Pointing to the Moon

The failure of India’s  Chandrayaan 2 to maintain contact, intended to make India the fourth nation to successfully conduct a lunar landing, sent me reading about the moon.  I remember the first manned landing, which happened when I was six, so the idea that we could make it that far seemed less impressive than it really is, I suppose.  I was fascinated by early space travel, and part of this may have been because of the moment of silence announced in school the day Apollo 13 safely returned to earth after the oxygen tank explosion that made its landing impossible.  As I was reading about the many moon missions that took place before I was born, I was surprised to learn how many nations are still attempting to reach our nearest neighbor.  This year alone China, Israel, and India have all attempted to land up there.

Israel’s mission called its lunar lander Beresheet.  It was the first attempt to land the Bible on the moon.  Beresheet is the Hebrew title of Genesis.  The US missions were named Pioneer, Ranger, Surveyor, and Apollo.  Ironically for the persistently religious nation, our only supernatural title was the name of a Greek deity.  Israel was true to its roots with its naming convention, but there is kind of a paradox involved.  In the world of the Bible the earth is the center of the universe and the moon is a quasi-living being circling about our stationary fix in this fictional view of the cosmos.  That’s not to say our own views may not some day be regarded as fictional as well, but simply that we now know the view in Genesis is incorrect.

Of course, the word “genesis” can mean a purely secular beginning as well.  It is a compound word that is often translated as “in the beginning.”  As such, it is appropriate for the first attempt at a moon landing, or any other great venture.  Still, it is instantly recognizable as the first word in the Bible, indicating a kind of strange juxtaposition where the biblical moon—which is not the same as the astronomical moon—are brought together.  Unlike the book of Genesis, the moon has been reached many times by others before.  The old and the new meet in this attempt to reach into space.  Meanwhile our problems continue down here.  Maybe that’s why we continue to attempt to reach the heavens.  And in that sense, no better title applies than that of the book that somehow defies rational explanation.

Drunken Moonshine

As I learn in wonder that several of my favorite public personalities are suddenly, in fact, younger than I am, Time sends an issue broadcasting that the first moon landing occurred 40 years ago. Ouch! I remember watching it on our snowy black-and-white television the size of a washing machine. There is some comfort, however, in knowing at least some people out there are as fond of outer space as I am. I have proudly told younger co-workers that I watched the original airings of the first real Star Trek, and I confess to having been a Lost in Space junkie.

Ancient peoples used a different set of lenses when they looked up into their pre-Galileoan skies. Those tiny dots of light in the sky at night actually move across the sky as any ancient insomniac knew. They had to be alive, that stood to reason — they must be gods. And that “big shiny one, right there,” as Donkey calls it, the moon, presided over them all. In many an ancient divine magisterium the moon reigned supreme. Its light wasn’t reflected, it was self-generated.

At Ugarit one of the deities associated with the moon was Yarikh. Unfortunately tablets relating his exploits are rare, but one such tablet (fancy title KTU 1.114) relates a frat party on Mount Saphon (an ersatz kind of heaven). As the gods are drinking themselves senseless (how else can the latest Bush administration be explained?) Yarikh, the moon-meister, begins crawling under the table like a dog and begging for a joint of meat. His advances are greeted with a divine stick-whacking to send him yowling back home. It is probably a good thing that the moon sobered up before we landed there. The imagination runs wild at what could have been so much worse than landing on a pile of green cheese!

Innocent nursery rhyme or Yarikh on another drunken exploit?

Innocent nursery rhyme or Yarikh on another drunken exploit?