The most important question is, ‘Is the universe friendly?’ — attributed to Albert Einstein
Long time readers may recall a post here describing how once, in the middle of the night, I woke, went outside, and sat for a time in the dark under the magnolia tree in our front courtyard. The post was called Zen fatherhood.
From the chair that I sit in, the sky can be seen directly over the courtyard wall. I suppose this makes it an infinite courtyard.
Sometimes I begin the day calm, sometimes anxious.Today was calm. I had had a strange dream. I was visiting a curiosity shop. It had curtains and dinosaurs. I’m not sure but I think the shop is called childhood.
Calm I was, puzzling over that dream, when a crescent moon poked its head from behind some Magnolia branches. The shape was so pleasing and perfect that I couldn’t stop looking. I remembered the night when Nick first saw the moon.
He was a year old. We had gone out in front of the house. The moon was full.
“Nick, look up!” I said.
Puzzled stare from Nick.
He followed my finger to the silvery face.
“Uh,” said Nick.
“See the man? There’s a man in the moon!”
“Uh!” he said.
At the time, and for some years after, that was pretty much his entire speaking vocabulary, although he understood us well enough.
He began pointing excitedly.
“Yes, moon,” I said. “It runs on batteries.”
I didn’t say that.
You only get to introduce your child to the moon once. But a few days later we went somewhere in the car after dark. The moon hung outside the window on the driver’s side.
“Nora, quick, show Nick the moon again,” I said.
Nora pointed outside the window.
“See Nick. It’s the moon again.”
Nick wasn’t interested.
I stopped the car and insisted we all get out.
“See? There it is again,” I said.
I pointed at the man’s slightly truncated face. Nick was looking at the moon now. I could tell he was thinking about it.
He looked at me with a question in his eyes: You mean there’s two of them?
“Same moon,” I said. “Same same. It goes wherever you go,”
I’m not sure he was convinced, but Goodnight Moon became a favorite not long after. How many times we read that book! What did it say that was so important? What is it about the moon that we love so?
I stared long and long at that crescent this morning, because I wanted to understand. Then the simple answer came. The moon is out there. It is the universe.
And the moon is friendly.
. . .
I WROTE THIS POST before the Japanese earthquake. The universe feels decidedly hostile today, though perhaps it’s possible to make it less so for those most affected. To learn how you can help with relief, check out this article in the Huffington Post. Or here’s how to think about relief differently.
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Provenance of “Is the universe friendly?” This question is generally attributed to Einstein. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any first-hand evidence that he actually said or wrote it. All of the sources I found on the Internet are heresay–none pointing to a documented interview or letter. But he did really did say, “Many things which go under my name are badly translated from the German or are invented by other people.”
A brief message from Apollo 8:
Express yourself! Any thoughts about the universe? I’d love you to add your comment below. I always respond here.
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