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This post is part of my 2022 Word Project. You can read what that’s about here.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

I’m not a fan of theoretical speculation.

Ask me “what would happen if… [insert anything here]” and my answer is likely to be “don’t care.”

What would happen if all the bees died? Or if dinosaurs came back? What would happen if humans disappeared? Or if the earth stopped rotating?

The problem with questions like that is the answer is usually, in order of increasing likelihood, “there are way too many variables to know”, “it probably won’t happen anyway” and “very bad things.” For me it’s a futile exercise that lacks the intrigue of the important questions in life, like what would happen if I won the lottery?

At any rate, as with most things, I appear to be in the minority. I know this, because I googled it.

Once in a while I entertain myself by googling random things. The thing that interests me most is what interests other people. I pop something into the search bar and wait for Google to spit back its top queries. In those six or nine suggestions is a world of human oddity.

The only thing more fun than speculating about things that may never happen is speculating about what’s going on in the life of the person who asks how do you get scabies?

All that was the long way of getting to the point, which is that to entertain myself this evening, I googled what would happen if…?

Apparently a lot of people are worried about the moon.

They are worried, for instance, what would happen if the moon exploded. Those people are less specific than the ones who worry about what would happen if we nuked the moon.

Which also makes my point. “Very bad things.” Bad enough that you would never have to worry about another thing again, let alone the moon.

While the moon incites some people to google disaster, it compels me to wax poetic. See what I did there? Wax?

Why don’t we wane poetic? It would probably be more accurate.

A not insubstantial number of people are also concerned about what would happen if the moon crashed into earth. Still others stay up at night wondering what would happen if it split in half. Nobody, however, cared whether it was cut into quarters. I checked.

It got me thinking about the moon, though, and since sun, rain, clouds and rainbows all got a minute of attention on this blog, why not the moon?

It is certainly the subject of many songs and poems. It stars in a ridiculous number of idioms. You can ask for the moon or promise someone the moon. You can bark at it, bay at it, be over it, shoot for it, or love someone to it and back.

Sometimes it hits you in the eye like a big pizza pie.

And sometimes it likes to play hide-and-seek.

Another thing that apparently keeps enough people awake at night that google suggests the answer is what would happen if you touched the moon, which is odd considering people actually walked on it, if you believe that sort of thing. And little pieces of it are scattered here and there on earth today so you may have touched the moon and not even known it. Too bad, you could have told Google what happened.

I do find the moon a compelling object of attention. You know in your logical brain that it’s a three-dimensional object but it always looks so flat. No matter the size or shape, it’s like a paper cutout stuck up in the sky.

Sometimes it’s as small as a pea and others it is alarmingly large, like something out of a sci-fi movie. If you’ve never seen a bright orange moon rise in the October sky and take up most of the horizon, you wouldn’t believe me if I explained it. Some years ago I was so startled by the sight that I couldn’t even get my phone out to take a picture, and it was too fleeting for me to gather my wits and try again.

The moon is more photogenic than the sun because you can actually look at it and point your camera without melting both your eyeball and the lens.

Moon come out to play.

And it probably has more nicknames than Eskimos have for snow. There’s a Harvest moon and a Snow moon, a Strawberry moon and a Cold moon. There’s a Wolf moon, a Buck moon, a Hunter moon, and, in fact, a different name for each full moon for each month of the year.

There is also a Corn moon, but don’t ask me to explain when it happens. It happens in September, unless it doesn’t, and has to do with the equinox and October and how many angels fit on a slice of green cheese or something.

I wanted to explain it. But nobody wanted to give me a direct answer. I even asked ChatGPT, thinking that if anyone knew it would be the internet’s magical AI. But it merely told me that I should “consult a reliable source” to find out the date.

I did discover one quite interesting thing.

Coral reproduces by releasing eggs and sperm into the water in a mass synchronized spawning event. It’s supposed to look like a spectacular underwater blizzard and it only happens once a year, sometimes in August or October or November or April or June, depending on where in the world it is.

But it always happens right after a full moon.

Why? Only the moon knows.

Some people want to know what would happen if the moon disappeared. Others, clearly suffering from a very precise form of OCD, want to know what would happen if it disappeared for five seconds. They are quite specific about that. Not six. Not eight. Five.

Plenty of people think that the particular phase of the moon affects how we feel and behave. We say things like “it must be a full moon” and everyone nods gravely as if this explains why people get stupider and crazier.

You might be surprised to know that this has been studied fairly extensively, to mixed results. In some cases, no relationship was found between mood and moon. In others, a full moon was correlated with poorer sleep and higher anxiety.

The problem with studying whether the moon affects people is that people think they’re affected by the moon. And in the end, if you think something is true, isn’t that as good as it being true?

Also true: you only see the sun during the day but the moon hangs out day and night.

Other things that concern people about the moon: If it didn’t exist. If it drifted away. If it was closer to the earth, was farther from the earth, crashed into the sun, doubled in size.

I can say with utter certainty that I do not worry about the moon or speculate about its demise. I will, instead, gaze at it and dance by the light of it. Occasionally I will take terrible photographs of it. And the next time things go haywire, like having to make guacamole and cake on the same day, I’m going to blame it. I suspect it will continue hanging there looking smug and not mind one bit.

Photo: not the crispest shot of the moon outside my window, but I thought the moonbeams were pretty cool.