What happens to levitation, one of the great imaginative figures of art and literature, in the transition from a religious culture to the disenchanted universe of modern science? What becomes of ecstasy, rapture, ascension, transcendence, grace when these give way to “space oddity”: man enclosed in a tin can floating far above the world? Is the cosmonaut a prophet of the erotic future, avatar of man’s stellar renaissance, as Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke once imagined? Or is he like Nietzsche’s madman, proclaiming as Gagarin himself was rumored to have said: “I don’t see any God up here”?
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