There I was on Monday night waiting for the supermoon. I had charged up my camera and planned my viewing spot above the reservoir in Lovemore Heights. My clever cellphone app told be that moon would rise at 18h56. With everything packed all I needed was for time to pass. And then I stepped outside. Not a single chink in the cloud armour covering the entire city! All I could do was go back inside, open my flask of coffee and look at other people’s Internet pics from around the world.
“So what’s the big deal?”, you ask. Well see, the next supermoon like Monday’s will be on November 25, 2035 which will find me a tad over the allotted three score and ten so I might not see it. The best supermoon this century will be on December 6, 2052 which will require some major medical advances to have me present!
What is a supermoon anyway? Well it isn’t an astronomical term. The star scientists call the phenomenon a “perigee-syzygy of the Earth–Moon–Sun system”. No wonder we prefer the astrological term first used by Richard Nolle in 1979. Perigee is the point at which the Moon is closest in its orbit to the Earth, and syzygy is when the Earth, the Moon and the Sun are aligned which occurs every full or new moon. The whole constellation was little consolation on Monday evening when I couldn’t see a thing!
As I packed away my camera it occurred to me that I had experienced an interesting parable. The fact that moi and all other moon gazing Port Elizabethans didn’t see the lunar wonder had no effect on the reality that the supermoon occurred. We simply didn’t witness it first hand.
It was the Irish philosopher Bishop George Berkeley in 1710 who imagined a park full of trees and no one there to perceive them, thus prompting the question of unknown origin some years later, “If a tree were to fall on an island where there were no human beings would there be any sound?”
Centuries later Albert Einstein apparently asked fellow physicist and friend Niels Bohr, whether he realistically believed that ‘the moon does not exist if nobody is looking at it.’ To this Bohr replied that however hard Einstein may try he couldn’t prove the existence of the moon if he couldn’t see it. I don’t know what Einstein replied then, but on Monday night I found strange consolation in knowing that the supermoon was there even though my viewing was thwarted.
My consolation was neither philosophical nor scientific, it was inspirational. Many have been the times when I have not witnessed the things I desperately wanted to see or know. Things like truth, justice, integrity, loyalty, honesty and old fashioned fair-play. These lights have been obscured and all I could see was clouded lies, obfuscation and murkiness. Yet despite evidence I have known they are there.
I suppose it’s called faith.