To Reach for the Stars

“White Castle” by Yuri Shwedoff. Caption at bottom was added by someone else.

​I pray this picture will not foreshadow the embers of space exploration and colonization, slowly fading until we lose interest and forget we once had the opportunity to walk on other worlds.
Once upon a time, we listened to the sky’s siren call, and answered it. As it was with the sirens of myth, so it is with the heavens. They are unforgiving, more so than anywhere on Earth.
But that very danger is part of what beckons us. It is improper to overtly romanticize exploration, but exploration does carry more than a touch of the romantic, an urgency and necessity we cannot quite put into words. Some deep and fundamental part of us knows it is worth the risk, when we look up and drink in the sight of countless stars.
To stand any decent chance of surviving such a journey, your body and mind and spirit must be of the highest durability. They have to be tempered by demanding tests and adverse circumstances, not to mention incredible persistence and strength of character. Many of us need an enemy, as well. Whether it’s a competing empire, or an authority figure who said you’d never amount to anything, or even our own selves, we often wait until a voice tells us “You’ll never do that,” before we say “Yes I will.”
A famous passage in the Bible says that the heavens declare God’s glory, night after night pouring forth speech and displaying knowledge. And what knowledge! What rewards we have gathered from taking risks and pushing ourselves.
May we reach while we still can.
[Previously posted on Facebook]

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Venus: Once in a Lifetime

Taken through a good friend’s telescope. Nathan Morgan, you have my gratitude for this opportunity.

See that little black spot? That’s Venus. The planet Venus, passing between Earth and our sun, an event which the Solar System’s dance will never again perform until 2117. I was shocked at the clarity my smartphone captured through the telescope lens, but there you have it. I count myself blessed to have seen this.

It gets you thinking about the universe, doesn’t it? Especially about how large it is. Douglas Adams described the magnitude of the cosmos thusly: “…you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.”

Good for a laugh, but it doesn’t prepare you for a realization that this little black dot is an Earth-sized planet. A planet with its own topography, buried under a crushing atmosphere and choking hot clouds of sulfuric acid, a violent and Hellish realm as expansive as our home. All contained within that tiny dot. And just imagine the scope of the star behind it, a ball of fusion-charged hydrogen which is so vast, it won’t exhaust its fuel for another five billion years. And that is just one single star in one galaxy, one galaxy out of hundreds of billions. Human imagination cannot even begin to spread that far. As we expand out into the universe, we will certainly never run out of places to visit and settle.

I’m sounding rather full of myself by now, I know. Trying to encapsulate the hugeness of our known universe in a couple of hundred words. It’s absurd. But still, it appears humans cannot stop themselves from trying. “There are more things in heaven and on Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in our philosophy,” Shakespeare writes…and yet we push on, seeking to feed our fevered imaginings by looking to the stars and beyond. We think and question, enact and take risk. We are not only pushed by instinct, but pulled by hints of transcendence.

Indeed, God paints on a canvas incomprehensible to the human mind, His treasures inexhaustible.

I don’t know what’s more incredible: the universe’s unfathomable size and scope, or the fact that a little black dot in a telescope lens can remind us of it.