“Magnificent desolation”


My family just got home from an hour-long full moon guided hike at the botanical garden nearby. It was a nice change from our usual Saturday night. We learned about nocturnal creatures and enjoyed hearing the fading sound of the cicadas being replaced by the katydids as the sun went down.

As we drove home, the full moon was shining brightly. After walking in the woods and experiencing such variety of life and landscapes, imagining the stark emptiness of the moon is striking.

I read this comment about the moon from Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin this week:

My first words of my impression of being on the surface of the Moon that just came to my mind was “Magnificent desolation.” The magnificence of human beings, humanity, Planet Earth, maturing the technologies, imagination and courage to expand our capabilities beyond the next ocean, to dream about being on the Moon, and then taking advantage of increases in technology and carrying out that dream – achieving that is magnificent testimony to humanity.

But it is also desolate – there is no place on earth as desolate as what I was viewing in those first moments on the Lunar Surface. Because I realized what I was looking at, towards the horizon and in every direction, had not changed in hundreds, thousands of years. Beyond me I could see the moon curving away – no atmosphere, black sky.

Cold. Colder than anyone could experience on Earth when the sun is up- but when the sun is up for 14 days, it gets very, very hot. No sign of life whatsoever.

That is desolate. More desolate than any place on Earth.

I saw a tweet from physicist Brian Cox this morning speculating that Earth may be the only planet in the Milky Way with intelligent life. He later tweeted that intelligent life is likely elsewhere in the universe, but it’s his opinion that we are it for our galaxy.

We are living in wonderland, an oasis of fabulously interesting complexity and variety and beauty. I tend to be oblivious to how magnificent our world is. It’s nice to be reminded regularly that we are surrounded by wonders on this lovely little planet. Indeed, we are wonders ourselves.