Sometime while this nation slept (well, I was sleeping; maybe you're the kind of person who stays awake for this sort of thing), a new rover named Curiosity landed on Mars after what the morning news called 'seven minutes of terror' - apparently, the time it took from atmospheric entry to surface landing, the minutes where nobody knew if it was going to make it or crash hard. Now that it's landed, it can start looking for signs of life on the Red Planet. What may have been. What is. What might be possible.
Is there life out there?
Then I watched a bit more of the news, and it was heartbreak after heartbreak. An ex-military man opened fire in a Sikh temple, killing six worshipers. Turmoil in Syria continues as a dictator clings to whatever small power he holds at the cost of thousands of lives. Wildfires, severe storms. Drought, excessive heat. Children locked in hot cars. Families without food to eat. Young people shot. This is just this morning's news, but if we're being honest...it's not news any more. It just is.
But it makes you wonder:
Is there life down here?
NASA admitted they aren't looking for little green men; what they want to see is some sign of organic compound, some trickle of water that would confirm for them that life there was possible. There are a lot of people here looking for the same thing. Looking for some evidence that life is possible. Some hope that something here can support them, that something is holding them up in this universe, that there's enough breath to sustain them.
Yet we're content to push them aside for the chance to glimpse some other world we've no chance of touching. We're thrilled about touching down on Mars when so many of us have failed to touch down on Earth. We've failed to engage this planet, to dig around, to search for what life means and figure out what that means for us.
I know because I'm looking around and we're missing your gifts. And we're missing mine. I'm not proud of it, but I know in my heart, I'm not living up to all God put in me.
It's not about excuses; we all have plenty of those. They're easier the more distant the problem seems to be. I'm not in Syria; are you? I wasn't worshiping at a Sikh temple yesterday; how about you? I'm not holding the integrity of Olympic badminton on my shoulders, not beating back a wildfire, not pigging out in front of a hungry family. I'm watching the technological feat of a group of scientists landing on Mars, and some days, that's as close as I feel I can get to the headlines.
This is our fifth journey to Mars, and all we've ever done is look. Look for life. Look for signs of what maybe used to be (we hope). (I've yet to figure out why except to say that it might be cool; the practicality of such a search eludes me.) It takes a year to get there, and we don't know how to get back. Imagine what you and I could do in a year's time for life here. Not usually in the headlines, but more often in the breadlines and the deadlines. For life we have known existed, know exists now. What if we held our breath and prepared for landing, putting our feet down here and touching this ground, then set ourselves ready to roam. What we could do if we were searching for signs of what used to be, if we were searching for Eden.
It's cool to see what Curiosity is doing. It's neat to see pictures from our neighbor, the Red Planet, and see a world that (in case you've forgotten), God also created but doesn't seem to have been touched by the pain and the trials of this one. It's cool. I'll give it that. But it's more to see the pictures of our neighbors, the people here around us that (in case you've forgotten), God also created but have been ravaged by the pain and the trials of this world. It's more...it's Love. And Love leads to all kinds of better things - mercy. Grace. Peace. God.
Maybe one day, Curiosity will tell us whether there's life out there. In the meantime, I pray we can engage and discover...is there life down here? And what are we doing to bless it?