We who live in modern times don't think too highly of starlight. We might teach our children nursery rhymes about wishing on stars, and might be kind enough not to point out to them that most of the wishes they make are on planets, actually, but don't really think of stars as being anything that sheds significant light on our path. We all know about our sun-shadows, our streetlight-shadows, and sometimes, our moon-shadows. But a star-shadow? Certainly not.
If we were to go back a hundred years, before the majority of Americans were on the grid, we would have a different knowledge.
Starlight is more subtle. Hundreds, thousands, nay, millions of suns: Many of them unimaginably larger than our own sun and infinitely farther away, all working in concert to light the sky. And we are so intent on lighting the ground at our feet that we have made their light nearly invisible.
When I first moved from my small country town to Long Island, the immense orange New York City glow on the western horizon blotted out the entire sky in that direction and diminished the visibility above dramatically. "How do people here teach their children about the stars?" I remember wondering my first night there. I adjusted to the lack of stars - it simply felt normal after a while. And when I moved from there to this smaller city, the reappearance of even a limited number of stars seemed miraculous.
But on the rare occasions when I am in a light-free zone, perhaps four times in my adult life: Ah, what miracle. If you have never seen an unpolluted sky with every distant star visible, you must add this sight to your bucket list - you must.
We all understand that we need the Light. Metaphors for the Holy are all around us - Sun, Moon - it is easy to understand that God casts massive amounts of light on us. But Babygirl and I are forced, at times, to live in a more subtle light. Sunlight - even moonlight - is enough to cause us real pain. But the gentleness of starlight, casting only the smallest round shadow at our feet - we can handle that.
We wonder sometimes why the broken people we see don't seem to respond to the Love of God. I think, maybe, it is just too much Light. It hurts, all that brightness spotlighting our darkness all at once. Maybe God is calling us to be Starlight for our neighbors: The softest, gentlest light, adjusting the eyes of darkness for a brighter Light. It makes sense: Many small lights working together.
Thank God for Starlight.