I had a different post for this week (I even scheduled it because I obviously have such mad computer skillz! That, and I’m busy and didn’t know if I would otherwise get around to it) but then four things happened: I read a poem, I read a blog post, it was the 45th anniversary of the moon landing, and the conflict in Gaza exploded into even greater tragedy, and they all came together into this post.
Welcome to the leaps of logic which exist in my mind!
The other night in bed, I read a poem from a book called Love. Life. Liturgy. (by last week’s guest blogger, Kate Allen) about God. Although we don’t share a religion, what she writes in this poem really speaks to me:
I don’t believe in God.
I don’t believe in
or the tales
or the wonders
She goes on to describe how she felt God failed her in the times when still believed (in that idea of God) and when she struggled, and that the lack of support she felt left her alone::
So it is clear to me,
that you are deceived,
and I was deceived,
and of the two of us,
I have seen light.
Not ritual candle-burning,
but the burning,
heat of the sun
and the fierce, faraway light of all the other stars in the
These are my sisters and brothers.
I and you and all
come from stardust, and into stars
I and you and all
shall be lit once again
when this earth and its myths have melted away
along with the memories and hopes and fears of all who
It was interesting to read this so soon after the 45th anniversary of the moon landing, because I was talking about this anniversary last night with First Offspring.
‘Imagine,’ I said to him, ‘imagine how excited they would have been, those men on that little spacecraft, when they walked down the ladder and stepped onto the moon, and they looked back at our earth, there in the universe. How amazing would it have been, to see your planet in space, like that?!’
He agreed that it would, indeed, have been amazing.
He is a child of the new technology. Now people have lived in space for months at a time. We’ve watched the space station fly overhead at night. I told him how incredible this event was, that parents got their children up in the middle of the night to watch it happen on TV.
But what I think about mostly, when I’m reminded of this moment, is the image of our planet, our blue, beautiful, alive planet, there in the universe, with all the other worlds and stars stretching out in every direction, and I do feel a sense of lost opportunity after this event, four and a half decades ago. It could have been an opportunity for us to really look at the world differently. Here we were, so isolated! All we had, so far, was each other.
So why can’t we see that?
The blog post I read mentioned the way in which Buddists in Burma have been attacking and killing Muslims in ongoing sectarian violence. I remember hearing about this; it is a tragic issue which has been ongoing, but seems to be gaining momentum in recent months. In a related article, Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield explained that he had seen the way in which some monks were inciting fear and distrust of the Rohingya Muslim minority, and that despite the teachings of Buddha focussing on peace and respect, the day-to-day life of the Burmese emphasised the devotional, rather than carrying out the Buddhist doctrine in more practical ways. Thus, those who would inflict injury upon and even kill others who are different—a threat—are able to garner public support, which leaves the minority with little option but to fear for their lives, or flee.
And that brings me to the recent fighting in Gaza. And oh, how I lament this latest conflict, as well! I worry about the people who are suffering and dying; I worry about the seeds of distrust and extremism which are sown during these exchanges of gunfire and bombs. I worry about the conditions in which the children are growing up, even when there is a ceasefire. Here, too, there is propaganda and there are half-truths, and all that anyone can agree on is that people are being killed, daily.
When I was talking to First Offspring about the moon landing, we also talked about the sun. We talked about how the earth rotates on its axis, and how it also navigates the sun as well, and that at some point in the very, very distant future, the sun would die. We talked about space travel, and how huge was the number of years before our planet would disappear. We talked about evolution and what might happen to people, to plants in that time. How exciting that might be! How different! Where might we live, what might we look like?
He’s seven, so all these possibilities are intriguing and fantastical. He wonders about the future of humanity and to what heights it might rise, to meet the challenges it faces.
I’m thirty-eight, so I think about the next few million years, and I wonder if we are even going to make it that far. I wonder, when we spend so much of our time, resources and energy on fighting each other because of a religion, or because of our idea of a god, or because of land, or oil, or diamonds, or money, how will we survive? As we look back at almost fifty years ago, when we first began to realise our place in space, as massively wonderful and frightening as that was, could we not benefit from trying to share the perspective of those men on our moon, looking back at our world? Seeing one world, with all its life?
Perhaps with all the everyday struggles, whether it’s walking for hours to fetch fresh water, or running out of coffee, whether it’s mourning a death, or missing the bus, we have no time for such perspective. We are so focussed on details, we can’t see the big picture. We can’t think of the world in the vastness of space, we can’t even realise how lucky we are, to be here on this planet which sustains us.
We can’t look up at the stars and imagine the greatness we could possibly achieve, if only we could just get along with each other.