We found a place for Eternity around here a few posts back. Today we find time for Infinity, with a canny focus on the sky, which is both near to hand and about as infinite as things get. Significantly for my song Infinite Sky, it is much bigger even than we are. Barring dramatic technological breakthroughs, we — unfairly limited by finitude — will never be able to fill it up, or refashion it, or even sully it significantly. That’s humbling. Something has to be very large indeed before we can’t make it dirty.
Infinite Sky is the final song on my Songs Sung Sideways album, so it’s only fitting that it should feature a cogent but touching summation of my life philosophy. Alas it has no such thing, but it does have aliens who live so far away from Earth that we can never have any knowledge of them, regardless of anything they or we do. Speculation and inference prove conclusively that the sky may in fact teem with such beings in inconceivable numbers. When we look up into the sky at night, we could be staring right down their eye-stalks as they peer back at us from too far away ever to share any of our light. It’s kind of poignant, but at least they’ll never invade.
A past master of this kind of talk, an enthusiastic pothead, and the leading exponent of the dot metaphor that runs through Infinite Sky, was Carl Sagan, the American astrophysicist. Sagan was an eminent scientist, but ranked perhaps even higher as a communicator, as a humane public voice with impeccable scientific credentials. His documentary television series, Cosmos, remains popular and influential worldwide twenty years after his death. A famous quotation from his book, Pale Blue Dot, appears sometimes at the top of the Infinite Sky song page, but it’s too apposite not to repeat here:
The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.