, is little more than 200 years old. It would barely register on our 24 hour clock.

Perhaps if we  were more aware of our place in the universe and possessed a humility based on the briefness of time we have walked this planet, then we might not be so accommodating to a 200 year old economic system that is ransacking our home before our very eyes.

Fiscal years and growth figures, share indexes and dividend payouts, they all enforce a blinkered view of the future. Short term thinkers with slogans and catch phrases are rewarded with bonuses and reelection. And those of us who dare to take seriously our responsibility to future generations often find ourselves drowned out by those who have captured the media and the political system.

So perhaps staring up at the night sky and staring Time in the face can be a revolutionary act. Perhaps it will remind us that the Universe and our Earth are speaking to us all the time. Perhaps if we listened we would be less inclined to listen to the politicians that claim to represent us but who speak only in terms of budgets and election cycles.


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