What is paradise? I think it was Nietzche who wrote that 'man is the most unhappy of all animals'. I'm not sure we've all heard that there are no early paradises. And yet .. and yet...
I think paradise, for human beings, has always been that which is unattainable. In the mid-nineteenth century, it was perceived as the place where one could stay warm in the winter, cool in the summer, always have enough food, water and clothing, and freedom from killers like measles, smallpox and diptherea. Today, us northern hemisphere inhabitants mostly have this paradise. The point is simple: a past man's paradise can be a modern man's reality.
In much the same way, paradise CAN be found, even today, depending upon how its defined. Time and again I've heard people today describe paradise as a state where we can float among the stars, free of earthly troubles, and simply drink in the magnificience of God. I know this perception of paradise is today very common, for motion pictures and pulp novels almost always descrite it this way. If this perception is truly one of a paradise, then its a paradise we all can enter. Before World War II, few of us could hope to enter; now every one of us can. Like food and home climate, a past man's unattainable is a modern man's reality. The only difference is that today, only a minority of people seem to realize the gates to paradise are sold in department stores. But those of us who own a small telescope, and have really learned to use it, certainly know that it lets us float among the stars, free of eartlhy troubles, simply drinking in the magnificence of God.
I found my own corridor to paradise almost by accident. On an impulse, I threw out $15 at a flea market for a little 60mm refractor. Many years have passed since then, and the little scope sits there as always, quiet and unassuming, waiting to take me to paradise. It is there in front of me as I write. Because it is small, my 60mm will not let me see deeply into space. But what of it? Even the greatest telescopes, galaxies beyond or own show up as little more than featureless streaks of light (at least for the most part, thats true). To really grasp the magnificence of the universe, we must see it up close. Nebulae, clusters, individual stars and objects of the solar system - these are the elements of our own galaxy we can see up close And we don't need a big scope for that. On the contrary, the wider viewfield and sharper imagery of the small instrument makes it better than the huge-eye reflector for seeing things up close.
With a low power widefield eyepiece (like a 25mm Kelner, for example), I can float among the breathtaking starfields of Cygnus, Sagittarius, Cassiopea and Monoceros. Or I can gasp at the haunting black dust clouds scattered everywhere along the cloud of the Milky Way. With a higher power eyepiece, I can sit galvanized at the beauty of the individual stars. Most stars are binaries or multiple, but small instruments won't resolve them all, but of those that are resolvable, I've found nothing of earth or sky more breathtakingly beautiful.
Whatever you do in this life, don't let that little scope of yours sit idle. It offers you the corridor to paradise. Whether its the glorious binary Castor, the haunting cloud of Serpens, the splashy Beehive Cluster or fantastic globulars like M3, M5, and M13, the magnificence of our universe awaits you.