Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Like a freshman at the high school dance

One of the things I found most moving about the presentation at the Museum of Science planetarium (see my last post) was information about what astronomers these days are working on.

They are looking at solar systems light years away, which can barely be seen with our best telescopes. But, by following the line of scientific exploration they have been able to translate the tiny amount of information we are able to obtain into facts about the planets there. From those facts they are able to intelligently speculate as to the nature of those planets and the possibility of their ability to sustain life as we know it.

The depth of intelligence in this field is staggering. The very idea that people have had the audacity to imagine that from tiny sparkling pinpoints in the night sky we would be able to intelligently speculate on the nature of the distant universe, is deeply humbling.

Then, to observe that what we are doing with that information is seeking to know if there is life out there. Perhaps it is the obvious thing to wonder. But as I watched this computer-generated illusion of stars whirling around in the dome above me, learning about the tenacity, patience of scientists seeking to learn about such impossibly distant places – I began to have a feeling of how much we want to find someone else out there.

In fact, in a way, we are like a freshman at the high school dance, surrounded by the great unknown, the whirling lights, feeling alone (sound familiar anyone?) and just longing for someone to connect with. We, here on earth, are longing, deeply, to find that we are not alone in the universe. Our scientist are searching, year after year, against impossible intellectual odds, like a needle in a million haystacks, for signs of life beyond ourselves. And they are finding enough to interest them that they continue. What else is there to explain it? We want to find someone to relate to!

I am convinced that as each of us seeks further into our worlds, we are allying ourselves with the great human longing to grow and connect. As we break through our own fears, our boundaries, our small thoughts, we are helping the whole human family do the same. And each time we do, we find more and more to love, to connect with, outside of ourselves.

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