Same sky above me, but what an assortment of canopies! Still no matter where I look up from; whichever patch of earth my feet are planted – be it the aerotropolis of Dubai, the marbled Pantheons of Classical Greece or the castaway islands of The Maldives – there is but one sky upon which my eyes squint, and unto which my head bows. Veneration of the heavens is intuitive to this little Greek philosopher. I lay blame on my forebears…
The worship of Zeus in the ancient Greek world involved a cosmology that was built on the assumption of a stationary earth. It seemed rational: clouds would be left behind, it was reasoned, if the earth rotated. After sunset, the stars appeared in the formerly bright blue sky, and the Greeks observed the daily movement of the stars, which seem to rotate about a point in the sky above the north pole each night. To keep the stars in their relative positions, they postulated a rigid spherical shell was required, centered on the earth’s core in which all the fixed stars were embedded like nails.
Zeus was the rigid heaven of the ancient world, which shone bright blue in the day, and held up all the stars. The sky was the focus of Greek religion, and the basis for the worship of Olympian Zeus.
The Greek philosophers taught that the sky was a solid sphere, which rotated, and held all the stars in place. This claim was necessary since they denied the rotation of the earth. The larger the sphere of heaven, the stronger it would need to be, to keep from flying apart. That is why their wisdom maintained the sky was strong. In the Iliad, Homer has Zeus boast he is the strongest of all the gods, saying that if a golden chain were fastened to the sky, he could hold up all the other gods, sun and moon and earth and sea, so that they would dangle in mid-air, but all of them combined could not drag him down from heaven.
That the pull of the sky on this writer’s sensibilities is strong, cannot be dismissed. I am star-struck with its contemplation. Thales of Miletus (c. 624-548 BC), one of the seven sages of antiquity, was once so intent in his observations of the heavens, he fell into a well. Just like Thales, I am gripped by the heavens above, and call upon Mighty Zeus to rescue me from falling into back to flinty earth, for I delight living in the ethereal gossamer of this blue sky.