Last month, America returned astronauts to orbit for the first time since 2011 in the first manned flight of Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Ten million people and I around the world watched the launch live. Everyone witnessed the curvature of earth from the space craft.
30 years earlier, American astronomer, Carl Sagan, commented on a picture of Earth, taken from space by the Voyager 1 spacecraft 3.7 billion miles away. The Earth appeared as a “pale blue dot” surrounded by the vastness of space, like a tiny speck of dust caught in a sunbeam. “Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives,” according to Carl.
Sagan also said that “our posturing, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.” And so, it took catching sight of our own place in space to realise that the Earth is the only home we have, and we had better look after it.
As we reflect on the Coronavirus impact in Buckingham, across our nation and globally, it’s hard to believe we’ll return to the normal way of our lives. Some of us will sadly not return to jobs, some of us like me will not see family members, relatives and friends following bereavement. Some of us may endure the long term effects of the illness. Also, the impact and strain on NHS staff and key workers will require ongoing support – for the sacrifices given. Lastly, some tenants and mortgage holders may experience financial difficulties. These are all tough issues to comprehend.
Similarly, it is hard to ignore the impact of the overseas protests and media stories in America, other countries and the UK following the death of George Floyd under arrest. Not dissimilar to other protests / reactions which have gripped our nation in the past. Together, they compound the already existing sad times of uncertainty triggered by Covid-19.
I echo the words of Francis of Assisi, an Italian Friar from the 13th century, for faithful reflection and prayers this month. “Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy”.
When we realise like Carl that earth is a blue dot in the vast cosmos dark of everyone we love, everyone we know, everyone we heard of, every human who ever was, we get a sense of our values and how important we are for each other, as exemplified in the words of Francis. When we consider that, as a global world, we have no privileged position as a planet among many and that in the event of problems no one will come to our assistance, our perspectives become clearer of how important we are for each other for the common good of humanity.
The above reflection brings special context to the bible reading from the 30th and 31st verses of the 12th chapter of Mark’s Gospel: “And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”
Whoever you are and wherever you maybe, you will always be my neighbour and I hope we can be the same for all in our villages and beyond one day at a time.
Reverend Rickey Simpson-Gray
Parish of the Claydons