The two were having a conversation about pulsing nebulas and quasars.
“You see — when they wrote it, well, it was just on such a small scale! For now you have a telescope that you can point at the sky and you see — well, you can see twelve million years in the past, if you like, or even further. It’s so vast and endless, and unfathomable — and hopeful, I think, I think it’s hopeful that it’s so unfathomable — and when they were writing it — when these bearded men sat down and wrote the book, 1800 years ago, well; the world is just so different, now. In comparison, what they wrote seems almost naive.”
“Certainly, certainly. Of course. It’s useless.”
They did not address the human question. I should have addressed it, and I wish I had, because now the details of the encounter are wisps, and if I’d started some kind of debate perhaps they would be more definite. It’s clear that at the time, listening to them, I thought that I would rather write about it, that I could later do so in a way that was, perhaps, more honest than engaging them, which might lead to a confrontation that was far from comfortable. I told myself that I was hesitant because people are so loathe to have their opinions questioned, or to discuss matters openly, and yet the two were young and would probably have welcomed it; it was really me who was loathe to engage them. Not because I was afraid, or that I thought I couldn’t handle myself in the debate; only because I was reluctant to climb out of my hiding place, to reveal to the two men that the sea of people passing around them had ears, and lips, and its own mind.
Now they are mirages formed and dismissed in the heat, and I am left here without them, without a coherent understanding of their thesis and their direction, and imagining them I can only create unsatisfying straw men that don’t rival the two men at all in their messy ambiguity, and I can only feel unsatisfied.