What light (starlight?) can Astronomy throw on Mediation? That’s a challenge: it’s difficult to think of two more distantly separated topics. One seems to be about something immutable and unmovable, the other something fluid and makeshift.  However, in reality, the universe is not so unchanging, it’s a place of spins, collapses and explosions, but the scales of distance are so vast and the timescales so long that it is indifferent to humanity.

The key quotation should be: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves” (Shakespeare – Julius Caesar). The reference is to astrology rather than astronomy: the false idea that the stars are not indifferent to us but so interested in our doings that they control them. Cassius, the speaker, rejects this and so would most modern people: the stars really don’t care and the faults are in us. Mediation is about making a reasonable division of imperfection and moving on.

What astronomy provides is not determinism, the replacement of our will by the universe’s governing force of rigid vastness, but perspective. On the astronomical scale, the issues that burn us can look petty. “No doubt the universe is unfolding as it should”, in the words of Desiderata, that prose poem that was on every student’s wall in the 1960s. So, when grievances loom large, on the astronomical scale they’re tiny. Make a settlement and move on.