Thursday, January 6, 2011

Orion's pants, U.F.O.'s, and what I really learned from Einstein

This was the age of blue streetlights. I remember that clearly. Most of my Childhood is illuminated in blue streetlights and highlighted by games of red dog after dinner. The consensus puts the story in April. I remember it being chilly outside. I may have been 10 or eleven years old. I wasn’t 12 yet. We all know my feelings about turning 12.

My sister (not that one, the other one) and I were coming home from the playground and she stopped on the corner and stared at the sky. It was intense and dramatic, two things this sister was not known for unless some kind of stress was going on. It was one of those cinematic epiphany moments.
“You see those stars?” she said to me as she pointed at the sky.
I had no choice to admit that I saw the stars. Everyone saw the stars.
“Those stars are mine.” She added
I accepted this as fact. She said it so convincingly that it had to be true. I never questioned how she knew or who gave them to her, but she claimed them and that was enough..
Later, as I cleared the age of twelve, I learned that those three stars clustered in the early spring sky belonged to a dude by the name of Orion. They are big, famous, important stars and are quintessential for keeping his pants up. My sister had laid claim to the belt of Orion. These were new things to process.

I have faith in my sister and I don’t think that, under normal circumstances, there is anything beyond her abilities. You can add some adversity to that and she’d probably still do okay, but to wrest the belt away from Orion…This, in mortal terms, is still impossible.

Humanity has done many things, including the amazing inventions of sliced bread, the motion picture, the whole interweb thingie and some dude named Neil walking on the moon. But a way to put stars in your pocket has yet to be invented.

It doesn’t mean that we stop trying. The most important thing is to dream silly little dreams, to look up at the sky and wonder.

Back in the early sixties, my eldest brother and my sister (No, the other one) looked up and saw flashing lights in the sky and mistook a plane for a flying saucer. Today we laugh at their naiveté around dinner tables and holiday gatherings. No one ever recalls that Sputnik was only a few years earlier (except for my other brother, he’s good like that), Crazy Neil hadn’t walked on the moon, and we were still reeling about bread being sliced.

It may have been the first time that night was something more than a thing outside their window, the first time they saw stars. In that moment they exercised and believed in the most important proverb that Einstein ever put forth, that Imagination is more important than knowledge.

In this world of wireless everything, stars are harder to see, but I keep looking. Every once in a while there’s a light in the sky that may be a plane that’s moving too slow, with lights flashing an actual rhythm, or it’s not, and my brother was right.

I don’t have the knowledge, only the imagination. But, if you look up on a clear starry night and notice that Orion’s pants have fallen, give me a call. His belt may just be in my sister’s (the other one again) pocket

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