Abstract Angel No 102: “The Eye of the Sun”
Created: 2009 | Los Angeles, CA
Part of my Abstract Angels series.
Nietzsche wrote: “He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.” The same is quite true of the physical source of life as we know it: stare too long into the abyss of light at the heart of our solar system, and it will stare back into you. One hundred seconds of staring directly into the unprotected glare of the sun will incur permanent retinal damage, thus darkening the rest of your life. Would it be worth it? Would the sun have spoken anything meaningful to you in that time?
In Joseph Campbell’s monomyth of the “Hero’s Journey,” the hero hasn’t completed his task until he has not only successfully conquered the darkness of the abyss, but also returns with the boon to share with his people. But the hero must always sacrifice something in the process. The mythic salvific transaction has always and will always be costly. Odin sacrifices one of his eyes in order to drink from an abyss that would impart mystical knowledge that he could then share with the Aesir. The hero of the film Interstellar falls into a supermassive black hole to learn the secrets of gravity in order to save his daughter and the rest of humanity.
But nowhere is the romance with the sun better depicted in recent cinematic history than in Sunshine (2007), where two astronauts, crewmembers of the ship tasked with saving mankind, give their lives to the sun while also rescuing their crewmates in the process. Searle, the ship’s doctor and psych officer, is obsessed with staring into the sun at less than recommended protection levels. Kaneda, the ship’s captain, allows himself to be consumed by the solar brilliance while repairing the ship. Searle asks him repeatedly as he’s facing solar death: “What do you see??”
The sun is the source of all life on earth, and it radiates 4 million tons of thermonuclear energy every second, enough to vaporize every living thing on earth in an instant. Few things can be as potent a reminder of how tightly conjoined life and death are as simply glancing at the sun for a millisecond too long.