A young boy’s approach to the immensity of the universe
This happened in the mid-fifties, I was 12 then. Mad about geography, I would read all the books on the subject I would get my hands on – unfortunately they were not many – studying countries, borders, towns, climates, mountains and rivers, and of course the peoples living there and their History. The immensity of the oceans astounded me, so great that no one would ever be able to pollute it, no dirt was conceivable to be produced to maculate it - so they taught me and so I learned. I was very proud of my knowledge. For my birthday my father gave me a huge and profusely illustrated book on astronomy. It was written in French, a language I was just beginning to learn. So were the graphics that immediately caught my attention. Page after page I was delighted with stars, planets, the moon, orbits and eclipses, when suddenly at the top of a page a drawing – I remember it clearly – terribly frightened me: the sun, a yellow disc so large that only a small fraction was represented, showed the prodigious flames of its solar eruptions; there, side by side with a small blue circle only a few millimeters wide that I knew so well. The incredible dimension of the flames suddenly turned the immensity of my passion into something insignificant. It was then I realized how small and tiny I was.
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