Then the LORD said: Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will pass by. There was a strong and violent wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD—but the LORD was not in the wind; after the wind, an earthquake—but the LORD was not in the earthquake; after the earthquake, fire—but the LORD was not in the fire; after the fire, a light silent sound. — 1 Kings 19: 11-12
This Sunday is the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time. The readings can be found here. August 2014 is an interesting time in history. The front pages are filled with wars and violence throughout the world but especially in the Middle East. Syria is descending into chaos. Violence continues to escalate in the Holy Land. In Iraq, Christians are being persecuted and the genocide of the Yazidi people is a real possibility.
This month is also the centennial of the start of World War I. This incredibly bloody and futile war is emblematic and what happens when human hubris, tribal identities (to the exclusion of other members of our human family) and raw greed combine with advanced technologies.
However, there is hope. Many of the same countries that caused millions of deaths in World War I, are now members of the European Space Agency, which is the organization behind the Rosetta Spacecraft which arrived at the Comet “Chury” this week. This amazing feat of scientific and interpersonal cooperation among countries and cultures is a sign of what can be accomplished when people set aside tribal differences and work together towards a common goal on behalf of all humankind.
This week’s reflection comes from Brian Coyne, editor of the Australian website Catholica on his thoughts of the Rosetta Spacecraft. You can find his full article here but set forth below is an extended excerpt:
“In the last few days this radio telescope has been in the news as it was the prime communication link to the Rosetta spacecraftwhich, after an incredible journey of 10 years has just reached its target — a rendevous with the Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. What has been achieved is an incredible feat of precise science that, in the coming year or so will help “reveal clues to the origins of the solar system, our home planet and life itself”.
In so many ways this space rendevous with a tiny comet so distant from us is an incredible achievement not just for the scientists, engineers and technicians involved but for all of humankind.
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What I find so incredible about this achievement is the incredible precision involved in navigating this spacecraft to what is almost a pin point in space after a journey of billions of kilometres. It’s not only the precision though, it’s the fact that ten years ago the scientists could predict a decade ahead where the Comet would be in the solar system and they could plan for the experiments that will take place in the year or so ahead. Most of this was achieved within the constraints of what we call Classical Physics — the stuff we first learned from likes of Isaac Newton 400+ years ago. But, here’s the “but” … also in our newspapers and media today we cannot end the wars in the Middle East, the Ukraine and in Africa. We cannot predict with the same precision who will win the next election, or whether the present uncertainty and insecurity in the world will lead to World War III or whether it will all end peacefully. Few of us can predict with certainty what state we’ll be in in another ten years’ time.
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This is the great paradox of life: yes we can predict with incredible accuracy where a tiny comet might be positioned anywhere in the solar system years, decades or even centuries in advance, yet we cannot predict with certainty where we’ll be even in days or months in advance. . .
What’s the difference? I think the difference is that compared to an icy comet orbiting the sun, we human beings can think. But we also have the freedom to think irrationally as well as rationally. What keeps getting in our way are our great big fat egos and our fears, anxieties and insecurities. The great, perhaps single greatest, challenge all of us human beings face is the challenge of transcending or controlling our egos, and our insecurities, and learning to think rationally and intelligently. How do we learn to do that?