Thee who never had the chance to marvel at night skies somewhere far from civilised world – and due to light pollution this is getting ever harder these days – will probably never undarstand Kant’s quote:
Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the more often and steadily we reflect upon them: The starry heavens above me and the moral law within me.
I have yet again spent a few days sailing the sea; nowhere can one find such a breathtaking sight of starry sky, as in the middle of the sea at night. Could anyone be impervious to it?..
Sea sailing is neither easy nor effortless pastime; and working as a sailor on a sailing ship of old was incomparably harder, severe and demanding. C. S. Forrester in his Horatio Hornblower series doesn’t leave much to the imagination: inhumane conditions; unrelenting weather; heartless commanders with indisputable power over life and death; never-ending missions lasting months or years… Sailors had to be hardened and tough – or their days at sea ended fast (often at the bottom, with a cannoball or two at their feet).
Still, hadn’t the the night sky at sea (as awe-inspiring then as now, no doubt) moved the sailors’ of times past sea-hardened hearts as it moves and inspires seagoers today? Wasn’t there often, under the hard outer shell, a (very peculiar, but nonetheless) sensitivity?
Listen to sea shanties and you will find both the hardiness and the sensitivity. Just like the Königsberg philosopher’s quote, however, these will be hard to find and grasp, and appreciate, if you’ve never been to sea at night.