The Aurora Borealis

The recent spike in solar activity created the perfect conditions for The Aurora Borealis. The huge amount of radiation that erupted from the sun and sped towards the earth took two days to finally reach us. Upon reaching the Earth, the radiation meets with the Van Allen belt and in extreme northern and southern latitudes and creates a beautiful display of the universe at work.Throughout human history the beautiful and awe inspiring displays have inspired wonder and dread...that is until last night.
Last night in Portland Or, I had the rare opportunity, due to the aforementioned solar storm, to view the Aurora Borealis. This is a rare occurrence in Portland as it is too far south and often beset by clouds. I have missed many meteor showers and other wonders in the sky. Last night I was intent on not missing this show. The clouds that had been forecast cleared. I managed to find the time in order get out into the Columbia Gorge to what I thought would be a peaceful and respectful gathering of amateur astronomers, aging hippies, and other curious sky watchers. I suppose it was my own fault for harboring expectations of a beautiful night of quiet contemplation, perhaps a decent conversation, and wonder while being lost in the wonders of the universe.
The line started about a mile away from the viewpoint. The atmosphere of a rock concert seemed to permeate the grounds. People wandered in the way of cars. Cigarette smoke filled the air. Loud music being played from cars filled the night. Close by an electric drill was busily at work bolting lawn chairs to the roof of a truck. The clink and clatter of beer bottles being discarded and broken resounded in the night sky. Cars rolled onto side walks. People nosily conversed amongst themselves while not paying much attention to the heavens. Led lanterns added to the light pollution I had driven to escape.
I found the most advantageous place to sit and fixed my eyes upon the north. I tried my best to drown out the chorus of unrelated conversation, loud music, and general annoyances to very little avail. I finally gave up and immersed myself in the conversations I was able to overhear while trying to focus on the wonders above.
So I finally saw the northern lights. While it was not the intensity of what one would see in more northern latitudes, it was still quite a show. I post this story here in order to lament the current state of humanity. It seems many of us have lost the ability to be awestruck. It seems many of us are no longer capable of losing ourselves to the beauty that surrounds us. I am lamenting the fact that while the heavens danced the people surrounding me who had gathered to see them paid no attention. I was dumbstruck as people around me took group photos in order to remember that they were at least there.
We have become a society of tourists. We do not truly see what we travel to see. We seek out these experiences and then we do not pay attention to them. Instead we pay attention to our level of comfort or our simple and base desires. Dreamers, scientists, and those who are lost in beauty of the universe are becoming few. They are being replaced by gross consumers who travel only to consume their destination. I lack faith in humanity because we are rapidly losing the ability to be awestruck by the wonders of life.
Wanderartist Wanderartist
31-35, M
4 Responses Aug 4, 2010

Greetings. I hope you are still available (since it was some time ago you wrote this). How you started this story was... Superb? Yes! I think that is a very fitting word! Your tale begins with you, wanting to see the beautiful aurora borealis, you're all set. Your mind filled with wonder and joy, and then it is all ruined. Cigarette smoke, loud unnecessary noise, beer bottles and other filth tossed all over the place. In short: The Walking Dead have arrived. At least there is not much of a difference between zombies and humanity if you ask me.

The last part of your story really gets to me, in good and "bad" ways (and do I love it!).
"Dreamers, scientists, and those who are lost in beauty of the universe are becoming few." Yes! LOST indeed! These words almost makes me weep.. So far I have only lost myself in beautiful music, and it is something I will never forget. There is such a difference in just being there and just seeing it happen, and in being there and actually FEELING it happen inside you.

It is fascinating how so many small and seemingly pointless things can get you down. But it is also fascinating how so many small things can make such a difference. Sometimes, these small things I think are the things which keeps me going. Perhaps I am a lot more misanthropic than you, but this little story of yours made me think a lot, feel a lot. And for that I Thank You!

I made my avatar by rendering an image of an Aurora Borealis against a superimposed background, to pay tribute to that wonder of creation. I agree; too many people are too locked into their daily lives to notice what lies beyond the periphery of the mundane. It takes light 8 +/- minutes to reach us from the sun before bombarding us with photons, and yet how many people have taken the time just in the past week to marvel at the moon? How many people these days listen to the 17 year cicadas that live for only a few months on the surface of a tree? How many people even know the lifespan of a cicada? There are so many things to be amazed by, and so few who are amazed.

"We do not truly see what we travel to see" - quite true, I think too many people travel just to be able to say they had been there. That doesn't just apply to travelling either, but to many of the things we do, what we buy, who we know. So many don't appreciate things for what they are, but instead for what others think of them.

Well said, the most interesting of observations. People that are able to appreciate the beauty and wonder of our world are so few and so rare. 95% of people born on this earth are here merely to breed and sustain the human race, while the other few, are born to lead, create, understand, explore and utter a new word, although these people are few, their presence is felt. They are amoung us and will never be forgotten. Let the stars remain far above the earth.