Picking up the torch

3 years ago

Today, in fall 2021, can anyone deny the desire to go home again, “to be back home again looking for that old farm which feels like a long-lost friend,” as John Denver crooned?

Can anyone of us deny the scorching reality of the new national disease?

What must one do, collectively and individually, within the freedoms we cherish as Americans?

The solution/antidote: Pick up the torches of the American Experience.

Some of those flambeaux still smolder, some spark, some lay extinguished, others lay trampled and bloodied.

But they still dot the landscape from the inner mind to the outer borders of our lives. The flame burns within the words and actions of the best of America in the historical log. We must reinvigorate and refuel our tanks and irrigate our wounds with the lighted balm of national truths which always led us towards the heights.

In youth, we feared the horror of the “dark sun” and the ideological menace and infiltration; today we fear the terror of the ugly American with neither moral compass nor ethical mainspring. In the Native American tradition, we must face choices, some of which look equally bright. But we must choose and go on. 

Called “the place of decision,” the stars Castor and Pollux in constellation Gemini stand out before dawn in August and September skies, reminding us that real decisions are seldom easy, but we must choose and go on. This uncertainty confronts America today, and your life and mine as well. We must choose and go on.

I chose to go on with America. And in the shadow of 9/11, I can only recall with the most intense pang the loss of freedom in the earlier innocence of its accumulated inheritance. I cannot surrender. I cannot surrender to what, as songwriter Jackson Browne penned almost 50 years ago, “to start out so young and strong only to surrender” to the throbbing routine of professional and personal hopelessness as the “morning light comes streaming in … to get up and do it again.” My “Amen” defies such a causal course, no matter my failings and shortcomings.

The zodiacal light shines and the solar corona glows; both exquisite astronomical phenomena for those who love the “wee small hours” before dawn or for those who seek the shadow of the moon as America struggles for what Carl Sagan dubbed the “glorious dawn.”

Clear skies; onwards to the dawning edge of the new frontier.

Larry Berz of Caribou, Astronomy Educator of America, is planetarium director at the Francis Malcolm Science Center and instructor of astronomy at the Maine School of Science and Mathematics.