I have an uncle who answers the question “How are you?” by saying, “Well, I’m better than a poke in the eye.”
My little dachshund, Laverne, is not better than a poke in the eye today. She looks like she’s been in a bar fight. I let her out to run in the yard this morning, and when she came back inside, her left eye was swollen almost completely shut. I pulled the lid open, and the eye was black. It terrified me because, normally, her eyes are brown.
I raced her to the veterinarian’s office, and their best guess is that she ran straight into a stick. Whatever it was pierced the eye and went almost all the way through. She’s back at home now resting comfortably, thanks to a painkiller hidden in a hunk of lasagna. The vet warned me that even the slightest increase in her blood pressure could pop the eye, so even though it’s pouring outside, all the blinds are closed. I have to make sure nothing crosses in front of the windows to excite her.
I’m researching the nine Muses of Greek mythology as part of my PhD studies, and today I’m reading about Urania, the Muse who inspires astronomy. There’s something to this gal. I never knew this before, but as early as 275 B.C., Aristarchus claimed the earth was a revolving sphere orbiting the sun. Almost eighteen hundred years before Copernicus, the Greeks, aided by the Muse Urania, had figured out our solar system. However, in A.D. 529, the Roman Emperor Justinian, a Christian, closed the Greek pagan schools, believing them to be heretical. That knowledge was, in a sense, lost until Copernicus and Galileo once again challenged the idea that earth was the center of the universe. Joseph Campbell, in his classic Myths to Live By, says of Copernicus, “All mankind’s theological as well as cosmological thinking, up to that time, had been based on concepts of the universe visually confirmed from the point of view of the earth. Also, man’s notion of himself and of nature, his poetry and his whole feeling system, were derived from the sight of his earthbound eyes” (235).
In other words, small minds kept us in the dark for nearly 1,000 years.
I get annoyed at my dachshunds because they bark at anything that moves in the yard or in the alley running alongside the yard. But to be fair, if eye level for me was six inches off the ground and my brain was the size of a large gumball, I guess most everything would be scary. Perspective, of course, changes everything.
Roger Chaffee, an Apollo 1 astronaut who was killed in 1967 during a pre-launch test, said of seeing Earth from space, “The world itself looks cleaner and so much more beautiful. Maybe we can make it that way – the way God intended it to be – by giving everybody that new perspective from out in space.”
Urania’s wisdom, I think, comes from the idea that being in awe of something bigger than ourselves gives us a grander perspective. Education is seeing things in new ways and being open to larger possibilities. It’s the inspiration that Urania calls us to, but it’s also dangerous to the small-minded and those with limited points of view.
Being unwilling to change our perspective makes us prone to getting poked in the eye.
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