Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote: “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”
I thought of that quote in light of the recent landing of a new rover on the surface of Mars.
The Perseverance Rover landed safely and has now begun its mission to uncover past, microbial life on Mars. This kind of exploration is truly amazing. Who would have thought such a thing would be possible only a short time ago? It is another step in humanity’s journey beyond the confines of our own planet.
And yet there are detractors from this kind of exploration and, if I’m completely honest, I would probably count myself among them. At least to some degree.
2.7 billion dollars. That’s how much the Perseverance Rover has cost to date. Those who work in space exploration say that this isn’t actually that much in the context of this kind of science. But, to me, that’s a huge chunk of change. And it begs the question: Is that the best use of so much money given the calamities we are dealing with right here on earth?
There is also a spiritual side to all of this, too.
From a faith perspective, we have long since moved beyond the idea that the earth is the only creation of God where there is life. God’s universe is simply too big to make such an arrogant assumption.
The next hurtle to get past, I believe, is the idea that life elsewhere necessarily resembles us.
I have no doubt that the Perseverance Rover will find fossilized microbes. Maybe even living microbes. And that will point to past life on Mars; organic life that we would recognize. But are there other kinds of life? Ones that are closer to home?
When I begin my confirmation class session on death and dying, I ask the youth this question: “Where were you before you were here?” There is a lot of speculation about what happens to us after we die. The Christian tradition is full of theologies about this. But we don’t often talk about what came before; before we arrived here. I think it is a good way to start the discussion about life beyond its physical form.
The Perseverance Rover isn’t looking for life beyond its physical form but I have to wonder what we might discover if we devoted 2.7 billion dollars to at least looking into this realm.
As followers of the one who died and rose again, we believe that there is another realm beyond this one and that Christ creates a bridge between the two. Christian mystics down through the ages have assured us that such a realm exists. Call it heaven. Call it God. Call it the pure self. Call it source of all love. Call it what you will, but something exists beyond the physical. Our faith is based on it. And the doorway to that realm exists, not on distant planets, but within who you are.
You don’t need a rover to search for new life. It is within you and around you in holiness out of which you were created. You only need some quiet time to go inward in prayer to locate that cord that keeps you forever safely tethered to the divine from which you come.
Something to think about this Lenten season…