The secret of the illusoriness is in the necessity of a succession of moods or objects. Gladly we would anchor, but the anchorage is quicksand. This onward trick of nature is too strong for us: Pero si muove. When at night I look at the moon and stars, I seem stationary, and they to hurry. Our love of the real draws us to permanence, but health of body consists in circulation, and sanity of mind in variety or facility of association. We need change of objects. – Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature
This phrase, Pero si muove, mentioned in passing by Emerson, is famously Galileo Galilei’s. Forced by the Catholic Church to recant the truth of the matter that the earth revolves around the sun, Galileo dropped this little truth bomb after recanting. “Pero si muove” or, “And yet it moves”.
I think about Galileo’s mic-dropping truth in a particularly dark time for truth in history as reality-based people of the Earth coexist with the buzz of maddening conspiracy theories, flat-Earthers and rigged election believers. The simplicity of truth seems lost in the escalating rhetoric of these online screamers. Imagine for a moment Galileo and Emerson returning to the world of today and listening to this din of despairing dolts. They’d lose all hope in humanity and throw up their hands in despair. There are days when I want to myself. Aren’t we past all this nonsense?
It’s ironic that all this craziness is happening at a time of brilliant scientific advancement. We see images and hear sounds broadcast from the surface of Mars. We embrace the heroic efforts of the scientific community to develop viable vaccines to fight off COVID, and to stand up a delivery system to get it into the arms of the billions of people on the planet that desperately need it and a return to “normal”. We see the smartest among us looking at the problems humanity has created on this fragile blue ball rotating around the sun and tackling climate change and plastics and clean water and the related list of short-sighted gains that created long-term problems for future generations.
There’s hope in the world, but there’s also a healthy dose of self-inflicted despair and rage. And we won’t get past it without facing the truth. Pero si muove. Or consider again Emerson’s words: “Our love of the real draws us to permanence, but health of body consists in circulation, and sanity of mind in variety or facility of association. We need change of objects.” I think all of this social isolation has stirred the pot of madness a bit too much. Sanity of mind seems to be a real issue for way too many people looking for something to cling to in the swirling uncertainty of the age.
I find hope in Galileo’s phrase. For all the forced dogma of his time, the truth prevailed. And it lives on in the majority of people in the world today. There have always been laggards on the bell curve of reality, they just happen to have a louder voice at the moment. Pero si muove. Truth finds a way to shine through in the end. So long as people have the courage to stand for it as Galileo did.