Isherwood: The Wow Factor

Behaviorally I am a “holy cow” sort of person. It began with that liberal education, of being a farmkid in the first place, driving tractors by the age of eight, milking cows regularly by fifth grade, learning to weld when others are tutored in flag football. There were other tasks, butchering, haying, driving a pickup truck with a pillow on the seat to facilitate actual seeing through the windshield. It was a vigorous course – firecrackers, firewood, sawmills, fishing cars, pup tents, .22-caliber – the list was extensive.

So it is that my faith is certain in the power of these elements as critical to healthy human beings, I would happily propose that a part of every kid’s education should include four scattered semesters on a farm, the bunk house included. The farm to not necessarily profit from this effort because as part of the educational system comes appropriate professional pay and health insurance. A curriculum to expose children of various ages, if generally younger than parents or agencies believe is appropriate, to real work, sometimes dangerous work. The first farm lesson being to dispel the myth of individual achievement or that genius matters. The second lesson that physical labor is both joyful and good for you.

I do admit to being a tad bit off-signal in my design of the farm sector approach to higher and wider education, but it serves to introduce an earnest subject matter – wonderment. My own nourishment began with the sky that is and ought to be over most farms, a sky that should a child be exposed to this resource is a different kind of person as the result, to advance the belief that the night sky is a driving factor of higher and wider education.

Were I one of the Founding Fathers at the opportunity of writing the Bill of Rights and good stuff as is formative of earnest and generous citizens, I would include several generally omitted resources. I too am attracted to the 2nd Amendment, if to phrase it more as the right of the citizen to have sporting arms, a hunting rifle, with no domestic need for inaccurate pistols much less anything of the assault style. I think to include a prescription for water as a constitutional right, same for wilderness and the abundance of near nature. To admit here I might leave off the constitutional right to vote, if to suggest property and education connect with that right and if you can’t qualify as literate, allowing you to vote isn’t a good design for the Republic.

In my Bill of Rights I would include access to sky, night sky specifically, dark and abundant night sky, on the thesis that dark night is to the favor of a thoughtful and humble citizen. I honor this opinion because dark night is the basic wow factor of the universe. The night sky is the elemental ingredient why human beings are the human type animals we are. Because of this sky we imagine God, spirit, soul, immortality, if not poetry, the muse, novels, as well as most musical forms above cowboy songs, to include physics, atomic theory, the periodic chart, evolution, billions and billions of anything, not to forget War of the Worlds and Luke Skywalker. As said, a built-in wow factor.

In March 2011 the VLT, for Very Large Telescope array, was turned on for the first time, four monster mirrors that link together their image. The system failed. On Feb. 2, 2012 researchers at this observatory in Chile tried again and successfully linked the images of all four telescopes, the light each telescope collected and routed through tunnels to a central site. Technically known as the European Southern Observatory at Cerro Paranal, it is now the world’s largest ground-based optical telescope with a collective diameter of 130 meters. By comparison Palomar is 200 inches, Kitt Peak is 158 inches, Maui is 157 inches. VLT is 130 meters, that’s 5,118 inches. Each telescope is 32.5 meters, in its own right an achievement in technology, collectively they are capable of “seeing” details 25 times that of their individual mirrors. To my mind that is the imperial wow factor.

I own an eight-inch Dobson, named for the type of inexpensive mount for the telescope, made of plywood and tracks on a twin axis quite simply. Last night I carried it to the front yard and we viewed the Moon’s craters in next-door detail. We saw five moons of Jupiter and the northern storm belt. I did this with two other grown men. While we were at it they both said that word I find illustrative to the working principle of better humanity…wow.

This is the factor to be noted in the Bill of Rights, before or after the 2nd Amendment. Personally I’d favor before, the right of the citizen to dark sky.

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