Wondering and Wandering

The New Horizons fly-by of Pluto a while back, with its accompanying transmission of amazing photos, has once again given me reason to pause and contemplate a variety of things- from human resourcefulness to the mind-blowing distances and speed covered and sustained with the help of a small amount of nuclear fuel in a baby grand piano-sized spacecraft.

          It took a vehicle that could travel from central PA to Toledo, OH in roughly 1 minute… nine and a half years to travel the 3 billion miles to Pluto. If it were traveling at a speed of only 60 mph, it would take seven thousand years to get there.

          In the Colorado Scale Model of the Solar System, the Sun being the size of a grapefruit, earth would be roughly the size of a pinhead about 50 feet away. Pluto would be the size of a flake of ground pepper about 2000 feet away. And the nearest star- Alpha Centauri- would be about 2500 miles away. All this within our own solar system and Milky Way galaxy.

          Meanwhile, here on earth, a cacophony of voices competes for our attention- or rattles on on behalf of inflated egos- in the midst of contentious legislative debates and a relentless pandemic.

          We argue over what makes for patriotism. We try to navigate amidst homegrown terrorism, growing income inequality, reactive and politically motivated speeches on all sorts of issues. Vicious storms, hot summers, snowless winters, budget stalemates. La nina. Lions and tigers and…

          Looking at a stunning EPIC photo of earth from a million miles out, one might think all is well on this magnificent blue and white marble. Looks are deceiving.

          We spend not enough time looking up, though. Sure, we need to pay attention to what’s in front of us- the needs of our families, various social ills, environmental stewardship. The list can quickly grow long and formidable. And it is difficult to appreciate or contemplate our place in the universe when life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness seem to be passing us by.

Perhaps we could all benefit from a pause in the raucous debates, in the stinging barbs, in the uninformed assumptions, in the misdirected anger. Call a truce, as in that fabled suspension of battle in WW I, on Christmas Eve, when the warring sides emerged from their entrenchment, left their positions, and shared a moment of… peace?

Makes me wonder, if this actually happened, how they could go back and pick up where they left off.

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