Orb and Specter

Legit? Looks like the flash of an exploding transformer when the grid is being wrecked by a tornado, but this is a constant flash and most disturbingly has an erratic movement. It also reminds me of V’ger’s “pure plasma” weapon in the first Star Trek movie.

For what it’s worth, I believe ball lightning is probably a real thing; I don’t believe in supernatural orbs. But anyway, when I saw this in my Instagram feed I was reminded of something I read on wikipedia years ago, a story related by Tsar Nicholas II about his grandfather, Tsar Alexander II:

Once my parents were away, and I was at the all-night vigil with my grandfather in the small church in Alexandria. During the service there was a powerful thunderstorm, streaks of lightning flashed one after the other, and it seemed as if the peals of thunder would shake even the church and the whole world to its foundations. Suddenly it became quite dark, a blast of wind from the open door blew out the flame of the candles which were lit in front of the iconostasis, there was a long clap of thunder, louder than before, and I suddenly saw a fiery ball flying from the window straight towards the head of the Emperor. The ball (it was of lightning) whirled around the floor, then passed the chandelier and flew out through the door into the park. My heart froze, I glanced at my grandfather – his face was completely calm. He crossed himself just as calmly as he had when the fiery ball had flown near us, and I felt that it was unseemly and not courageous to be frightened as I was. I felt that one had only to look at what was happening and believe in the mercy of God, as he, my grandfather, did. After the ball had passed through the whole church, and suddenly gone out through the door, I again looked at my grandfather. A faint smile was on his face, and he nodded his head at me. My panic disappeared, and from that time I had no more fear of storms.

The sangfroid was strong with that one. (NB: I got a little over halfway through a biography of Alexander II last year without coming across any mention of this story.) Of course, considering the source – Nicholas himself, supposedly; the Orthodox church, certainly – the implied basis for the Emperor’s remarkable composure is his piety, but I prefer to see it as his strength of character – a strength corroborated by his behavior during the events of his assassination. It’s a terrible tragedy that the Russian left murdered their country’s only progressive Tsar.

As crazy as this story is, I can see Bismarck and Lincoln – Alexander’s unifying and liberating contemporaries – behaving in the same chill way. In contrast, I can imagine Washington and Napoleon curiously confronting the orb, and as, as it were, farce to their tragedy, I can also imagine Alexander III and Theodore Roosevelt in their superbutch, try hard fashion, attacking the orb with blade and scepter, challenging it to a duel.

Nineteenth century men: they don’t make ’em like that anymore.