Monday, September 29, 2008

A candle ready for its flame

I can't quite leave the Eta Carinae Nebula. If you haven't already done so, go here and explore the details. The Sun is about 30,000 light-years out from the center of the Milky Way Galaxy, about two-thirds of the way from the center to the edge of the spiral. The Eta Carina region is 8000 light years from the Sun, off along the stream of our spiral arm.

I think of Beatrice leading Dante into the luminous regions of Paradise. The poet prays for adequate language to describe the beauty of what he has seen:
Not only does the beauty I beheld
Transcend ourselves, but truly I believe
Its Maker only may enjoy it all.
Of that he can be sure. No human can fully enjoy or comprehend the grandeur of the universe we live in. In the Eta Carinae Nebula we visit a tiny neighborhood, only 50 light-years wide, of the Milky Way Galaxy, just one of 100 billion galaxies we might see with current technology.
Like sudden lightning scattering the spirits
of sight so that the eye is then too weak
to act on other things it would perceive,

such was the living light encircling me,
leaving me so enveloped by its veil
of radiance that I could see no thing.

The Love that calms this heaven always welcomes
into Itself with such a salutation,
to make the candle ready for its flame.

No sooner had these few words entered me
than I became aware that I was rising
beyond the power that was mine; and such

new vision kindled me again, that even
the purest light would not have been so bright
as to defeat my eyes, deny my sight.
And we, having visited the Eta Carinae Nebula, might say with Dante's almost exact contemporary Meister Eckhart: "That which one says is God, he is not; that which one does not say, he is more truly that."