My planet

Natasha Moore on being overwhelmed with human pain and human evil - as well as human ingenuity, resilience, and curiosity.

I cried a lot this week. Loss and trauma have come close for people I love, and with the rest of the world, I’ve watched in horror and hope as pain boils over on streets far away. The long sum of human ill. Who could measure it?

In the weird way of our infoglut moment, amid all of it, I found myself scrolling through the Twitter account @IsBetelgeuseOK. The red supergiant Betelgeuse started dimming months ago, and astrophysicists got excited that it might be about to go supernova on us.

So somebody started tweeting as Betelgeuse, updating everyone on not having blown up yet and on various stuff happening in the known universe. It’s hilarious (even for a non-physicist). But also – it’s a picture of humans, on earth, during a pandemic, taking some time to ventriloquise a star 700 times bigger than our sun which is 700 light years away and therefore may or may not have blown up 700 years ago.

Which is to say, I can’t get my head around human pain and human evil. But nor can I get my head around human ingenuity, resilience, or curiosity. What would a bunch of aliens – or a distant star – see if they took a glance at us all this week?

Humans agonising together, locked in combat or despair. Also, humans weeping, helping, crying out, rebuilding, yearning to know, being brilliant, falling silent in fear, falling silent in humbled sympathy, wrestling for hope, weak, strong, loud, angry, loving.

My Bible tells me: mourn with those who mourn, and rejoice with those who rejoice. I can get my head round so little. But my heart is to be open to the overwhelm.