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Letter sfrom Downunder

More or Less

Submitted by Lindsay Coker, Melbourne Australia

Recently, a British tourist exclaimed as she was driven to a country home here in Victoria, "Oh, my! Look at all those stars! There's no moon. They're the only light. And there's the Milky Way. And the Southern Cross. Isn't it wonderful? It's so bright."

She asked for the car to be stopped so she could stand and stare. "I've never seen anything like it. There's light everywhere in London. This is amazing." Her host got out of the car and joined her, looking with her into the heavens. They stood in silence until the woman turned and whispered, "And it's so quiet. There's no noise at all. Oh, my!"

Her host whispered back, "Stand there for another minute or two, then tell me if there's no noise."

Slowly, as her ears lost their deafness, the night bush sounds crept forth. Tiny squeaks, little rustlings, something that sounded like a crying baby, the soft 'pop-pop-pop' of a bird. Half an hour went by - the night was mild - before they got back into the car. "I believe I have never been so moved, so overcome by the marvelous immensity of the universe in which we live," she said later, over a cup of tea. "I've been in many a cathedral and church, listened to the most uplifting singing, been overwhelmed by unspeakable love, but never, never have I experienced anything like this night. Everything before came from the lips, the minds and presence of men and women, but this goes beyond all that. This has substance to it, transcendence, perspective. I'm so glad I came."

It's funny, isn't it, that we get so sucked in by the lights and sounds of civilization that the real world disappears. That is, the world as our forebears experienced it, and which multitudes still do; a world with stars instead of searchlights, silence instead of screams. Of course, to most city dwellers, that world is a truly scary place - if you think not, read "The Caf at the end of the Universe" by Douglas Adams. We shield ourselves with noise and light from the reality and beauty of our world. Boom boxes to keep the quiet at bay, frizzle-frazzle to keep the dark away.

But - if you can gaze at the clear heavens, things, after a while, start to gain depth, anxieties get a perspective reduction, harmony can be sensed. Listening to the silence puts us in our place, the place of wonder. We're tiny specks on a minute ball in unimaginable space - and here's the crux - we may come to realize we're all about the same size and importance in the scheme of things. And after quite a while we may even come to feel everyone is part of the same family. (Well, not my niece Exxie, she's a Martian, and there's a lot of them here. They know they're better than everybody else, have steel-clad egos, and no sense of humility.)

You folk around Emmitsburg probably realize this better than most. You're in the country, the bright lights don't get in the way too much, hopefully you've got the time to let your minds expand beyond the confines of Speedy Gonzales culture, and you can get to a field and listen to the night. If I'm wrong about this, be our guests and come to Melbourne so we can take you to the Australian Bush, to my old home town in central Victoria. Although, and more practically, Native American Indian culture embraces all this, so go find an elder and sit. Or get Michael Hillman to let you walk a horse.

No, really, we'd love to see you here. And because we're 99.999% genetically identical, cast the same sized shadow (more or less), and are about as (un)important as each other, we'll get along just fine. And you could meet Exxie.

Happy Gazing

Lindsay

Read Past Downunder Columns by Lindsay Coker