Remember the first photos of Earth from space? It created a sea-change in our perspective.
As a child, my father found it amusing how disturbed I was by the idea of infinity. I am challenged anew, and in a rather marvellous way, seeing this amazing NASA video.
The word “perspective” has many meanings. It is an old word, dating from 1300s.
1387: Aristotle..made..problemys of perspective [L. perspectiva problemata] and of methaphesik.
a1661 W. Brereton Trav. (1844) 60 Wm. Daviseon offered to furnish me with a couple of these perspectives, which shew the new-found motion of the stars about Jupiter.
1692 tr. C. de Saint-Évremond Misc. Ess. 280 By the means of great Perspectives, which Invention becomes more perfect every Day, they discover new Planets.
1605 Bacon Of Aduancem. Learning ii. sig. Hh3, We haue endeauoured in these our Partitions to observe a kind of perspectiue, that one part may cast light vpon another.
It’s this last, the sense of “putting things in perspective,” that this NASA video vividly evokes for me. What do our own small lives matter, after all?
I am consoled by William Blake’s lines from Auguries of Innocence:
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.
I begin each day working to create a world on the page. Every age has its moment of wonder, of awe, of expanded perspective. I’m wondering what that moment was for Hortense at the end of the 18th century.
Worth reading …
The Incident of the Fly Swatter, a blog post on Wonders & Marvels, on some historical perspective on the relationship between France and the Muslim world.