A few months back someone told me I needed to get things into perspective…so I went out and bought a telescope.
I don’t really think that’s what my friend had in mind, but I’ve already consulted several books that deal with looking inward so I can recognise when I am feeling sorry for myself – my favourite being The Art of Happiness by Howard Cutler and the Dali Llama – so instead of pressing on in that direction I decided to do just the opposite and look out to the heavens.
Oh well, if my plan doesn’t work and my friend suggests I send the 700mm x 60mm cylinder to the seventh most distant planet from the Sun, at least I’ll be able to find it.
But you know what? I think I have already learned three valuable lessons from my telescope. About two years ago I got totally frustrated trying to find a planet in the night sky with one of these things, but I’ve discovered that was because I hadn’t done my preparation properly. You see a telescope focuses on a very small section of the sky so you need to use a sighting scope with a lower magnification and a wider viewing field to line up the scope with what you wish to view.
Two years ago I didn’t bother to align the two scopes well enough during daylight hours so when I tried to look at Jupiter and its four visible moons I just couldn’t find them, and after about an hour of trying I gave up. This time, however, I set up my new scope in the backyard at about 3pm, aimed it at a water tower about three kilometres away and spent the next 20 minutes fine tuning the sighting scope so it matched up perfectly with the telescope. Then, when I went out to look at the heavens at 4 o’clock the next morning it took less than 10 seconds to find Jupiter.
Yep, you can definitely save a great deal of time and frustration by doing the groundwork properly. The second lesson, however, may be the biggie for me as it deals directly with perspective. You see when I got Jupiter and his moons in the viewing field I discovered they didn’t stay there.
I could actually see them slowly creeping across the lens and after about 30 seconds they were completely out of view and I had to move the scope to the west. At first I thought Jupiter was moving but then I realised that in fact it was me, my scope and everything else on the surface of the Earth that was moving. The movement I was seeing was caused by the Earth rotating on its axis, and that realisation blew my mind. Wow, talk about getting things into perspective. Each and every one of us becomes incredibly insignificant when you get a glimpse of the big picture, and our individual problems are far smaller still.
I like that.
The final lesson I’ve picked up is that there are almost always more than one way to accomplish any given goal. If you want to magnify things and focus light as they do in telescopes you can do it using glass lenses or you can do it using mirrors; and if you want to find perspective in your life you can look inwards and contemplate your navel or you can look outwards and contemplate Uranus.