The World as Turtle
By Jon Lomberg, an artist’s statement for Cosmic Honu
On most mornings I swim in the ocean, and am often able to observe green sea turtles, swimming with such dignity and grace. They seem so wise and ancient, and indeed their species has been around far longer than mammals like us (over 60 million years). Turtles are in the myths of many cultures. The Babylonians imagined that the world was carried through cosmic space on the back of a great turtle.
In 2003 I painted a Honu to illustrate this ancient connection of turtles and cosmology. I added my own poetic metaphor: the planet and the turtle are very similar. Our planet moves through space like an organism swims through the ocean.
When I saw the turtle sculpture for It,s a Honu World, I was delighted to find exactly the same pose as in my painting! In honor of the enormous contributions the Keck Observatory has given us in our understanding of the universe, I present this Cosmic Honu. Fifty centuries after the Babylonians, we carry in our minds new images of a far more immense universe, in which our own Milky Way Galaxy is a barely visible smudge, on the outskirts of the nearest large cluster of galaxies, called the Virgo Cluster.
Every little blob of color on the turtle,s back is a galaxy containing millions of stars. Clusters of galaxies stretch into enormous filaments with millions of galaxies in each one.
These filaments surround awesome voids in which there are no galaxies at all.
But Keck and other great observatories are finding that these voids may contain something much stranger, something that is accelerating the motion of the galaxies as the universe expands. We have learned in the past few years about a mysterious force called Dark Energy which may reside in these voids. Dark Energy surrounds us, though we cannot perceive it directly. But it is strong enough to spin the galaxies into this cosmic web.
The Dark Energy shaped the Cosmos
The Cosmos shaped the galaxies.
The Galaxy shaped the Sun.
The Sun shaped the Earth.
The Earth shaped the Sea.
The Sea shaped Life.
And Life shaped a million different animals, including turtles and us.
The turtle swims through the sea,
The Earth glides through space.
The turtle and the planet are one.
The planet and the Cosmos are one.
The Cosmos is inside us and we are inside it.
We carry the history of the Universe within us.
We are the eyes with which the Cosmos sees itself.