Heraus aus abgrundtiefster Nacht,
aus der ich keinen Ausweg weiß,
dank ich der Macht, die mich gemacht,
für meinen unbezwungnen Geist.
John Watson went with Sherlock Holmes
on some unspecified
adventure where they had to roam
the English countryside.
They walked about the hills all day,
alone except for sheep,
then built the tent where they would stay
and quickly went to sleep.
“Hey Watson,” Sherlock said, “wake up!”
“Nope. Stop. Don’t bother me.”
But nagging Sherlock would not stop.
“Just look! What do you see?”
“A lot of stars out here, I’d say.
Now that’s a proper night.
That’s what our home, the Milky Way,
appears like from inside.”
“Alright, detective Watson, now
deduce from what you’ve seen
conclusions that these facts allow.
What do these stars there mean?”
“Our Milky Way contains at least
one hundred billion suns.
Through gravity, they all are pieced
together into one.
And since the stars have forged the clay
that went into our birth,
we’re children of the Milky Way,
as are the Sun and Earth.”
“Dear John, it’s elementary
that isn’t what I meant.
The meaning of these stars you see
is someone stole our tent!”
Among my many theories,
there’s one of which I’m proud
that sorts the mind’s pathologies
by what one fails to doubt.
If you can’t doubt the things you think,
you will at first feel great,
then grow confused until the brink
of madness is your fate.
In the German Democratic Republic, where I was born, one of the most popular Christmas songs was Tausend Sterne sind ein Dom. It was written in the aftermath of World War 2, by the music student Siegfried Köhler. I heard and sang it from when I was about seven, and I vividly remember being impressed with the match between its remarkably poetic lyrics and its tender and serene music. Here’s a recording you might enjoy:
I sang it again, for the first time in many years, with a large group of friends at the Secular Solstice 2013. But Secular Solstices, even in Germany, are generally held in English. So for the 2014 Solstice, I wrote a translation of the lyrics into English, and it goes like this. Continue reading