Cosmic Wonder and Parochial Idols

On our recent trip to Florida we spent a day and a half at the Kennedy Space Center and Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge. Some might think it ironic that this awesome testimony to human ingenuity and aspiration would shelter and safeguard an abundance of the natural, from alligators to snowy egrets.

One aims for the stars, the other for the invisible network of natural symbiosis, but both are built on awe, wonder, and curiosity in the face of cosmic mystery. For both, the human efforts to control, bound, defend, and destroy are subordinated to the desire to see how we can fit in to a web of life we only barely understand.

As we made our way around the Center we heard Russian, German, Spanish, and Chinese, along with other languages. As we watched people working on components of the International Space Station we felt a commitment that goes beyond our ancient conflicts and boundaries.

On the way back I read that Goshen College, a Mennonite institution committed to peacebuilding, had succumbed to playing our national anthem at sports events. I guess the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag will soon follow. I was saddened that just as we are tasting a vision of the unity of earth and its cosmos there are forces of fear and ignorance that want us to return to the tribal religions of nationalism, with their idols of song and cloth.

The unity of technology in the service of life opens up before us, but the chains of ancient passions and limited loyalties still cling to us. I was grateful that there are other windows, other visions, other calls to seek a reconciliation with each other, with our earth, and with this awesome universe.