Unimaginable Innovation

Planetary Nebula NGC 2818 from Hubble  Image Credit: NASA, ESA, Hubble Heritage Team (STScI / AURA)
Planetary Nebula NGC 2818 from Hubble
Image Credit: NASA, ESA, Hubble Heritage Team (STScI / AURA)

For those of you who happened to see the article titled Hubble’s Greatest Hits, by Timothy Ferris, in the April, 2015 National Geographic some of what follows will be redundant. If you did you also saw the images included. If you didn’t you owe it to yourself to seek them out. (ngm.com/more) Zoltan Levay, imaging team leader at the Space Telescope Science Institute has worked with the Hubble’s images since 1993. He provided his ten all-time favorite images for the article.

First of all I can’t imagine how anyone could choose only ten of what must be the most gorgeous and mind boggling collection of images that exists anywhere. And secondly, I find myself completely overwhelmed by the immense distances that they represent. This is time travel! And I admit to wondering if I’m slow on the uptake, or if I just haven’t been paying attention, but we’re talking 300 million light-years away in one particular image. (One light-year equals nearly 6 trillion miles).

I’m certain that my father, who passed away in the early ‘80’s, would never have believed it possible, and he had the opportunity to observe a heck of a lot of innovation in his 83 years. He saw the first automobiles, the washing machine and later the dish washer, the discovery of penicillin and the release of a vaccine for polio, the first commercially available television and the color version which allowed us to follow the Vietnam War in gruesome detail everyday from across the world. And of course he followed the space race and watched the flight of Apollo 11. But this would have been unimaginable.

Did you know that when the Hubble was launched in 1990 aboard the space shuttle Discovery, it faltered? The light-gathering mirror, which was eight feet in diameter, the smoothest large object ever made, had been figured wrong. Being relegated to the cargo bay of the space shuttle, despite the astronomers wishes for bigger and higher, turned out to be the Hubble’s salvation. Had it been launched out of the reach of Discovery it might have become a “billion-dollar blunder”. Instead, in a series of compromises, it was constructed in such a way that components could be replaced or repaired. According to Ferris, it took five shuttle service missions to transform the Hubble into the productive scientific machine it is now.

So, what is my point? That we as a whole and I as an individual are/am a mere blip in time, but rather than causing me to feel that my life is immaterial, this knowledge stirs sensations of connectedness to eons of conscious awareness; that humanity has the potential to create unimaginable innovation; that events are frequently serendipitous and synchronistic, and we all have the choice to follow or not; that following is what leads to unimaginable innovation.

We never know what’s coming next. We’re not supposed to know. We can allow not knowing to cause us anxiety. Or we can trust in eons of conscious awareness to lead us through the darkness.

I’d love to hear from you.

New Beginnings

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Happy spring, and happy Easter to everyone who celebrates!

I love spring, it’s without a doubt my favorite season of the year. Winters here in the Pacific Northwest can be dreary, wet and sometimes cold, but what I struggle with the most is the lack of daylight. Those short and often dark, cloudy days seem to suck the life right out of me.

But spring came early to us here and with its arrival we jumped our clocks forward an hour and voila! It’s light here until at least 7:00 in the evening, and it just gets better from here on. I suspect that we may have a dry, hot summer thanks to climate change, but I will try not to complain. I much prefer long, warm evenings playing by the river with the dogs to arriving home from work in the dark.

My mother loved the coming of spring too. I often spent my Friday’s with her and when the grass began to grow green and the trees gave up their blooms we’d go for drives through Portland just to look at the city in its new spring duds, or drive along Highway 26 toward Forest Grove, past the greening fields and new lambs, and vineyards.

Easter was Mom’s most cherished holiday, which I didn’t realize until I was an adult. I had invited her to a choral concert in which I was to perform and she said, “No, that’s Easter Sunday. It’s the most important holiday of all.” And that was that. As a child we always celebrated Easter with dyed eggs and Easter baskets and big family get-together meals. Living on the Oregon coast Easter eggs were frequently hid inside the house due to the nearly always-inclement weather. It seemed that every year at least one egg would be left unfound, only to eventually reveal itself via its unsavory odor several weeks later. But I never really understood how important the religious message of Easter was to her until the moment of the refused invitation.

Mom passed away on Easter Monday, April 6th 1999, as if she had decided to stay for just one more Easter Sunday. So amid the beautiful trees and tulips and chocolate eggs, Easter holds a little needle of sadness that pokes at my heart from time to time. And then I remember that for her Easter was all about forgiveness and beginning again, and there’s no room for sadness in that.

Happy Easter, Mom