On this date in 1054, a supernova exploded in the area of what is now the Crab Nebula. For 2-years, there were three great lights in the sky: The sun, the moon, and the supernova. We know this because this most extraordinary cosmic event was recorded by Chinese and Arabic astronomers. Pictographs have been discovered in the American southwest and in South America, as well, which seem to document the supernova.
But in all the area then controlled by the Roman church there are no pictographs, nor a single scrap of paper in any museum, library, or monastery, which alludes to the sight.
In the Western world, curiosity and thought had stopped. The writings of Epicurus, the greatest mind of the ancient world, had been destroyed; portions of a few of his letters would be discovered in the Vatican library centuries later. A single copy of Lucretius’ On the Nature of Things was buried in the recesses of a monastery library in southern Germany, forgotten and untouched for almost a millennia. The writings of Aristotle were fugitives protected by Muslim scholars. Other texts of the Greek flowering, the foundation of the West, were hidden in an Irish cave.
On this Independence Day, then — as al Qaeda and ISIS close schools throughout the Middle East and reprise Charlemagne’s summary execution of all who think, and as American Holy Men try to undo the progress of science, whore themselves to Donald Trump, and choke on expressions of sympathy for those slaughtered in Orlando — we should recognize that thought is the kernel of all human progress and resolve to protect first, always, and to the last ditch, the independence of the human mind.