Collecting Planets

I have a city-dwelling student who has recently begun to take a keen interest in the special wonders of the night sky. She sometimes sends me urgent messages to alert me to a perfect crescent moon, or to ask me which star is shining so bright on the horizon this evening. On a couple of occasions, the objects she is noticing, as though for the first time — the universe, which in a sense is us, is always noticed as though for the first time, by individuals as by mankind as a whole — have turned out to be planets, a fact which is always impressive to us moderns, who frequently forget that most of the planets of our solar system are visible with the naked eye, and were carefully observed, and deified, for millennia.

A few days ago, this student contacted me to ask if I had seen an unusually bright and strikingly orange star in the sky. I informed her that she was probably looking at Mars, to which she replied that she felt as though she were “collecting planets.” That well-chosen phrase evoked the following response from me.

“You are collecting planets, you said. The way we do that is by letting the mind swirl slowly, capturing another planet, and then another, as it continues its sweeping, circular motion. The key to maintaining this motion and its collecting effects is to keep the revolution consistent and gradual, so as not to lose or waste energy. Eventually, the perpetual revolution becomes its own source of energy, as the planets we have collected form a nearly perfect system of unending cyclical motion. If there is such a thing as eternity, then we may define it this way: Eternity is the distant, invisible goal that attracts the mind to swirl itself into the inexhaustible, unending revolution of planets and stars.”

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