Somehow the black hole seemed impossible, a well-known figment of Einstein’s imagination. A mythical beast roaming the cosmos the way the lochness monster may once have swam in the imaginations of individuals, only to become real by the discovery of a giant squid in the ocean, or even a shadow crossing beneath the waves on a ship. Monsters have a way of manifesting. Now in the corner of our maps of the galaxy, we can draw it’s glowing ring and gaping mouth. Eyes looming from the depths of a furrowed brow, I imagine Freud telling us importantly all about the existential fear inspired by a mouth, Vagina dentata, or eye, all of which the hole could possibly resemble. Either way, the existence of it’s very image requires contemplation.
My first impression of the image was banal. Unlike graceful nebulas, the black hole is a goopy blip on a computer screen. And, like anything galactic, it is inconceivably far away. Sitting there, blithely. Oh, only the image of complete nothingness. I feel like nothingness shouldn’t even be pictured. Images should provide some understanding, the black hole does nothing but confirm that which was predicted: that it is there, it has a inconstant ring, and a hole. A portal. While our seasons whirr in the delicate balance of our precious solar system, there is a place with no season. The image of the black hole is the opposite of newsworthy. Sure, the way in which the black hole was discovered, as presented by The New York Times, making the earth a giant telescope, a giant floating eye, essentially… Which makes me really uncomfortable: The world is not an eye. It is as if the news outlets were to write a story on death’s inevitability. There is not anything we can do with this information, except wonder if it is inevitable that it, or it’s sister, swimming through the galaxy will one day eat us. And if it won’t eat us, earth will go crashing into the sun like a cherry blossom petal smacking a cheek on a spring afternoon and then the black hole will approach from afar and our beloved sun will be transported into the pit. After a black hole dissipates, which, according to Wikipedia, they do, it is unclear what will become of the matter it consumed. I have so little language for black holes and the cosmos, that it remains for me, in the mythic realm, constantly reminding me that the more we find out, the less we know.
After the memes started appearing about the discovery of the black hole, it seemed as though the image has been latent in our subconscious for a while now and came out in the form of doughnuts, the eye of Sauron, cat’s eyes, the end of Natasha Lyonne’s cigarette (I can’t seem to find this artist, if you’re out there please let me know who to credit). The implication being: maybe it has been here all along…
Our world seems to be so tightly knotted in myth, humanity, the planet, the animals, the sky, all wound in history that, shortly after the image of the black hole went viral, the burning of the iconic Notre Dame was deemed a tragedy for the world, when St. Mary Baptist Church, Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, and Greater Union Baptist Church were burned in a hate crime in Louisiana at the same time. Not to mention the huge ongoing environmental crisis that is occuring at this very moment, the attention to which will - I believe - heal aching divides between people. Notre Dame tells the myth of a monoculture. There is an element of representation in the burning of Notre Dame that is a homesick kind of longing for a white euro-centric politics that seems to feel threatened in the communal sigh of “what is the world coming to?” It adores a perfectly placed metaphor, it adores an image. I lived in Paris. I love Paris, the Notre Dame was stunning to have as a part of my life. But identities are not in objects.
Afro-futurist and surrealist artists, have imagined portals in space, including Sun Ra, and George Clinton. Imagining a kind of freedom beyond the known structure embedded in imperialism, slavery, ethnic cleansing, and genocide feels like imagining a portal into space. The cosmos offers solutions and limits that are beyond our comprehending. Which is comforting. It is the complete trust in these myths this place of mystery has always held for us, and the surrender to magic.
And then I become unsettled in the presence of the black hole. What does it mean to have an image of a thing we cannot possibly understand? It must be mythologized. Space and time are our forms of measure, and they themselves are finicky in our experience of them. It calms me to see, within the bowels of Virgo the presence of nothing we can measure. The existence of a place beyond our imagination. It is in the biblical sense, awesome.
However, the black hole is an image now, one whose mysteries can’t be measured. We can’t help the existence of the black hole. So, rather than letting it be a place where we can hold our metaphors, our dreams, and impossibilities, I encourage we recognize these same mysteries are the fabric of our own bodies, our own every day lives - they are banal: a donut, the end of a cigarette, a feeling that we have. The more we pay attention to our selves the closer we can get to identify our own places of hurt, and begin to understand the deep and profound desires within ourselves, our families, our community. The unknown, the multiple fantastic futures and impossibilities - are right here.
The mist rolls off the city, revealing the sun like a golden tooth. Morning is a promise.