Last night I saw Venus. I was walking out to my car at about 9 PM, and low in the Western sky was the loveliest sight ever - a brilliant, piercingly white gem set in a field of pure cerulean blue. It stopped me dead in my tracks, and for several minutes I totally forgot why I had come outside. Because one so seldom encounters such absolute, unalloyed beauty.
It was, of course, the planet Venus. And, also of course, we all know that "in reality" Venus is not at all beautiful. Its surface is hot enough to melt lead, and enveloped in a mantle of poisonous gas under a pressure that here on Earth one must descend to the ocean floor to experience. So on those terms, what I was gazing could be called an illusion, and a cruel one at that.
But here I must beg to differ. By what reasoning do we declare that one perspective is the "true" one, and all others somehow less so? Please don't get me wrong here. I am not speaking of relativism, where everything is a matter of opinion and no one's opinion is more correct than another's. Not at all. What I AM saying is that all perspectives contain a grain of truth, and you can't see the whole picture unless you take all points of view into account.
From a human perspective, the table on which my laptop is at this moment sitting is a solid object which is not doing much of anything. But from an atomic viewpoint, it is mostly empty space punctuated by vibrating, rotating, and incessantly hopping here and there particles of matter (whatever that is). From a galactic viewpoint, the table, the house in which it is located, and in fact the planet on whose surface the house rests, are all too infinitesimal to worry about.
I can stand on the shore of the Pacific and be overcome by the incomprehensible vastness of its area and the astounding depths to which it reaches. But then again, from the viewpoint of the Milky Way, even the Pacific shrinks to insignificance.
So which is true? Is the Pacific vast beyond comprehension, or tiny beyond caring about? Unsurprisingly, the answer is both. The human perspective is just as valid as that of an atom or of a galaxy, but it is also just as incomplete as both of those.
So yes, from the perspective of the Milky Way as a whole, the planet Venus is simply too small to even think about. From its surface, Venus is hell itself - no place I'd want to be. But looking up at it on a summer's evening, there is simply nothing more beautiful.