New Horizons Encounters Pluto
This week, mankind will witness something truly remarkable. The NASA New Horizons Spacecraft will have a historic encounter with Pluto, and in the process, beam back the most detailed pictures of the dwarf planet we have seen to date. Previous to this event, our understanding of Pluto was limited to rudimentary pictures taken from Earth and space-based telescopes.
Understanding Pluto at the edge of the solar system, or something deep within ourselves, depends upon our perspective – the lens through which we choose to view –and an ability to accept and embrace paradox.
Our Place in the Universe
Since the beginning of time, mankind has looked towards the heavens, and wondered about our place within them.
Exploration of our universe is one of the hallmarks of mankind. Several years ago, I had the opportunity to travel with a group of urologists to South Africa on a People to People Exchange. While in Johannesburg, we visited the Origins Centre at the University of Witwatersrand. The Origins Centre is a state of the art exhibit that explores the evolution of human life and our species’ collective journey toward modern man.
While at the exhibit, I viewed pictures and drawings of ancient rock art that spoke deeply to me. The pictures were painted tens of thousands of years ago by the ancestors of the modern San People. They are some of the earliest examples of mankind attempting to understand and connect with the spirit world.
At that moment, it occurred to me, that while many things have changed over the centuries, one thing has remained the same. On some level, we are all trying to understand and connect with the spirit world, or Ultimate Reality.
Over time, humans have tried to understand and explain the spiritual world through the lenses of countless belief systems and religions, including the Western religions of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. Each of these traditions has provided a unique and helpful point of view, or lens, from which we can begin to understand Ultimate Reality.
Much has been made about the differences between these religious traditions. In my own life, I find these traditions complement, rather than compete with one another.
While the above statement may seem paradoxical, life is full of paradoxes. For example, on one hand, Pluto in Greek mythology was God of the underworld. On the other hand, the New Horizons spacecraft recently took this picture of what appears, to many, as a large heart-shaped object upon the dwarf planet’s surface.
Similarly, physicists tell us the light that we see reflected from Pluto behaves like a wave, and simultaneously, like a particle. Finally, our country chooses to spend millions of dollars on space exploration at a time when there are so many unmet needs within our own communities.
One of the greatest challenges for humanity, it seems, is to live comfortably in a world filled with paradoxes.
Spirituality Exploration in the Modern World
Like Pluto, I believe the spirit world calls to us, waiting to be explored. It has attempted to do this throughout human history in many, many different forms.
The technology that has brought many of us together via social media, and allows us to see the latest images of distant Pluto, can paradoxically distract us from our own inward spiritual journey and exploration.
I believe, in the modern age, if we seek to experience Ultimate Reality, it is necessary to regularly set aside time to turn away from our cellphones, computers, and other digital technology.
When we routinely take the time to close our eyes, and quiet our minds, we begin an inward exploration. Regardless of the lens we use, this experience teaches us about ourselves and each other. When we choose to be quiet, it opens the door for a spiritual experience where we have an opportunity to more fully understand and connect with Ultimate Realty through Love. In this regard, there is a lot that we can learn from our ancestors.