I walk in the silence of a hot night. Not the slightest breeze. The air remains warm and humid—even in front of the duck pond at Parc Lafontaine, where I decide to stop. Sitting on a bench, legs stretched out, head upside down, I observe the stars.
If he had been in my place, Aristotle would have contemplated an opaque sphere studded with a myriad of twinkling lights, but from the center of its interior. This ancient Greek lived at the heart of a bubble of eternity whose central point was the Earth, the only place made of heavy matter and furnished with perishable objects. The celestial world showed only eternal lights that revolved incessantly around us, the navel of the world.
The Dinner of Ashes
Since then, there has been Star Trek. So, for me, it’s the infinity of this space that strikes me. I know that these little stars are enormous suns, some of them extinct for thousands of years. Yet I have before me the same sparks of light that the Ancients observed; only my daydreaming has changed.
The light of some stars travelled millions of years before appearing to us. Every spark that I see above me from my bench is evidence of the past existence of a sun—one which I do not know if it still exists. The sky I am looking at is a picture of the past. Strange that the most Godzilla-size spectacle known to me cannot be observed in the present.
Since we discovered that these starry lights are made of matter, the objects in the sky have become as perishable as the Earth. From Galileo to Newton (between 1610 and 1685), the discoveries and deductions of the new astronomers accidentally broke the bubble of eternity that enveloped the Earth, and this is intellectually irreparable. In short, one day our universe will be expired.
The Italian philosopher Giordano Bruno was one of the first to explain to the people that the universe was composed of flaming pieces of matter that are slowly extinguished in an icy void. In his description of the universe, human destiny became so depressing and laughable that the clergy preferred to burn him instead—in Rome in 1600. Galileo was thirty-six years old when he learned of Bruno’s fate. He was working on the same idea…
“Sir, you must leave the park immediately.”
The voice is coming from behind me. A woman’s voice reprimanding a child (different from those announcing a legal offside like a referee in sports competition).
After eleven o’clock, two policewomen pass by the street sweeper. They must empty the premises at a fixed time every evening, without using the slightest discernment. Such a regulation assaults the parks of its night. But that was a long time ago. And laws are like dust, they stay there until you get rid of them. I turn my head towards the voice:
“A park with a small lake in the city center, forbidden to stay in the middle of a heat wave!”
“No exceptions, sir.”
“I do my writing here. And my great-grandmother lived nearby,” I say, raising my arm to point.”
“No exceptions, sir,” the cop cuts me off. Her tone oozes indifference and leaves me soulless.
I demand standing up
“do you have the slightest idea, Miss Constable, what a uniform world without exception looks like to someone like me?”
Obviously, the policewoman didn’t know. And didn’t care.
“You’re a philosophy teacher,” the other concludes.
“It’s written in the law, don’t you think, Miss? these cases of exception?”
In fact, she was not thinking. She was waiting.
“No,” she finally answers.
“The spirit of the law distinguishes you from a police dog,” I say. “It must have been in your classes.”
“What is the spirit of the law for Lafontaine Park?” the other cop intervenes.
“Would you recognize Michel Tremblay if he were here tonight?” I ask.
“Would you have chased him out of the park?”
“Yes,” she answers, as if it were obvious.
The other cop hesitates, looking at her partner.
“Why do you hesitate?” I ask, pushing home my point.
The young woman could not formulate the reason for her hesitation.
“If you ever find the reason to justify this exception,” I further add, “it will be a good example of respecting the spirit of the law for the park curfew.”
With that, I bowed and left, leaving one upset, the other amused. Behind my back, I hear one cop yell over to me, “sorry to have disturbed you, sir.”
I offered a peace sign in return for her apology–extending my two fingers in the shape of a V. We are not in the same park.