Monday, August 13, 2012

Horsehead Nebula Cloud

I am plagued by many fears.  I am afraid of real-world concerns, such as falling from a great height; being buried alive; falling victim to violence; leprosy; etc.; and imaginary things and situations (I sure hope they are) like being cornered by zombies or scary-looking ghosts; a wall or railing suddenly melting away and causing me to plunge to my death (I guess this one is basically the same as the fear of falling); gravity suddenly reversing and causing me to fall up into the sky (same process as falling, but this one leads not to a crash but being lost in the black void of space).

Speaking of black voids, when I was little we had this big wardrobe in the house.  It was very beautiful and impressive, being ornamented with mother-of-pearl inlays on a ground of black lacquer.  My favorite part of it, however, was its interior.  I liked to climb in, shut the door and sit still, enjoying the quiet darkness.  Rather paradoxical for someone who developed a fear of both blackness and live burials, I suppose, but I found it comforting.  If that wardrobe were here I probably would do it again.  In fact, my dream house, if it ever were to be built, would include some cave-like structure, such as a small cell in a sub-basement, that I could crawl into and sit in the contemplative darkness and silence for a while.  Hmm, maybe I'm sounding a little weird now.

As for the scary kind of blackness, it's really two fears in one.  On the one hand, there is the fear of being permanently lost in a vast emptiness without anyone knowing what happened to me, and with no way to get back or call for help. It's utter helplessness reified (I do realize this kind of sounds like how some Christians conceive damnation to be -- not active punishment but the absence of hope;  and it can probably fit into some other kinds of spiritual belief systems as well).  Then on the other hand, there is the more concrete fear of unknown threats lurking in the darkness.  I think I was permanently traumatized when at a young age I came across in a science book some pictures of grotesque deep sea creatures shown against the blackness of the ocean depths.  They did not look like fish so much as amorphous alien monsters waiting to drag me down and subject me to some horrifyingly repulsive experiences (although what exactly that would be, I have no idea).

And because photographs of celestial bodies seen against the blackness of space remind me of those illustrations, I am made uncomfortable by their images as well, especially of nebulae.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, I found the so-called 'Pillars of Creation' dust clouds photographed by the Hubble space telescope to be very disturbing.

One exception is the famous Horsehead Nebula in Orion.  It had always seemed rather friendly, like a favorite hobby horse remembered from childhood; but after I read in Isaac Asimov's writings that he thought it resembled the head and shoulders of the Big Bad Wolf from the Disney short The Three Little Pigs, it became downright humorous.

Which is why I couldn't resist taking a shot of this odd little cloud formation.  Compare with the actual Horsehead Nebula below it (courtesy of the internet).


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