The Secret of the World

This week the Earth comes to its aphelion, the point on its orbital path where it is furthest away from the Sun. This happens Friday, July 5th, the same day as the first New Moon of summer.

So here at the season’s beginning, what if we take the position that as inhabitants of the Earth in this particular solar system, we actually live within a harmonious and healthy social organism? This is easily evidenced by the rhythmic regularity of the planets and moons, in the ways they behave themselves relative to one another, and toward our star, the Sun.

Over the ages, the governing, celestial gods of the ancients eventually fell, making way for human ideas about the organizational workings of our planetary system. Nicholas Copernicus really changed up the game when he posited that the Earth was in motion around the Sun. But then Johannes Kepler restored the ancient idea of social harmony within the cosmos by realizing the planets move not in circles around the Sun, but in ellipses.  In fact, the terms aphelion and perihelion result from this and were first used by Kepler in his Mysterium Cosmigraphicum (also known as Cosmic Mystery, the Secret of the World).

By moving in an ellipse a planet is sometimes closer and sometimes further away from the Sun. And herein lies the harmony, because Kepler realized that although the Earth’s distance from the Sun and its speed along its orbital path are both variable, the area it covers while orbiting is constant. In other words, the Earth exhibits agency or self-directing forces, rather than just being tugged at by the gravity of the Sun. It’s such a picture, one that perhaps inspired ee cummings when he wrote: here is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart, I carry your heart(I carry it in my heart)

A happy summer Moon to you,

Mary

Hear this episode Monday morning, July 1, 2024 on Interlochen Public Radio, or on podcast wherever you listen. Cover image of Earth’s horizon from space as Sun is rising. Earth achieves aphelion in its orbit on Friday, July 5, when it is furthest away from the Sun. The Moon comes to New phase that same day, at 6:59 pm EDT, inspiring thoughts about cosmic and social harmony.