Somewhere over in academia they are presenting papers and arguing over the meaning of the word “human.” Designers of computers will argue that computers and other machines are alive. Ray Kurzweil is yearning for the moment when he finally gets to download his mind onto a floppy disk. Well, not a floppy disk because as everyone knows, that technology is so over. But he will get to download it so it can be uploaded again and again, which is oddly reminiscent of Leave It To Beaver reruns.
Several years ago, I visited the website for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and got this update on the Voyager spacecraft, “The twin Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft continue exploring where nothing from Earth has flown before. In the 33rd year after their 1977 launches, they each are much farther away from Earth and the Sun than Pluto.”
On the spacecraft is a gold plaque that contains various pieces of information (placed there by the scientist and deceased atheist, Carl Sagan). Etched upon the plaque is, among other things, a pulsar charter that locates our solar system in the galaxy. And also depicted are a naked man and woman. The woman has her hands down to her side and the man seems to be standing next to a surfboard. According to Sagan and the committee to contact extraterrestrials, they are waving hello or welcome.
Besides giving away the coordinates to our fragile planet to any enemy in the universe who might wish to visit and destroy us, Carl and company assumed that aliens know the difference between waving hello and gesturing “stop.” In fact, of course, a human being could not distinguish between those signals by the mere gesture of raising one’s hand, palm outward, unless there were a narrative context by which one could make such a determination. Hence it is quite conceivable that Carl Sagan, scientist and intergalactic communicator, illustrator and part-time mime, has called upon all aliens to stop, take off their clothes and go surfing. And the cultured despisers of religion accuse the religious of interpretive ambiguity!
In the fourth century the North African bishop Aurelius Augustine wrote something that has traversed space and time to reach us. He wrote, “It is our own selves that we are incapable of comprehending; it is our own selves, who, in our too great height and strength, transcend the humble limits of our own knowledge.” Every experience, every encounter, is a trip past Pluto.
On to a “new” year then. Welcome. Stop. And join us in the sanctuary as we consider the message sent by the Holy, Just and Loving God of the cosmos to all humankind.
~ See You Sunday.