Still Out There?

Of course I am.  Still wandering, still wondering, still marveling and chasing the light.  Still looking for that moment that strikes awe in my heart and reminds me of my place in this vast universe.  Sometimes its not anywhere to be found.  Then at other times it just sneaks up behind you and smacks you across the head and says ‘Wake Up Dummy!’.  And then there are those times when it can be seen coming from far off giving you the time to prepare to be wowed!

Such is the case when an eclipse of either the sun or the moon is pending.  A few millennia ago seeing such an event struck fear in the hearts of the onlookers as they took such things as bad omens of pending tribulation.  However, such phenomena are not causes but circumstances of the obedience of Divine law. The “laws of nature” that govern how our universe works, stated as such, makes it appear as if nature is in and of itself an independent and self regulating.  That statement makes it appear as if nature controls itself.  What we so casually call a law of nature should be called a Law of the Divine.

I find it amusingly interesting that we refer to the creation of the universe as creation without attributing to it a creator.  Creation is an act, thus there must be an actor, who is that?  That act of creation, bringing something into existence that was previously not in existence, is an awesome act.  Seeing it is not enough to make one believe it, especially in today’s world.  It has to be experienced wholly.

In addition, the act of creation is taking place at every instance in time.  As I move my fingers across the keyboard typing, each minute movement comes into existence, a movement that a moment ago did not exist.  The attribute of motion being attributed to my fingers is created and then as suddenly as it comes into existence, it becomes annihilated out of existence as well.  Objects that are described using attributes that are created and destroyed are themselves as their attributes, namely created and destroyed likewise.  Since we did not create ourselves nor, in most cases, annihilate ourselves, there must be something outside of us that does that.  Dare I call that ‘The Creator’?

It was not all that long ago that most every person on our little planet believed in the Divine.  An entity, spirit or power greater than ourselves that governed the known universe, brought it into existence and brings about its annihilation.  We were reverently awed by the Divine such that we followed a path that would be pleasing to the Divine and beneficial to all of us.   However, given who we are as humans, that seed of illness that sprouts into a myriad of destructive ills known as arrogance found a seat in the heart of one of us and took hold.  It quickly spread infecting the hearts of those around and we began to see ourselves as better than others.  Unable to see past our own hubris we slowly ascended to the illusionary throne of greatness crowning ourselves the masters of our own destiny, and the Divine died in our hearts.  Lost and cutoff from the sustenance of our souls we wander in a make-believe world where things happen just because they do without any rhyme or reason.  We do as we please as if our actions bear no consequences concerned with only our selfish gains.  And when we are done destroying everything that crosses our path we will invent new virtual things to destroy so that our now covetous capricious self can revel in as being its master. Oh what we have become.

Then suddenly an act that we cannot control driven by forces we do not understand occurs that, if we have any semblance of life left in us, would put us back in our rightful humble place, the onset of an eclipse. Even though we can calculate the occurrence of an eclipse with our mathematical models the majority of us have no understanding of the models let alone the motions of these heavenly bodies.  They occur in silence and, for the most part in today’s world, they go unnoticed because who looks up at the sky anymore?  Furthermore, who has the time to watch a silent event that can take up to several hours from its beginning to its end?  In a world where we have become accustomed to  moving at megabits per second and if we have to wait a few seconds for some gratification, the eclipse is just too long and super-boring.

Here is the grabber.  Whether we notice the natural world or not and whether we care for the natural world or not it is still out there adhering to the laws set in place by the Divine.

Still Out There – Eclipse of April 14th, 2014

This photograph of the eclipse of April 14th, 2014 was made at near its peak at 12:53:20 PDT.  The sky had a light veil of clouds that dimmed the vibrancy of the moon for most of the duration of the eclipse.  There was s brief period of time when a break in the clouds occurred and this photo was the result.  It could not have been captured as such if I was not willing to stand there in the dark for the entire duration of the eclipse.  A minute or two later the clouds diminished the brightness of the moon and stars and remained that way until its end.

Again, just like with the eclipse photo made on the solstice of 2010, this photo is a combination of two exposures.  Even though I could see the stars with my eyes, the camera needed a little help.  Exposing for just the moon, produced a sufficiently dark sky where only Spica, the very bright star on the right side of the frame could be seen.  When exposing for the stars, the moon was over exposed. Two exposures were made in rapid succession so as to minimize any variation in the positions of the heavenly bodies when they were combined in a single frame. Each bright “bit” in the dark sky can be identified using an ephemeris.  Starting from the upper left and working clockwise the stars pictured are the following.

TYC 5545-1356-1: 367 light years (ly)

76 Virgins: 265 ly

TYC 5548-516-1: 682 ly

TYC 5548-294-1: 977 ly

TYC 5548-138-1: 370 ly

TYC 5547-392-1: 418 ly

Spica: 264 ly

TYC 5548-374-1: 187 ly

TYC 5548-1547-1: 213 ly

TYC 5548-392-1: 1212 ly

TYC 5548-193-1: ???? ly

and finally

TYC 5548-1468-1: 1320 ly!

Oh and the moon’s distance…well it only takes 1.2 seconds for light reflected from the moon to reach the earth. A light year is the distance that light can travel in one year’s time as measured here on earth.  Light travels at a speed of 186,000 miles/sec and so in one year’s time a photon of light can travel 5.86 trillion miles! The moon’s distance from the earth in light years is 0.000000038.  Looking at the moon is seeing 1.2 seconds into the past.  Looking at one of those stars is seeing deep into the past.

The creation is vast!  The Creator, well, immeasurable! We are small, very small.

Till next time, Peace.

