Why Astronomy (and Space in General) Is Not for Me (and Probably Never Will Be)

Editor’s note: Earlier this morning, I was one of the millions of people preparing to travel into the path of totality to watch the eclipse. The combination of near-certain cloud cover throughout all of Texas and some other unforeseen circumstances compelled me to cancel my travel plans and stay here in Tacoma. 
I’m severely bummed about it and the amount of apathy shown by the author here bothers me to my core. However, we here at Grit City Magazine support a diversity of thought and opinion, no matter how asinine it may be. He’s also a good friend of mine and I know him to be a decent person. So go easy on him in the comments.
-Sierra Hartman, Editor-in-Chief

Did you know there’s a solar eclipse happening soon? Yeah! It’s this Monday the 8th. The Path of Totality will take more of an East Coast route this time. Can’t wait to see it!

Wow. That was painful to get through. 

Can you even perceive having a conversation like this with a friend, or worse, a loved one?

 I’ve found myself in similar situations and finally understand why pilots have ejector seats. Serious question…Didn’t we just have an eclipse? I remember buying the glasses so I could stare at the sun for approximately 90 seconds and not burn my retinas any more than I’m sure I did in the ’80s when I didn’t believe in the sun’s power. Actually, to be more accurate, I remember the fight my wife and I got in literally moments before THE moment that almost kept me inside pouting rather than see this once-in-a-lifetime event. Or, what I foolishly believed to be a once-in-a-lifetime event. You know there are four types of solar eclipses? Do you know there was one in October in addition to this one coming in less than three months? Honestly, what is the big deal? Why does everyone you talk to about an eclipse or a comet or a meteor shower act like there won’t be another one for 542 years? There are over THIRTY meteor showers coming this year. I mean…

How can anyone be so interested in this stuff? There’s too much to keep straight! Why is everything so damn specific and technical? Why are we trying to learn so much that we clearly were never meant to learn? Their fascination is my terror! On and on my questions go. Well, on and on my questions WENT, I should say, because I’ve taken a new stance. The what and the why can be found below. Agree with me or not. That’s up to you. I’ve made my peace. 

Just to make sure we’re on the same page, I’m talking about Astronomy not Astrology. And as an Aries Sun Virgo Rising I’m nothing if not exacting and open to clarification.

Some people, my 12-year-old for example, really struggle with FOMO. But for me? No fear here! Actually, JOMO is my game. The JOY Of Missing Out. I find it exhilarating to just stay out of stuff. I’m not a nosey person, I don’t need to know what you’re in the middle of talking about when I walk into a room. I’ve never unwrapped presents early or even gone searching for them around the house. I might wonder what people truly think of me, but I won’t ever burden YOU with that. Oh no, not me. I’ll just shove it deep down inside and wait for a most inopportune moment for it to bubble up and run over the sides of my life like an overfilled glass of Diet Coke. But am I nosey? Nope.

My point is this: I know there are plenty of people out there who are positively giddy about the next astronomical phenomenon on the horizon. So, why would I waste my time learning about it, caring about it, or even KNOWING about it, when the real joy is in you telling me. And people (read: white people) LOVE telling us all stuff they hope we don’t know. So y’all can have this one. Even if I DO know somehow, I’ll pretend I don’t and let you shine. You’re welcome. Please don’t confuse this with ignorance. I’m only one man and I can only learn so much. And if you knew how much of my brain capacity is taken up by the lyrics to every song I’ve EVER heard and old Wi-Fi passwords I will NEVER use again, it’s a wonder I even remember your NAME anymore. And by the way, we’re talking the MANUFACTURER’S passwords, not some garbage you made up with a combination of your children’s names and birth years. Oh wow, how clever. Our old Wi-Fi password was efdddfncf4e33b. That 14-character combination will be with me, as close as a brother, until I breathe my last and meet my Maker.

Can we all agree that space is scary? You know how I know? A couple of ways. First of all, you can’t just GO. If you want to travel to Ohio…have at! Fly! Drive! Take a bus! Jog! No problem! Ohio is open to you. Not space. No sir. You’ve got to go through YEARS of rigorous schooling, and then years of rigorous TRAINING, where they basically try to kill you to weed out all the “weaklings” already terrified of death. I believe this is so when those that pass all the tests (meaning they simply live through them) get to space and actually face death, they can do so bravely with their heads held high, so more people will want to go to space and possibly (probably) die. 

Secondly, have you ever seen a space movie where everything went well? Actually, let me rephrase that. Have you ever seen a space movie where ANYTHING went well? Me neither. And I’ve seen them all. Here are a few: Gravity, Interstellar, Ad Astra, The Martian, Passengers, etc. I’m convinced that Gravity was the beginning of my anxiety and the accompanying ten plus years of neck/shoulder pain. Thank you very much, Sandra Bullock. The only thing we can say about these depictions is that one or two people make it back to earth alive, with a mountainous heap of trauma and horror.

You know how we’d address it if these movies were based on real events?  We’d thank them for their service and inevitably ask them to relive it every five years on Good Morning America or The Today Show. No thank you. I mean, I’ll tune in, but I will be similarly as tense as these poor saps the whole time. The fact that anyone would want to be an astronaut or even contemplate thinking about dreaming about GOING to space one day, let alone the fantasy of LIVING in space (which I will surely have a series of nightmares about tonight, fantastic) is so far beyond me, I can’t even see it any longer.

I think mainly for me, it’s that we don’t really know what’s out there, and I don’t want to dwell on it. I’m becoming more and more convinced that there actually ARE aliens in other galaxies and it’s only a matter of time before we’re inhabited. We have been given absolutely no indication that any alien contact would be anything but violating and violent. The only reason any of us would use the word “probe” today in 2024 is to reference people speaking of alien encounters in modern society. No one ever talks about time with aliens as pleasant. No one is playing UNO with aliens. No one is grabbing Taco Bell with aliens. Nope. Apparently they’re only interested in our orifices and complete planetary annihilation. That’s a big fat no for ya boy.

Also, referencing the media again, I believe the only two somewhat benevolent alien visitations that made it to the zeitgeist of film in the past 40+ years are E.T. and Stitch. And my friends, those cinematic journeys were ROCKY at best, were they not? Simply, redundantly put, I don’t want to know. Especially if I have no way to properly prepare. What’s the point? You know what I say: Guard your holes. It may save your life one day.

The thought that something nice for some of us to look at in the clear night sky is actually the destruction of a whole other solar system is quite sobering to me. How many other inhabited planets have been Armageddon’d without the self-sacrifice of Bruce Willis? Or Independence Day’d and lacking the leadership and piloting prowess of Bill Pullman? I hesitate to even tender a guess as my body has gone cold and rigid from the mere contemplation. 

I’m only in this astronomy game for the absolutely fascinating and unbelievable moments. Similarly to my children saying, “Daddy, look!” while they’re riding in the back seat of our family car, getting me somehow to turn around, and then showing me the most banal trick or something they’ve already shown me countless times, I’ve learned my lesson and I’ll no longer be fooled. You’re gonna have to really wow me to get my attention.

Can I with the naked eye see a clear outline of profile of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson on the full moon this month? How perfect! I’m down. In 2025, are we speculating that Saturn and Jupiter will swap orbits and hop onto each other’s paths for a revolution? And will I be able to see the jump, as if someone threw a lever at a train station to switch tracks? That’s what I’m here for. And you know what? I’m sure if it’s to happen, you will be dying to be the first to tell us all.

And don’t even get me started on constellations. What a crock of shit.

Photos by Sierra Hartman from the 2017 solar eclipse—one of the most memorable experiences of the photographer’s life.

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