They built the 7-11 when I was in middle school. I remember it vividly, not because it was the second gas station in town, but because it brought a set of parking-lot lights that cut into the night sky like a rusty knife and screamed into the mountain air like nails on a chalkboard. I remember it because that was when the stars began to disappear.
I think that Pope Benedict XVI might have had a similar experience, because once he preached that:
Today we can illuminate our cities so brightly that the stars of the sky are no longer visible. Is this not an image of the problems caused by our version of enlightenment?
Our cities, and even our towns, are lit up so brightly that we have blotted out the stars. We possess many lights, physical and intellectual, and these are not in themselves wrong, but they are human, lacking the dignity and beauty of the stars they obscure. How much more do they fall short of “the one who made the Pleiades and Orion, who turns darkness into dawn, and darkens day into night … whose name is the Lord!” (Amos 5:8) How much more do they obscure his reality!
There are movements to establish “Dark Sky Preserves” so that there might be some place where our crude human works do not eclipse the subtle radiance of the stars. They are important, worth preserving and visiting. Without some experience of wholesome and unspoilt nature, our horizons shrink and we lose contact with the beauty of creation and Creator.
More importantly, we already have the spiritual equivalent of Dark Sky Preserves: our churches. We desperately need these places of silence and beauty where we escape the vanity of crude human works to gaze upon the Divine. We desperately need to visit them.
But the journey to both can be arduous. Dark Sky Preserves are, by necessity, far from cities where men live; the sanctuaries of God are spiritually and mentally far from modern life. A true visit requires a quiet heart and the discipline of spiritual attention—both of these are difficult but can be learned with the help of grace which calms our souls in divine peace.
Look at the stars that appear when human lights go dim! Have you seen them with your own eyes? Do you desire to make the journey? Can you imagine how much more radiant is the light of God, burning quietly beside the sanctuary lamp?