1610 c/o Frances Dinger

The Sphere of Influence of the Attraction
Which is in the Moon Extends as Far as the Earth

In January, Galileo is suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder but they don’t call it that yet. He is sad and awake very late at night in his lab and he is looking through his telescope. Just idly looking, it is not an active study. He feels he has not been active in months. Since August and the commercialization of the telescope maybe. He hadn’t felt productive since his new telescope was deemed successful. His girlfriend Marina Gamba doesn’t understand this. He had been making more telescopes; the telescopes were a money-making invention. “You’re being entrepreneurial, babe,” she said to him at dinner that night, but he doesn’t like that word.

(He remembers when he turned 18 and realized he was running out of time to be called a “child prodigy,” or had already run out of time.)

January has been a sad and unproductive month for hundreds of years, Galileo thinks.

But then suddenly there are spots of light that can be seen through the telescope. Galileo discovers three moons of Jupiter. A few days later, he proves the orbit and finds a fourth. This seems significant. Galileo feels like a fraud for the discovery because it didn’t come about in a careful and contemplative way. But everyone around him seems proud and excited. The discovery generates some buzz. Someone from the church comes by to gently remind Galileo that, just because he found some objects in orbit, he still doesn’t have any right to start talking about Copernicus again. Galileo doesn’t invite the clergyman to the dinner gathering his girlfriend is planning.

At the party, his girlfriend and children are there among the wine and hors d'Ĺ“uvres and they look proud. The girls are wearing bows. The oldest one made a model of the planet with the four moons and painted it in unrealistic colors and everyone appreciates it.

Galileo takes a cracker with cheese from a tray and accidentally bites the inside of his cheek and tears up. Guests think he is overcome with emotion and this endears them to him. He feels sad and deceitful but doesn’t brush off the hand of a colleague when he puts it on his shoulder and squeezes with all five fingers.

Years ago at university, Galileo had a problem with always speaking up in class, which meant his instructors loved him while his classmates’ attitude toward him varied from patient tolerance to quiet contempt. An artist friend of his told him to just be quiet; that way he would appear brooding and contemplative.

“No,” Galileo said. “No, it doesn’t work like that in the sciences.”

It still doesn’t work. Not even as a party trick. So Galileo walks around and tries to feel like a visionary (an altogether different party trick, but still a trick).

In January while Galileo suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder, he observes four moons of Jupiter on a night when he can’t sleep. He thinks maybe the sleep deprivation has finally gotten to him and looks around his lab to see if pink shapes had appeared anywhere in the air. This is what he has heard happens when people are especially sleep deprived. He doesn’t see any pink, so he cleans his telescope and looks again and the moons are still there and he feels warm or accomplished and stays awake for several more hours.

Now, weeks later, he sleeps too much. When he feels the least bit tired, his first inclination is to take a nap. He jokes he learned this habit from the cat he keeps in the lab. He doesn’t feel motivated to work sometimes, especially to do menial tasks like sweeping or repeating experiments to check for repetition/regularity of events. Galileo’s girlfriend suggests he hire an intern for the little things.

Galileo hires an intern who sweeps and wipes down counters and remembers to fill the cat’s bowls with food and water. Sometimes Galileo lets the intern do small experiments under his supervision.

Galileo’s intern observes that buttered bread almost always lands butter side down when dropped and cats (except elderly ones) always land on their feet, so what if we were to attach a piece of buttered bread, facing upward, to the back of a young cat and drop it from a certain height and see what happens, har har.

Galileo soon fires his intern.

He misses having someone to talk to while he works. The cat sometimes leaves the lab to hunt mice and birds outside. He entices the cat to stay by allowing her to play with the pendulums he was using in experiments related to gravity.

Sometimes he tries to pet the cat and she does not want to be petted. She looks at him and he imagines she is thinking, “Weirdo, what are you thinking? I’m going to space to hang out with the Jupiter people and not you. You feed me and feel affection for me but you haven’t yet figured out how to love me right.” This is what all cats mean when they appear aloof. He devises a series of experiments to determine which places on the body the cat likes to be scratched best. He discovers four places: the spot on the back just before the tail, the cheeks, under the chin and the top of the head. These are universal rules.

He wonders about other universal rules relating to animals. Do animals have a concept of god? Does Galileo have a concept of god? When did people/scientists/Galileo/god stop thinking of humans as animals?

What if the cosmos was once all contained in a big bag? And one day the bag was emptied by a tear or great shaking. This is like believing in god, Galileo thinks, everything contained in one smaller thing. That is god, that is a year or an hour. Eventually creation goes beyond its bounds.

Hundreds of years from now, people will sail in arcs across the sky and sometimes the arcs will end in terror and the breaking of glass. Young people will communicate instantaneously and imagine it is like telepathy. Galileo closes his eyes and imagines this and does not understand and realizes his lack of understanding does not matter.

Laying on the floor, Galileo feels everywhere at once. Elsewhere, sea venture survivors are getting off a boat and entering Jamestown; babies are being born and dying; not exclusively babies are dying but babies exclusively are being born. So much is happening everywhere all the time.

From the floor, he looks at the shape of the cat’s eye and wonders again about pink shapes and also color. The cat’s eye is a different shape than Galileo’s, so does she see color differently? He wonders if color exists in any real way.

This would not be an idea he expressed to the church, which was very attached to its colors of the liturgical year.

A professor had once told him, “let the answer come in a nap.” There was nothing he would rather do than curl up in a patch of sun and sleep.

He is learning what the animals have known all along.