running the numbers

    “To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is a something that our mind cannot grasp and whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly and as a feeble reflection, this is religiousness.” (Albert Einstein)


    When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what are mere mortals that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? (Psalm 8:3,4)


    Ginger’s on vacation, so my Sunday morning has meant time for reading my Utne Reader. Go get you one. The current issue is awesome.

    Anthony Doerr writes a short article refleting on this deep space image taken by the Hubble Telescope.

    Doerr puts words to the picture’s significance:

    Here’s a way of looking at it: There are enough stars in the universe that if everybody on Earth were charged with naming his or her share, we’d each get to name a trillion and a half of them.

    Another article in the same issue is called “Running the Numbers” and shows the work of artist Chris Jordan as he seeks to humanize the overwhelming statistics of our existence. Every thirty seconds, for example, Americans discard 106,000 aluminum cans. Jordan took an equal number of cans and created a reproduction of George Seurat’s, “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.”

    Here’s a close up of the detail:

    In the middle of the issue are two or three features calling aging baby boomers to action. (Hey! That’s me!) We, the generation that thought we were going to change the world a generation ago, now have the experience and resources to do it. They call us to mentoring, to reflection, to community, to action. Perhaps we begin by gazing into the night sky and then pulling our eyes down to see the cans that need to be picked up. The dance between the wide expanse of the universe and our narrow slice of experience is what we were created to do.



    1. Hey fellow boomer! Thanks for the nudge towards Utne. They’re absolutely right. We did think we could change the world and we still can. We have far greater resources through the internet. I’m getting myself geared up to try harder. Glad to have the company.

    2. That is quite a mosaic of cans. Of those discarded cans I wonder how many are recycled?

      And for the record, we can’t even get Squirt in South Carolina.

    3. I perceive a Moxie gap here…

      You are right that we are now, finally, ready to make a difference. Do we still have the energy for it, he asked rhetorically.

    4. Yeah, the deep field photo. That one will torque your mind if you give it a chance. That’s one inch of night sky, if I remember correctly. 400 billion stars in our galaxy, and more galaxies in an inch of sky than you can count.

      I read that at its present speed Voyager 1 will reach our nearest star neighbor (you know, one close to us in our outer spiral arm of the Milky Way) in about 70,000 years. Voyager 1 is the fastest human made vehicle in existence.

      Um, that’s a helluva long way. The speed of light is one big flaming sword, barring the way to the tree of life. Whatever is going on out there, God has got a pretty good quarantine system going.

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