Kid With an Astronomy Box: An Allegory


When I was about 10 years old, I liked to play at being an astronomer. I had a shoebox with my “astronomy equipment” in it. The box contained a low-power, toy spyglass that I’d picked up at the dime store. It contained a paperback book of maps of the constellations. And it contained an odd-looking chunk of rock that someone had told me was a meteorite. I don’t know if it really was a meteorite, but it was exciting to think that I might actually possess a rock from outer space.

Often in the evenings when the moon was shining through my bedroom window, I would take my astronomy box down from its shelf in my closet, sit at my desk in the corner, and pretend that I was an astronomer contemplating the vast reaches of our universe. I would glance through the star maps, examine my space rock, and look at the moon through my spyglass.

But I never went outside–I looked at the moon through my window, the glass distorting its image. After about an hour or so of pretending, I would get bored, put all of my equipment back into my astronomy box and place it back on the shelf in my closet. Then I’d go on to another game.

I eventually did come out of my room to look at the sky. Through my teen years I was an avid amateur astronomer. I started with a 60x spotter telescope, then got a 2.4-inch refracting telescope, then a 3-inch reflecting telescope, and finally a 6-inch reflecting telescope. I acquired a Norton’s Star Atlas, which was the Cadillac of star maps for amateur astronomers. I read every book on astronomy in the public library.

I took my observing seriously. One goal was to see every planet in our solar system. I managed to see seven of them, but the sting of missing the eighth was muted years later when Pluto got demoted. Another goal was to see all of the Messier objects, the 100-plus galaxies, star clusters, and nebulae that an eighteenth century French astronomer named Messier had catalogued. I never saw them all, but I found many. In early August every year I stayed out all night to watch the Perseid meteor shower.

Let’s circle back to that youngster with his astronomy box, pretending that he was an astronomer. I hadn’t thought of that kid in years, but I’m reminded of him often these days. The memories come when I watch our President fumble around on the world stage as if he’s playing a game, pretending that he’s a great leader. Although he doesn’t seem to know what he’s doing, if there’s a good photo op in it and lavish approbation from his cheering section, he comes away boasting about his great accomplishments and no doubt has a warm and fuzzy feeling inside him.

In reality, our President is accomplishing about as much as that kid with the astronomy box. A major difference is, that kid with the astronomy box eventually grew up and went outside.

 

Categories: Memoir, Political, social commentary, Uncategorized

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