I don’t know what people thought the moon was before they knew that big round rocks reflected sunlight and span around the Earth.
The moon is beautiful. It glows and it it pours and it floats and it shifts through the course of the month.
Sometime’s it is fat and sometimes it is a sliver, like a forgotten fingernail’s end. Sometimes it vanishes into a misty glowing halo. Low down it can appear to be huge, high up it can just be a tiny button in the sky.
We like the moon, because it’s close to us.
If I’m actually going to engage with this question, and not just talk about the moon for 500 words (which is all I ever want to do), I’m going to have to pick up on the difference between sensing and seeing.
Maybe Goethe’s trying to say that people never used to want to write 500 words about the moon. Sure they told stories of gods and monsters, but did they ever sit there and list it’s effect on their lives.
Was it just a haze in the sky, or has it always been so precise.
We don’t know what the world feels like for someone before the age of the telescope, before the age of reason (there’s a coincidence of dates there, maybe, possibly relevant).
Perhaps there’s a different kind of seeing to the one done with the eyes. Your eyes note a sensation, but your brain tries to interpret it. Was there ever a time when people didn’t try and interpret the moon? Or is Goethe just being arrogant and saying that a mythic explanation isn’t as good as one that involves gravity and orbits and maths.
Me, I like both. It excites me to know that I’m watching a cosmic dance. An ongoing ballet of celestial bodies, all perfectly following a geometrically correct pattern that has been predicted by Mayans and is understood by people cleverer than I.
But I also like to think of the kind face looking down. I like to think of a creature getting fat and dancing through the months. Filling and dispensing.
I like to think of the moonglow as something magical. I like to imagine it’s blue every know and then. When it is misty and apparently on fire, my heart leaps. When it wanders about after the sun has risen, faded and lost, I feel like I am staring at something powerful.
There’s nothing wrong with a bit of sensationalist sensing, Goethe. Although I guess poetics are just as intellectual an engagement.
I think as soon as there were brains that could consider, they considered the moon. Once there was an imagination, a way of asking why, there will have been stories about the moon.
In short, I don’t get you Goethe.
I just stare at the moon with longing.
Same as always.
Illustration by Maria.