Inner peace for space cadets
The Voyager 1 spacecraft has detected persistent ripples in the interstellar plasma, through which it has been traveling since it left the Solar System in 2012. By measuring these waves, astrophysicists have made the first continuous measurements of the density of the interstellar plasma, the rarefied medium between the stars.
When I find myself unwillingly wakeful in the wee hours, I try to meditate my way back to sleep. Sometimes I start by imagining myself cruising through interstellar space as a passenger on Voyager 1. To be more accurate, in my little fantasy I actually become Voyager 1. The silence, the weightlessness, the stars — they all help me fall back into the arms of Hypnos. I imagine myself moving through spacetime, feeling zero turbulence and cradled by perfect silence.
I feel a kinship with the little craft, out there all alone, sending forth its feeble signals through undulant swaths of space and time, like Whitman’s patient spider, like the poet’s soul, launching “filament, filament, filament, out of itself,” till its “gossamer” threads catch somewhere.
Imagine my distress as reports have come in proclaiming that this plucky little craft, launched way back in 1971, has detected a “hum,” disturbingly characterized as “ominous” by Yahoo Entertainment News. (Why ominous? You’ll have to ask the Yahoo people, who should not be confused with Gulliver’s Yahoos, subhuman types with unpleasant personal habits.) So where is this “humming” coming from? Most likely from the very diaphragm of our galaxy, our beautiful, musical Milky Way.
Trying to put the best light on this intrusion into my already shaky powers of meditation, I mentally chide the science reporters for not picking up on the obvious — it’s not a hum; it’s not ominous; it’s the universe chanting “OM.” We’re talking the ultimate OM — perhaps they meant “OM-iness”? (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)
Voyager 1 carries a golden disc that represents a sort of resume of human knowledge and achievement. This record includes a variety of images and a collection of earthly sounds, including a mother’s kiss for a crying baby and the voice of a solitary frog accompanied by a chorus of crickets.
Whatever being from a faraway star system finds and plays this disc will hear greetings in languages ranging from ancient Akkadian to the Wu dialect of southern China. Not least, the disc includes several musical selections from multiple genres and cultures worldwide, including Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto #2 and Mozart’s Magic Flute, waiting for some future faraway listener to hear our small contribution to the universe of music. If you go to the Voyager page on the NASA website, you can see and listen to the entire repertory.
Don’t we all carry such a disc embedded in the core of our being? Aren’t we all voyagers? We journey into the unknown carrying all of our experience and memories, sensory and extrasensory, our love — ready, if we can put aside our petty fears, to share with our co-voyagers, wherever and whoever they might be. Isn’t this the manifestation of the great wonder of our being? Inner peace doesn’t have to be a hum; it can be a symphony. I begin to doze off.
But yet again, my inner contrarian interrupts. Maybe it is a hum. In fact, I imagine Voyager cheekily challenging its earthly listeners to “name that tune.”
And then it comes to me — the tune, that is — these lines from “West Side Story”: “Something’s coming, something good…”
Music conjures up such sweet memories. Hypnos carries me to the fourth row of the Ambassador theater in Cincinnati, Ohio, where I fearfully go for my first kiss. Charlene. Such a sweet dream.
“The air is humming and something great is coming.”
Richard Carey lives in Ashland, happily retired from all forms of gainful employment. He now spends his time scribbling poems and in sporadic meditation, among other aimless pursuits. Email 600 -to 700-word articles to Sally McKirgan at email@example.com.