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Mercy: Day 7 – Love

Love is one of the greatest mercies endowed among humans.  It binds us together and is the impetus that fuels our ever growing population and what makes us hold on to those who have passed away.  However to often love is mistaken for infatuation and unsubstantiated passion.  Love is much deeper than that and while those feelings do come along with love in some cases, true love does not need those facets to exist and grow between us.

Love is that emotion, that emotive force that drives the lover to do anything for the sake of the beloved willingly without hesitation even if it is not in the best interest of the lover.  The lover not only loves the beloved, but loves everything that the beloved does, or makes, or says.  And when the there is reciprocation, a bond is formed between the lover and the beloved that can’t be broken.  Compassion forges it way in that bond as well and protects each from harming one another.

As love grows it becomes a safe haven, a port of protection from the ravages of an unruly world out for self gain and self aggrandizement and it fills the heart until it flows over its brim and spills out into the world to infect others who happen to be too close to the outpouring.

When this love is directed towards the Creator, the lover’s love becomes unlimited and extends to everything that the Creator has ever touched, done or will do as everything is in the fold the the Creator’s Will.  In fact one of the 99 beautiful names of God happens to be The Loving as our Creator is indeed One that Loves His creation so much so that even in spite of our transgressions we still enjoy every blessing we could think of.  But to love the creation like that, for the sake of the our Beloved, The Loving, would move us to a high station indeed. What mercy could extend to others if we loved them the way God loves them? How much violence would remain in the world? How many wars would cease?  How few there would be that were hungry, or thirsty, or homeless or orphaned? What a world this would be if our hearts popped with the Mercy of Love!

My Heart Pops

My Heart Pops

Till Tomorrow, Peace.

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Light is an abstraction.  We can’t see it in its pure form.  It is invisible until it interacts with other objects in creation.  When it does finally interact, it undergoes a transformation within the object it reaches by exciting the very electrons that make up the atoms of the molecules of that very object.  When the electrons calm down, for lack of a better description, they emit new photons of light that are unique to that object.  This is one reason why everything is distinguishable; why the sky appears different than the ground, why a tree appears different from a flower, why you are different from everyone else.

Pure light is invisible and if we were to look into pure light, in its full intensity, we would not only be blinded by its intensity, but we would only see white – that is nothing.  Likewise, in the complete absence of light, pure darkness, we would be blinded as well seeing only black – that is we see nothing. 

Light’s elusiveness prevents us from seeing at the extremes.  However in the middle, there is shade – the mixture of pure light and pure darkness. It is only here that our eyes can see the light and transmit that information to our brain where we can interpret what we see.  But even more amazing is that our brain is in complete darkness.  Light never reaches the actual organ in our head.  What we “see”, the light that reaches our eyes stops right there.  The light is not piped into our brains, only electrical impulses from the optic nerve reach the brain.

In addition to all of this, the objects that we think we “see” are not truly seen at all.  In reality we are only seeing the light that emanates from the objects in creation after they have interacted with pure light, which we cannot see.  So we may never know the true nature of creation.

One final thought – if the brain interprets everything that we perceive through our senses in this vast universe, then it would seem that the vast limitless size of the universe actually only occupies the space contained in our head. 

How’s that for abstraction?


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An Hour with the Moon

It’s been another month. Yesterday I went out to look for the new crescent moon of Rabi’ Al-Awwal, the third month of the Islamic year, the month in which the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of God Upon him) was born. It is a good time. Unfortunately however, the moon was not seen yesterday. The clouds in the sky were thick and only a small window through the clouds was visible for us to look into. Nonetheless, the month has come to an end and today with clearer skies the new crescent moon was easily visible and I had the good fortune to spend about an hour with it as it slowly sank into the western sky.

Rabi Al-Awwal Crescent

Rabi Al-Awwal Crescent

When I photograph the moon I always think to myself, these photos will not be very interesting. The sky looks plain, the moon too thin and I think to myself how great it would be if the sky suddenly erupted in a blush of color. But after I return home and start working with the images, I am utterly amazed at how beautiful the moon is with all its subtleties.

Subtleties of the Moon

Subtleties of the Moon

And then when the color does appear, it makes the moon stand out even more. One of the beautiful aspects of the moon is that it cycles. It always returns to this moment, like clockwork every month. It’s dependable, even if we can’t see it due to clouds or weather or some other reason, it always returns. It’s a promise that you can bank on. At the same time, it, just like everything else in creation is in a state of evanescence. It will vanish just like everything else. Here today and gone tomorrow.

Crescent in a blush of pink

Crescent in a blush of pink

Just like the light that lights the sky vanishes, so to will the moon and everything else for that matter, everything.

However, its only in the absence of something do we realize how important that thing was to us and what a blessing it was. And just when you think that you can’t do with out that blessing, you find that in its absence you can see things that you were never able to see when its brilliance was blinding you. You realize that even though all you can see is a small sliver of its light, its true nature is hidden by the make-up that covers it and in the shadows its true nature is revealed.

The Moon Revealed in Earth Shine

The Moon Revealed in Earth Shine

As the day came to a close and the final photo taken, I realized that no one is an island. Even though the moon tonight was the most brilliant object in the sky, it was not alone and could never be our moon if it was alone. For sharing the sky with the moon was Venus, our closest neighboring planet. Everything in nature has its counterpart – night and day, sun and moon, husband and wife, right and wrong.

The Moon and Venus

The Moon and Venus

One cannot exist without the other. Everything in creation exhibits this quality. And it is only with this very quality can anything be perpetuated. If one side of the balance is upset it will upset the other side as well and send everything into an out of control chaotic spiral downward into destruction – May God protect us from that.

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