The GardenDespatches from The Satyrs’ Forest

Shatner on space

I was originally going to post this excerpt from William Shatner’s new memoir, printed in Variety, alongside the usual link roundup, but something about it touched me enough to give it its own post.

Mr Shatner, in his own words, on his first trip to space:

I continued my self-guided tour and turned my head to face the other direction, to stare into space. I love the mystery of the universe. I love all the questions that have come to us over thousands of years of exploration and hypotheses. Stars exploding years ago, their light traveling to us years later; black holes absorbing energy; satellites showing us entire galaxies in areas thought to be devoid of matter entirely… all of that has thrilled me for years… but when I looked in the opposite direction, into space, there was no mystery, no majestic awe to behold … all I saw was death.

I saw a cold, dark, black emptiness. It was unlike any blackness you can see or feel on Earth. It was deep, enveloping, all-encompassing. I turned back toward the light of home. I could see the curvature of Earth, the beige of the desert, the white of the clouds and the blue of the sky. It was life. Nurturing, sustaining, life. Mother Earth. Gaia. And I was leaving her.

It was among the strongest feelings of grief I have ever encountered. The contrast between the vicious coldness of space and the warm nurturing of Earth below filled me with overwhelming sadness. Every day, we are confronted with the knowledge of further destruction of Earth at our hands: the extinction of animal species, of flora and fauna … things that took five billion years to evolve, and suddenly we will never see them again because of the interference of mankind. It filled me with dread. My trip to space was supposed to be a celebration; instead, it felt like a funeral.

Upon returning to earth, and trying to put his story into words for the first time, he was, as you may remember, bluntly cut off by Jeff Bezos, asking for more champagne:

1 comment

  1. Slimy says…

    My last comment got eaten.

    (<i>Apologies; looks like it got caught in the spam filter. —Xanthe</i>)

    Shatner seems to be referring more to the permanent loss of extinctions, but I've felt a comparable sort of "space anxiety" from a few of my dreams. It's not the feeling I'd expect since I love astronomy. Dreaming that I was a disembodied spirit in space, I was overwhelmed by how easy it would be to get lost forever among billions or stars, and I felt completely exposed in all directions.

Please be nice. Comments may be edited for proper spelling and capitalisation, because i’m a pedant. Basic formatting: *bold*, /italics/, [// links]→ More