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By George Willis
Published 2004-09-02 15:31:34

People are always looking for ways to be connected. Whether it be to a place, or to their family, we are ever in search of a common thread. You don't need to look that far. It's right above you.

Just look up at the nighttime sky. Imagine having lived, when man first discovered fire. Before that, they sat, cold, in the dark. Just think what that sky must have looked like, without any kind of lights to wash out the stars. The sky would have been brilliant! It must have looked like a million fiery embers, that you could reach out and touch.

Now imagine having lived over 2000 years ago, when the Greeks were at the peak of their civilization, and democracy was a new concept. Just a short walk from the city, and the sky was still a rich black velvet cloth, with millions of jewels clinging to it. There were so many stars, that you could see figures of heroes and gods, and the shapes of mythic creatures and animals. There was no television, and few people could read, so what did you do with your night time hours? You visited with your family, sharing the events of the day, and learning from your elders. Traditions and legends were passed on. You could look up to the gods and heroes for inspiration.

Try to picture living 600 years ago, when the first telescope was invented. The sky that you knew like your own home, now became even BIGGER. The moon, that you knew like a friend, became this incredibly strange and wonderful place. A world you'd never imagined. A whole other world, with rivers, mountains, and oceans. The night time sky was still a beautiful thing. Even from the cities, you could see thousands of stars. Electric lights hadn't been invented yet, so there was only a small amount of light from the cities, but still not enough to destroy your view of the sky.

Come further ahead in time... Come up to the time of the American Revolution. Even only 200+ years ago, the night time sky was still visible. Your ancestors knew when to plant, and when to harvest, because of the time of year, and the seasonal constellations returning to the nighttime the sky. The legends may have not been their own legends, but they recognized the familiar patterns of stars, like old friends returning home.

With the advent of the Industrial Revolution, and the invention of the electric light, that would soon change. The smoke from the factories would soon blacken the sky and block out the light of the stars, while the lights from the city would glare skyward, washing out the stars. The stars became fewer. As the country grew, so did the cities, and the use of more and more lights. The more lights there were glaring upwards, the fewer the stars we could see.

Now jump forward again in time, to the present day. The end of the 20th century. Cities are huge, and people want to feel safe, so they blast their yards with security lights, to keep away any intruders. Much of that light is uselessly pointed up, towards the sky. Unless criminals are coming from the sky, there is no need to point the security lights towards the sky. Again, all those lights mean fewer stars. Only the brightest stars are visible. Just think... The few stars that we see today, are the exact same stars that our ancestors, great-ancestors, and great-great-great ancestors saw. But the stars aren't gone. They're still there. You just have to go away from the cities to see them. Here is something for you to ponder tonight, while you are looking at the nighttime sky... For thousands of years, as long as man has walked this Earth, the sky has been the same. It's the same sky that the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Aztecs saw. The same stars your great-great-great grandparents saw. You can be connected to your past and your ancestors. All you have to do, is look up.