And then it occurred to us, somewhere along the line, that we could do whatever we wanted with this Earth. Here’s Archimedes, having found a sufficiently big lever and fulcrum, moving Earth. I like the wiggly pattern of the texture lines. I also like that he’s standing on an even bigger world to get the job done.
Okay, maybe he’s standing on our Earth and merely hoisting a really big globe, but since he’s obviously celestially huge in any case, I think he’s moving Earth as promised. And what does this tell us about ourselves? Well, yes, it tells us about the power of simple machines, but it also warns us of our proclivity to fool around with Earth as the whim strikes, without thought of consequences.
And so here we have Atlas, holding the Earth on his shoulders. In this version he’s carrying not only Earth but the entire geocentric universe. Once again he’s got a larger world to support him, with its own trees and ocean, and sailing ships coming into harbor by a town on the hills in the background. But what’s my lesson from Atlas? First,
while we now know that our Earth is not the center of the universe and is indeed utterly insignificant astronomically speaking, it might be good to remember that it’s still the center and sum total of our universe, and we need it. Therefore perhaps we should remember to consider ourselves in the role of Atlas, and support the Earth, take responsibility for it, carry the weight of whatever actions we’ll need to take to hold onto our Earth - so that the miraculous creation that is Earth will not be destroyed.
[Pictures: Creation of the Earth, woodcut from Luther’s translation of the Bible, 1545 (Image from Geocentric Model);
Archimedes moving the Earth, woodcut from Mechanic’s Magazine Volume II, 1824 (Image from Annenberg Rare Book and Manuscript Library);
Coelifer Atlas, woodcut from The Cosmographicall Glasse by William Cunnigham, 1559 (Image from Sacred Circle).]