“And yet it moves,” repeats Galileo Galilei over and over again, convinced that he has proved beyond any reasonable doubt that the earth moves around the sun, not the other way around as the Catholic Church would have it. This is the classic case of David and Goliath. In one corner we have Galileo armed with his telescope and Copernicus’ controversial theories and in the other corner the Pope Urban VIII and the might of the Vatican armed with the bible and the old Aristotelian world-view. Who do you think will win?
Galileo knows he’s right, yet the world isn’t ready for his truth.
Since most you know all about Galileo’s trials against Pope Urban VIII in the 1630s – I had to google it – I won’t dwell too much on the historical events. However, there is something for everyone to discover as we are witnessing the eternal battle between reason and faith, where faith always seems to have the upper hand (pun intended). In this age of false truths and fake news, nothing could be more relevant than learning the lessons that Galileo’s trials tried to teach us. There are always forces in this world that will do everything in their power to reject truth and reason to further their own goals. You know who I mean.
Tim Hardy is a Royal Shakespeare Company veteran and the perfect actor to portray the tormented Galileo. The emotional range he performed from Galileo’s arrogance of knowing he was right to his fear of death and torture in the hands of the inquisition was remarkable. Galileo knows he’s right, yet the world isn’t ready for his truth. Hardy’s grip on the audience holds and the intimate venue gives him ample opportunity to look each spectator in the eye. Not only does he do a believable Galileo, but also his accusers: the Pope, the Grand Inquisitor and the lawyer too scared to defend him. Especially the dialogue between Galileo and the Pope is remarkable to watch.
The irony of Tim Hardy being alone on the stage just as Galileo was standing before his accusers is not lost on us. When the scientific debate of the day was how many angels can you fit on a needle pin, you can feel the otherness Galileo felt. As all modern physics – everything we know about the universe – stand on the shoulders on Galileo, this was not just another debate. This is the moment that defines us all. Thank goodness Galileo’s work remained for Newton and others to carry on.
The key takeaway is that Galileo, a deeply religious man with pure intentions was crushed because faith got mixed with politics. This was true 400 years ago and this is still true today. Luckily most of us have learned to think outside the box: even if the moon and the stars seem to rotate around us, it could just as well be the opposite. That is the precious lesson Galileo taught us.