Move over Hubble
Published July 21, 2022
By Lib Campbell
There is a new telescope in town. The James Webb Space Telescope is going far, far away revealing secrets of the universe we have never seen before. James Webb was a North Carolina native son. He was from Oxford in Granville County. Genius comes from many places. So do vision and imagination. How good for the world that James Webb was born.
As I looked at the pictures, I thought about the words of Psalm 8. “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established, what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?” I can’t help but realize how very small I am in the universe.
Since the story of the Garden of Eden, we humans have lived with inflated egos, bloated pride, and rank selfishness. We have been kicked out of more than one place. So what can we learn with this new view of the cosmos of which we are part?
With as much bickering and partisanship as there is in state and federal government, and as much rancor and better-than-thou-man-ship as there is in the church, perhaps we need a little lesson in smallness. Seeing what glory and beauty there is millions of light years away, my petty little life and my even smaller issues, are relatively puny and insignificant.
Is this fragile earth even visible if we were looking from the other end of the Webb Telescope back on ourselves? Our ego is oversized for our place in the scheme of things. That said, how is it we ever think we are more important than another person? How is it we are careless with creation? What do we think the end game of our politics will be?
Pontificating and puffing up are an ego-show that serves no one. Accusing and conspiring and lying only point to how we prop up our personas when we don’t have any other good ideas. Watch the news and get a front row seat on how this world is today. It is dispiriting to say the least.
Mary Oliver, poet extraordinaire, wrote a poem “Summer Day. The last line of the poem is, “What will you do with your one, wild and wonderful life?” While accountability seems to be in short supply these days, we do have to live with ourselves. We live in the skin and walk with the relative ugliness or goodness of our actions. When we have yield our consciences to forces beyond what is good we become no better than the worst of us.
So, thank you, James Webb, for your magnificent contribution! Thank you for awakening thoughts of who we are and what we are created to be. We may be light years away from our best selves, but let us hope we can find enough strength and unity to press on toward the stars.
We are small. We live on a small planet in a fairly small galaxy. And we are hurling through the cosmos with a lot of disregard for one another and for this earth we call home. Money, power, success and all the other trappings of the life we strive for are worth nothing if we scorch the earth on which we walk. Or if we fight each other until there is nobody left with whom to share life, much less pursue happiness. Hopefully this new outer space perspective will awaken a renewed sense of the value of all life. Maybe we will be convicted to make different decisions about how we live together.
Lib Campbell is a retired Methodist pastor, columnist, retreat leader and hosts the blog www.avirtualchurch.com. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org