I saw a shooting star this morning.
A film editor friend of mine once told me that he couldn’t enjoy watching movies anymore because he “knew all the tricks.” It spoiled the experience for him, made him not be able to suspend disbelief. I know, intellectually, that a shooting star is nothing more than debris, whether space rock or manmade items, plummeting to earth because they are unable to escape Earth’s gravity, all of them potentially deadly. Today’s shooting star could be tomorrow’s asteroid wreaking havoc on this planet. That doesn’t stop me from enjoying the experience of an unexpected streak of light momentarily moving across the sky.
It makes me think of all the vast unknowns that are out there in the universe. There is so much that we don’t understand, even as our scientists discover more and more each day. Mankind’s knowledge base grows exponentially, but it is a drop in the bucket to all that has yet to be discovered. There is so much more to know.
As a self-published writer, I can get overwhelmed by this. Sometimes the hardest thing to learn is that it’s okay not to know something. Today’s Internet makes it so easy to be facile with facts, and quicker still with factoids. I can research volcanos, as I did for my unpublished paranormal “Fire Danger,” and within seconds have information on which of them are active in Iceland, for instance. So many facts and at the same time so little knowledge. When I finally looked up information on the Boston subway system for my novella “Beginning Time”, it was just to ensure that I had covered off all my points. It was a system I was very familiar with since I rode it regularly from the age of nine, so I was amazed at how much I didn’t know about it. It humbled me to realize how many things I’d gotten only half right, and was so glad that I had the resources at my fingertips to ensure that my research was complete.
Research is necessary to be a good writer, but it isn’t everything. The idea that a shooting star is just leftover stuff from the creation of this solar system should never take away from the magic of the vision of it. I can research the heck out of them, but at the end of the day, the knowledge should never overpower the delight, on one very early morning, of seeing a shooting star.