Thinking Out Loud

June 10, 2018

God in the Nighttime Sky

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:37 am

The heavens declare the glory of God…

The sky speaks to the glory of God, provided you’re willing to read it that way. During the daytime, the beautiful textures of various types of clouds show God as the Master Artist, and as the sun is tracked across the sky the world around us takes a different shape as shadows disappear at high noon and then reappear at dusk.

But the daytime sky is nothing compared to the nighttime panorama of stars, galaxies, comets, and of course our very first satellite, the moon.

The problem is seeing them. The term “light pollution” describes the challenges we face — especially in urban environments — of seeing everything God has placed there. This is a major loss, as the great questions the vastness of space begs (such as, if some of those stars are light years away, determining when the light left there to be seen on this particular night) is less part of our conscious observance, as are the constellations which so captured the imagination of mankind throughout past centuries.

Why this particular topic?

On Saturday (6/9) The Toronto Star had an interesting story by Charles Wilkins about the Torrance Barrens Dark Sky Reserve — described in the entrance sign as “the world’s first permanently designated dark sky reserve” — located in an area outside Gravenhurst, Ontario, a town about 90 minutes north of Toronto. Despite an arrangement with the nearby municipality, parking lot lighting at a big box store complex and illuminated signage from a popular fast food restaurant are spoiling the view.

…At its founding, environmentalists hailed the reserve as a radical initiative in ecological preservation. No one had yet thought to include darkness and the clarity of the night sky among inviolable ecological legacies, such as uncontaminated soil, breathable air and clean water. “The pathetic truth,” says [Mike] Silver, “is that nobody had even thought of the visible heavens as something that could be lost. Forever. And yet here we are today, clearly losing this magnificent resource.”

By the time the Torrance Barrens Dark Sky Reserve was officially dedicated in 2000, the Royal Astronomical Society had endorsed it, as had astronomers and ecologists in half a dozen countries. And Silver, as much as any amateur stargazer, had emerged as a kind of avatar of public access to the epic natural laboratory in which Copernicus, Galileo and others had sorted out the cosmos…

…Pythagoras realized in 500 BC that the mathematics of Earth and the mathematics of the galaxies are one. David Thompson’s first map of North America during the early 1800s was devised from the particulars of the heavens. Van Gogh’s Starry Night, one of the dreamiest and most disturbing of paintings, is said to convey the mysteries of the human heart as the artist perceived them while locked in the asylum in Saint-Rémy during the days before his suicide…

It turns out the towns own welcome sign is equally guilty. “Your own sign! Your own regulations!” he told them. When he was angered by McDonald’s sign, he was told it was applied for before the bylaw came into effect, something he feels his negated by the fast food chain’s application for an exemption.

…[I]n 2009, the town passed its multi-part dark-sky bylaw. “The problem with it,” says Silver, “is that there’s never been adequate enforcement. When there’s a violation, the town often just looks the other way. So we’re still getting all sorts of light pollution.” …

…When it was suggested to Silver that certain Gravenhurst council members might benefit from an evening under the stars, he says, “We should all be getting out there. When you’re up on those rocks in the dark, gazing at the immensity of the night sky, a lot of what bothers us on Earth can suddenly seem pretty small, pretty solvable.”

Read the full article at The Toronto Star

If you live in a major urban center, this affects you as well. God is putting on an amazing show, but it’s like trying to watch a play or a concert when the people in the row in front insist on standing the whole time.

I hope you can find that special place, away from everything, to catch the display this summer. Admission is free.

Whenever I mention the constellations, there’s always a very small element who think we’re referring to astrology rather than astronomy. They’re different.

For more on the Biblical meaning of the constellations, check out a review we did a few years back on the DVD The Story in the Stars by Joe Amaral. Or the article about this recently published book for young adults, Sky Scrapers.

My favorite line in the above story:

No one had yet thought to include darkness and the clarity of the night sky among inviolable ecological legacies, such as uncontaminated soil, breathable air and clean water

image: Torrance Barrens Facebook page; click image to link


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