A Comforting Thought

06 November 2018


Five thousand years ago, the Sumerians called the night ngi, the stars mul, and the moon Nanna.

Four thousand years ago, the Akkadians called the night mūšu, the stars kakkabū, and the moon Sîn.

Three thousand years ago, the Hittites called the night išpanza, the stars haštereš, and the moon Arma.

Two and a half thousand years ago, the Greeks called the night nux, the stars astra, and the moon Selênê.

Two thousand years ago, the Romans called the night nox, the stars stellae, and the moon Luna.

Kings and queens and heroes looked up at them. So did travelers coming home, and little children who sneaked out of bed. So did slaves, and mothers and soldiers and old shepherds, and Sappho and Muršili and Enheduanna and Socrates and Hatshepsut and Cyrus and Cicero. In this darkness it didn’t matter who they were, or where they stood. Only that they were human.

Think of that tonight, when you close your window. You are not alone. You share this night sky with centuries of dreamers and stargazers, and people who longed for quiet. Are you anxious? The Hittites were too: they called it pittuliyaš. Does your heart ache? The Greeks felt it too: they called it akhos. Those who look up to the stars for comfort are a family, and you belong to them. Your ancestors have stood under Nanna, Sîn, Arma, Selênê and Luna for five thousand years. Now its light is yours.

May it soothe you well.

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