Friday, November 30, 2012

Walking the Dog on Mars

Lunar Eclipse by Glen Tepke

Some of our most most profound moments arise when we are mindful of the ordinary, everyday happenings in the natural flow of our lives. A wondrous thing can occur when we look with fresh eyes...  we experience reality anew.  An honest and open look may throw us into confusion at first, but then there's always the potential for that "ah" moment when our understanding of nature deepens, and our conceptual world broadens... a moment of profound satisfaction.

That's what happened to me last night as I walked my small pet beagle, and  I looked up at the moon.

I tilted my head, and the shape of the craters and lunar seas took on the form of a rabbit, but that was not the surprise.  I've traveled the southern hemisphere where the rabbit on the moon resides.  I saw myself standing on the surface of the earth, nestled within the thin sliver of blue atmosphere that shelters all life as we know it.  The moon stood far beyond that safety, beautiful, cold and sterile.  The stars around it felt even further, beyond my imaginings...  I experienced a brief moment of fear.  The earth, my very existence, seemed fragile, a tiny sphere lost in an immense universe as lifeless as the moon.

NASA Illustration of Curiosity
How outrageous we humans are, I thought.  Half a century ago some of us went to the moon... how outrageously curious and bold.

It occurred to me that as I stood there, at that very same moment, on the surface of Mars several machines of our making roamed. My eyes scanned the sky for that tiny reddish tinged light in the sky and found it.  I felt a pull on the leash and noticed my dog sniffling around a bush hoping to find something.  There was an excitement to him.

I pictured Curiosity, NASA's latest rover, sniffling here and there, not so different from the efforts of the beagle at my feet.

It was an uplifting feeling, an ah moment, not so much about the moon but about ourselves.  The image of Neil Armstrong climbing down the ladder of the lunar lander stood sharply in my mind.  No matter the cultural and political constraints of the day, I mused, we will always be excitedly searching.  We will always be venturing forth because that is who we are....