Friday 17 October 2008

educationalise, ejukashyn, ejewk...God

But then again, even with every opportunity at our disposal, it’s not always certain that we learn something new every day. And some people – shame on them – would have us learn nothing much at all. But that’s for another paragraph.

In the meantime, however, hot from the sacredly taxing pages of The Oxford Dictionary of Space Exploration, I give you this:

Neutron star: a very small, “superdense” star composed mostly of neutrons. They are thought to form when massive stars explode as supernovae, during which the protons and electrons of the star’s atoms merge, owing to intense gravitational collapse, to make neutrons.

I see. Please, carry on….. 

A neutron star has a mass two to three times that of the sun, compressed into a globe only 20 km in diameter. If its mass is any greater, its gravity will be so strong that it will shrink even further to become a black hole.

Say what? But now I need to know what a black hole is, for sure. Everyone thinks they know what a black hole is, of course, but none of us – save for a few disastrously unhygienic beardy guys - has the faintest idea. Lead on, you great big Oxford Dictionary of Space Exploration, you, lead on……

Black hole: an object in space whose gravity is so great that nothing can escape from it, not even light. It is thought to form when a massive star shrinks at the end of its life. Matter that falls into a black hole is squeezed to infinite density at the centre of the hole. Black holes can be detected because gas falling towards them becomes so hot that it emits X-rays.

Black holes containing the mass of millions of stars are thought to....

What what what? Stop right there. I’m still struggling with the notion that light can’t escape. Barman, fetch me some hot milk and mummy. I need reassured that I’m not just stupid as all hell. (I love you, big Dictionary, don’t get me wrong, it’s just that too much wonder and excitement causes overheating.) 

Anyway, faced with all this divine bewilderance and brain-fusing impossibleness, it’s not really too surprising that a whole heap of people decided to opt out of clever altogether and go looking for a much simpler solace in the arms of baby Jesus, say, or Thomas à Kempis (not to be confused, please, with my new hero, Ross à Kempis from Ross à Kempis on Gangs).

Now it just so happens that I’m a bit of a fan of the book The Imitation of Christ. I can’t remember exactly why, unfortunately, because I was only seventeen when I read it. However, if memory serves, it was a very gentle book, full of kindness and love. Just like the Bible, in fact, only diametrically different.

I’m not sure what I would make of it today, really, but I do know that a certain passage stopped me short (even as an unflappably stupid seventeen year old). Tell it like it is, Tom:

Every man naturally desires knowledge; but what good is knowledge without fear of God? Indeed, a humble rustic who serves God is better than a proud intellectual who neglects his soul to study the course of the stars. (The Imitation of Christ, Book One, Second Chapter)

Oh Kempy, no no no. Where to begin? This calls for a list:

1) Shut your trap.

Ah, lists. You’ve got to love them. But Thomas. Tom. The Tomster. Friend, please, did it never once cross your mind that these two things could be done simultaneously? And did you not once stop to consider the fact that studying the course of the stars may, in and of itself, enrich the soul (whatever that may be)?

So look, don’t you be daring to assume that my soul is being somehow neglected, Kempy, and I’ll not dare to imagine that you’re simply scared and confused like the rest of us.

Wait a frigging minute. Did I just pick an imaginary fight with a dead monk? A new low in a series of astonishingly low lows. Onwards and downwards, people, onwards and downwards.

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