Disaster literally means being “without a star” or being “with a bad star.” It meant a lot to the ancient navigators who sailed according to the stars. If the sky was cloudy, you couldn’t see the North Star. If you were on a ship with an unskilled astronomer, you could sail a long time with the wrong heading. Either way, your journey was a disaster from which you would not return.
We all must find our star, the fixed, shining light that leads us safely home. That star may be your faith that demands your best efforts. That star may be a story that continues to inspire you, a principle that you can never ignore, a person that your life and your actions must always represent. No one should find themselves into service like yours without such a guiding star.
Find it again and fix your eye on it. Even as the North Star gets obscured in the clouds, so our guides are hard to find amid the papers and the agreements. It’s a sad fact of our psychology that our eye always gets attracted to the glittering, wandering, moving lights that promise much but lead us off-course to disaster. Stay true by your star, whatever it is, and you will marvel at how every time she brings you safely home.
WHEN I heard the learn’d astronomer;
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me;
When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them;
When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick;
Till rising and gliding out, I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.
Walt Whitman, “When I heard the learn’d astronomer,” Leaves of Grass, 1900.