Old Light

I have always been fascinated by old things.  Even as a boy I found it easy to relate to the elderly. And when in college I befriended an 80-something lady and a 92 year old man, they became possibly my best friends before I left the States for good in ‘74. The future has always seemed small to me, the past huge and bulging with being. To begin with, old things usually have character, that special charm in the surface crack in an antique bowl, or in the well-earned wrinkles of an old and travelled face. And it is their very wornness that marks them, and makes them precious. I have always wondered, however, about an antiquity not linked in any way to wear and tear, or even to the charms they bring. God is obviously the Ancient of Days, ever new and never imprisoned by retirement, never out-of-date and never up-to-date—simply always. But here in this material universe there seems to be something that is also ever new, however old. It is light. The light of the sun is only minutes old, and its shine and warmth condition our daily lives mainly by being useful. The light of the stars, however—if you prescind from maritime navigators, astronomers and astrologers—is largely useless. Still, it tells a bigger story and reveals a deeper meaning. It is old light. Plato called the stars “the loveliest and most perfect of material things,” but their light is old, most of it hundreds and some of it even thousands of years old. Telescopes can see further and register surreally antiquarian phenomena with ages of millions and billions of years. Thus, the past is not only massively behind us chronologically, it completely encircles us spatially. This could serve as a symbolic lesson: maybe  we should seek wisdom preferably in the permanently pregnant womb of the past, and be distrustful of the con-man promises of the future.