Apr 3 2012

#339 “Space Oddity”

From GMR in Phoenix, Arizona

Since May 1st, 2011, probably as many as a dozen illustrations have been posted on this site which feature the image of a wolf in space or operating some type of flying vehicle. While at first this concept might strike the viewer as strange, it actually makes perfectly good sense. Just as man has for centuries peered into the deepest reaches of space and longed to test the boundaries of the universe, so too does the wolf seem to gaze up at the lonesome moon and cry out with a sort of wistful yearning. And while our hopes and dreams might not be tied together as intimately as we might imagine, the truth of the matter is that that bright, enticing orb which rules the nighttime sky calls to all of us in some mysterious way…

Dec 2 2011

#216 “Far Out”

From Trine in Denmark

My first illustration from Denmark! And what a beautiful piece of artwork it is. To tell the truth, my first impression of this illustration is that it may as well have come from outer space. While I’m a little ashamed to admit it, I must say that Denmark is a place that is a bit of a mystery to me. It is nearly as foreign as a distant planet or star; in fact, it may even be more mysterious since I am able to look on the stars with my own eyes every night and I have never truly seen the country of Denmark.

Is this what the artist of this piece had in mind? Am I just as mysterious to him as he is to me? Or is there another theme at play here? Perhaps this work is designed to call attention to the “universal” nature of the wolf and the illustration is a commentary on how the creature is able to permeate all time and space. Maybe it is an editorial about the fact that this world is no longer home to the wolf since this earth has been overrun with man and the machines he creates. But then again, maybe it’s just a cool picture of a wolf in outer space….. you know…. since wolves love the moon so much.

On a related note, it’s interesting to consider how the concept of space is something that is comforting to some and a bit disturbing to others. For a few, the concept of the vastness of space is frightening because its incomprehensible nature. It is a cold and lonely place devoid of emotion. To others, though, this otherworldly realm is one full of adventure and possibilities. It really is the final frontier, and as such, it offers limitless possibilities.

For me, the expansiveness of space is neither and both at the same time. It’s a bit frightening to realize that there is a great unknown universe above me, but at the very same time the idea of escaping from this world and leaving all of its trappings behind couldn’t be more attractive.

In closing, I’d like to leave you with a lullaby that my mother sang to me when I was young and which I was reminded of when I saw this illustration from this generous stranger in Denmark.

The New Moon

Oh, Mother, how pretty
The moon looks tonight
She was never so cunning before
Her two little horns
Are too sharp and so bright
I hope they’ll not grow any more.

If I was up there
With you and the moon
We’d rock in it nightly, you see.
We’d sit in the middle
And hold to both ends
Oh, what a fine cradle ‘twould be!

We’d call to the stars
To get out of our way
‘Lest we should rock over their toes
And there we would stay
‘Til the dawn of the day
And see where the pretty moon goes.

Oct 7 2011

#160 “Spark of Life”

From Cooper in Ft. Worth, Texas

The famous astrophysicist Carl Sagan once said, “We are made of star stuff.” But what did he mean by this? Well, I’m not sure that I’m qualified to deconstruct or analyze the words of a man so renowned for his astronomical intellect, but what I believe Dr. Sagan was getting at is the fact that the same basic particles make up every object in our known universe, no matter what that object is. In some ways this statement has the potential to make us feel very small, but in another sense it is wonderful to know that we are able to transcend the boundaries of the known universe simply by examining our own physical makeup.

On another note, even though we might all be made of star stuff, there is a certain magical quality that I will call the “spark of life” that separates animate from inanimate objects. I know that this sounds simple and elementary, but in some ways, it truly is amazing to ponder the fact that there is a certain something that transforms our physical beings from lifeless piles of particles into living, breathing creatures that are capable of thought, love, and the appreciation of beauty. This is perhaps why we find the idea of inanimate objects having the capabilities of conscious thought so intriguing (like in the illustration above): it gives us a chance to break down this natural boundary between us and everything else in the universe and let our imaginations play. We are able to create a unique world in which all objects can interact in a way that is typically reserved only for those beings that are gifted with the spark. What would it be like if ice cream cones could really think for themselves? I’m not sure, but I bet it would make us examine the world around us a little bit differently.

Regardless of what your thoughts are on the human soul, our internal spirit, the spark of life, or the nature of animate and inanimate objects, as you go throughout your day today try to remember this simple phrase: “We are made of star stuff.”

Jul 25 2011

#86 “Space Wolf”

From Peter in Honolulu, Hawaii

The vastness of space and time has always been a little unsettling to me. I have a very vivid memory of sitting on the side of my bed as a child as tears streamed down my face. My mother, hearing or perhaps just sensing my concern, came and asked me what was wrong. I responded by saying that I was thinking of Heaven and that I was scared. The thought of living forever, of eternity, was something so unimaginable that I became overwhelmed with the thought of it. It was illogical and seemingly impossible.

But you needn’t breach the realm of religion or spirituality to encounter concepts that are beyond human comprehension. Think about space. Just think about it. Think about how large this universe is and how tiny it is compared to what may exist beyond it. This thought is so sobering that my wife often playfully refuses to look at pictures of the solar system. Simply put, she says that she is scared by the size of the planets and the universe and her size in relation to them. It might sound silly, but there is something to this notion, for we often fear what we don’t understand.

On a related note, I have recently begun to read The Dark Tower series by Stephen King. At the conclusion of the first book, the man in black discusses this notion with the gunslinger. Here are the words of the man in black:

The greatest mystery the universe offers is not life but size. Size encompasses life, and the Tower encompasses size. The child, who is most at home with wonder, says: Daddy, what is above the sky? And the father says: The darkness of space. The child: What is beyond space? The father: The galaxy. The child: Beyond the galaxy? The father: Another galaxy. The child: Beyond the other galaxies? The father: No one knows.

You see? Size defeats us. For the fish, the lake in which he lives is the universe. What does the fish think when he is jerked up by the mouth through the silver limits of existence and into a new universe where the air drowns him and the light is blue madness? Where huge bipeds with no gills stuff it into a suffocating box abd cover it with wet weeds to die?

Or one might take the tip of the pencil and magnify it. One reaches the point where a stunning realization strikes home: The pencil tip is not solid; it is composed of atoms which whirl and revolve like a trillion demon planets. What seems solid to us is actually only a loose net held together by gravity. Viewed at their actual size, the distances between these atoms might become league, gulfs, aeons. The atoms themselves are composed of nuclei and revolving protons and electrons. One may step down further to subatomic particles. And then to what? Tachyons? Nothing? Of course not. Everything in the universe denies nothing; to suggest an ending is the one absurdity.

If you fell outward to the limit of the universe, would you find a board fence and signs reading DEAD END? No. You might find something hard and rounded, as the chick must see the egg from the inside. And if you should peck through the shell (or find a door), what great and torrential light might shine through your opening at the end of space? Might you look through and discover our entire universe is but part of one atom on a blade of grass? Might you be forced to think that by burning a twig you incinerate an eternity of eternities? That existence rises not to one infinite but to an infinity of them?

…and I will leave you with that. But not before offering a sincere thank you to Peter from Hawaii. You’ve touched infinity with this illustration, Peter. Now, there’s no going back.