NH-Pluto-color-NewHorizons-20150713

The scientific community celebrated this week as an unmanned probe flew close enough to Pluto to take clear pictures of the planet.

But some were asking the question: Why spend money on the space program?

People here on Earth are hungry, they say. We need real-world projects funded. For instance, almost half the population of India and over a million Americans live without indoor plumbing.

How can we justify space exploration when so many problems exist here on the planet?

Like so many things we can’t explain to naysayers, it really is a leap of faith.

In my teen-age years, I spent some time as part of a Pentecostal church. On Sundays, there was quite a lively service, complete with congregants “speaking in tongues” and getting “slain in the spirit.”

Often, I’d look to my left and right, and see people in pews with heads tilted back, and they were just gone. They had a faraway look, and, if you spoke to them at that moment, they wouldn’t have been able to hear you.

What were they looking at?

This summer, the Grateful Dead will hold its final tour. The fans can’t always put it into words, but the swaying of their bodies and the joy on their faces says it all. The band speaks for them with their music. Troubles are put aside, and everyone agrees to get along and get lost in the moment.

What are they hoping to find?

We’re all looking for something that gives life meaning. Connection, community, kinship. Purpose, passion, promise. That place in the world where you feel at home. That place inside where you feel hope.

“We explore because we are human and we want to know. I hope that Pluto will help us on that journey,” said Stephen Hawking.

In other words, if we reach for the stars, we might find out something about ourselves in the process. We’re not so much traveling far into space as we are deep into the soul.

What are we looking for?

Does it matter? As long as we keep the faith and keep looking, with anticipation, the journey really is the destination.

Advertisements