61 Days: Stars

I the Preacher have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. And I applied my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven. It is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind.

What is crooked cannot be made straight,and what is lacking cannot be counted.

I said in my heart, “I have acquired great wisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me, and my heart has had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.” And I applied my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is but a striving after wind.

For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.

Ecclesiastes 1:12-18 (ESV)

The Voyager 1 spacecraft’s 35th anniversary is proving to be unexpectedly exciting, as scientists gathered this week to examine new hints that the spacecraft is on the verge of leaving our solar system.

Voyager 1 is now more than 11 billion miles away from Earth. It blasted off in September 1977, on a mission to Jupiter and Saturn. But it also carried a Golden Record filled with music and the sounds of our planet, in case it encountered intelligent life as it moved out toward the stars.

Scientists have been eagerly waiting for Voyager 1 to become the first human-made object to leave the solar system. And in recent weeks, the spacecraft has sent back intriguing signs that it might be getting close, to the delight of researchers who have been working on it for decades.

-Nell Greenfieldboyce
“After 35 Years, Voyager Nears Edge of Solar System” (Sept. 5, 2012)
NPR.org

Most weekday mornings, I get up early enough to leave home by five, pick up my son who lives nearby, and then go to the gym to workout together. This time of year especially, it’s still dark when I open the garage door. Usually, I step outside for a minute and look up at the sky. The front of my house faces south, so if the sky is clear, I can see a fair number of stars, including the constellation Orion.

I don’t know why I look for it, except I can remember different times in my life, different “eras” in decades gone by, when I would look up at the night sky and recognize that constellation. I suppose it gives me some sense of continuity across my personal history.

It also reminds me of how incredibly small I am.

I intellectually understand how far away the planets and stars are, (I once, very briefly, considered a career in Astronomy) from millions of miles to untold light years, but to actually, experientially grasp the distances, even for a moment, is a staggering feat. I know we have robots on the surface of Mars, and Mars is relatively close to Earth, but if I had to walk such a distance; if I have to travel across the emptiness of interplanetary space, how lonely and isolated I would feel. Imagine yourself somehow traveling with Voyager 1 as it prepares to exit the official confines of our solar system and, setting aside the fiction of Star Trek or Star Wars for a moment, try to comprehend just how far away you would be from everything you know and love…

…except God.

I was thinking all these thoughts this morning as I lay awake in bed around 3 o’clock. I don’t know what brought it to mind. I had a bit of a headache, which is unusual for me, particularly in the morning. Perhaps it was something I had dreamed that disturbed me in some way.

My blog and blog comments periodically come to the attention of a few Internet trolls and, in their self-importance, they find it necessary to be disagreeable (only excusing their rudeness and hostility by calling it “debating” or even some form of “loving”). It’s certainly unsettling to be treated badly by those who also claim the cause of Christ (such as being openly maligned by name on their blogs without so much as a “by your leave”) and I won’t pretend it doesn’t bother me, but then, I stop and realize that it doesn’t really matter.

Oh, of course people matter. I don’t want to suggest that I don’t care about others and their well-being, but what I realize is that there are a few unhappy, or grumpy, or insecure people out there who have to try to suck joy out of the lives of others in a quixotic quest for significance in the blogosphere. It’s their behavior that inspired my Days series where I have been examining the idea of abandoning this blog and perhaps all Internet social media by the end of the calendar year.

So far (and I haven’t made a final decision yet), I’m deciding against giving up. First of all, my trollish critics are few in number, even though they can occasionally make a loud “noise” (like a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal). Secondly, far more people have been encouraging of me, both publicly and “backchannel,” than these two or three “curmudgeons” have been discouraging of me (though they aren’t curmudgeons in terms of years, merely in attitude).

I had thought about making this particular “meditation” today’s morning meditation, but passed it off as random thoughts of the night, deciding that Re-entry was a more worthy topic. But since the trolls have been active today, I decided I’d write this to clear my head of them and to realize that, in our human smallness, what happens from day-to-day in a small collection of blogs among a minority expression of Christianity doesn’t really matter. It’s certainly not worth my peace of mind.

As I said, I’m currently leaning toward continuing this “morning meditation” blog past January 1st, but I also think I’ll institute a tighter set of controls for comments. There haven’t been any really rude comments here for a while, but I anticipate they may return. In the past, in the interests of being fair, I’ve allowed a significant amount of abuse (in the guise of “debate” or being “loving”) in the comments people have posted on my blog, but that is likely to change. Free speech doesn’t mean “free to abuse” and a blog owner is more of a “benign dictator” than a moderator of democratic speech.

No, I won’t immediately flip over into draconian mode and if I think someone has crossed the line, I’ll serve fair warning first, but beyond that, I feel perfectly content to remove specific comments if they cross the line I set for proper decorum. And on occasion, I will close comments on a specific blog post if things get too heated (I’ve done both in the past). Repeat offenders who are not willing to “take a hint,” or those to engage in severe personal attacks or who use obscenities will be immediately banned.

Consider this my version of putting a wall around the roof of my home so that the safety of my “guests,” (and my own safety) who I consider anyone visiting my blog, (and most visitors don’t post comments) can be ensured.

But as I also said, I haven’t made up my mind yet. I can still pull the plug on life support and consign “morning meditations” to a peaceful, dignified demise. Better that than allowing the trolls to abuse what started out as such a peaceful and uplifting vision to begin each day.

When you awake in the morning, learn something to inspire you and meditate upon it, then plunge forward full of light with which to illuminate the darkness.

There are those who insist in living in darkness and they are not satisfied unless they pull others down into their realm with them. I prefer to soar and glide in the heights, letting the light illuminate my mind, my emotions, and my spirit, like the light of the sun gracefully reflects off of the wings of a dove.

The best response to harsh people is how Buddha responded; with a smile, accepting what was good and uplifting around him and not accepting anything else. I can’t even aspire to be Buddha, let alone Jesus, but I am supposed to emulate my Master so far as it depends on me by “living peaceably with all men.” (Romans 12:18)

Infinite darknessAngry and dissatisfied people are not helpful and are not healthy, for themselves or anyone exposed to them, even over the Internet. To repeat a lesson I continually need to learn…

Today I shall…

…try to improve my response to other people so that I only accept and give gifts of kindness, and not of anger.

Everything that we fuss and feud and argue about won’t really matter in the end. Jesus isn’t going to judge us on who won this blogosphere argument or that, no matter how important we may think they are at the time. They don’t really matter. They aren’t significant. Most of what we do isn’t significant. Staring up at the stars at five o’ clock on a clear autumn morning in Idaho, I realize that against all that vastness, against the stars, the space between me and them, and whatever is beyond, I’m not significant at all…

…except to God.

O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger.
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Psalm 8 (ESV)

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