What happend to Galileo and me?
Yesterday I read the Bertolt Brecht’s drama “Life of Galileo”. It rose a storm inside me. I would like to share my thoughts with you.
Can you imagine that the weight of the whole world at one exact and terrifying moment is solely on your on shoulders? You will remember greek Atlas rightfully, but there is a great difference: he is an eternal myth, but you are just an atacked human being under the spotlight of the whole world. Not even a cunning politician, but a person who believes in the reason and a capability of fellow humans to use it too. And that moment is also lethal, it can erase not only your capability to fight, but your whole existance as well? Indeed, what would you do?
This dilemma was resolved by Galilei in the known way: the famous scientist took a step back. The Inquisition, the Pope and the conservative clergy won. To be precise, all the powerful people of our civilisation at that time won. And do not forget, Giordano Bruno was burned just a year before.
So, if you were Galileo Galilei, what would you do?
Brecht wrote a powerful play and painted a beautiful picture of the scientist who is always ahead of his surroundings and time. But he condemed Galileo, accusing him of destroying the revolutionary capacities of science for the centuries to come. I asked myself if I would judge him in that way. Would you?
If we know that he did his best to continue with his research and even published a book about it that changed the world’s science, although he was closely monitored by the enemies of progress, can we say that he was a coward? He changed the science, but was it possible for him to change the world also at that time?
Brecht obviously thought that Galileo could do that. And did not hesitate to declare this. I, on the other hand, believe that he did the best he could in the given circumstances. The victory of the science maybe became evident only because of his endurance in this well-perserved prison of the authorities. I do not think, as Brecht did, that the world would change instantly if Galileo decided to endure tortures and death. The powerful people were and always will be more powerful than we imagine. And they are not stupid, they also know very well how to find a way for the victory of their own will. It is a neverending struggle for truth and equality rather than instant victory. I do not see Galilei as a coward, but as a man of change and struggle even after defeat. The tale of Galileo’s life made a difference to the small people, and we today all remember him by the words he never spoke, but indeed lived through: And yet it moves.