Grass on Venus

North Korea launched a long-range missile past the island of Okinawa today, ostensibly to launch a satellite, and quite probably as part of their ongoing efforts to develop a better ballistic missile program in conjunction with weapons of mass destruction.

My thoughts on this are a little rambly… to include the question of whether ‘rambly’ is a word.

I stood at the park with my 5 year old around noon, watching picture perfect clouds stacked in different layers coasting across the blue sky. He climbed on all the playthings at the park, and then I gave him a ride home on my back, listening to him laugh with delight.

 

The Dude on a recent trip to the park
 
I recently played a bunch of Fallout 4, exploring a ravaged Boston battered by radiation storms and post-apocalyptic cruelty. Coupled with today’s news, when I looked at those clouds it struck me that it would not take a whole lot to bring the beauty around us crashing down. Some combination of insane or fearless world leaders, political brinksmanship, and powerful weapons–that could do the trick. 

My idealism wants to rail and shout. What sort of madmen would threaten something so pure and peaceful as a 5 year old climbing and playing with abandon on a bright sunny day?

My cynicism knows the horrors wrought by human nature, and my pragmatism understands that I and my family aren’t immune to or protected from events that can shake the world.

For a few minutes, while the Internet connection held, I played a video game for a while. Destiny is a sci-fi, first-person shooter with open areas on several planets in our solar system. My character stood on Venus, killing evil robots and aliens. My 10 year old son recognized the level and watched for a moment, then asked, “Wait a minute! Why is there grass on Venus? It’s super hot. That isn’t right!” 

And that led to a conversation about the far-future, sci-fi dream / hope of terraforming other worlds to make them habitable for humankind. I laughed at the idea, but remembered a recent article suggesting the sort of “colony” we actually could put on Venus (in theory) in the distant future: a suspended cloud city that would rest not too high in the upper atmosphere as to freeze and not too low as to suffer the inhospitable heat.

But with all that comes the realization that this will almost assuredly never happen in our lifetimes. 

So we talked about what it means for humanity to reach for the stars. “Basically, one meteor strike, one nuclear war, one significant enough calamity, and everything ‘human’ ceases to exist. We have this one planet, where every single human has ever lived and, for the near future, will ever live. We don’t want all of that swept away in an instant. People want to spread that risk out a bit.”

Questions of faith arise in our home. Is that like the Tower of Babel? Is that an expression of human arrogance or pride, making more of ourselves than we ought, or not being content with what we have? And how do we reconcile that desire with what the Bible says about the end of the world? 

Oddly enough, my justifiable fear of what we know could likely happen to end the world aligns pretty well with the Bible’s promise of an end to this world–coupled with wars, famines, diseases, and calamities. And that raises challenging questions. 

But I also find great hope–both in what my faith has taught me to expect if/when I see those promises come to pass, and in what the best and noblest expressions of human capacity show us is possible when we put our minds and resources toward fantastic, even ‘impossible’ goals. We’re coming to understand so much about the universe around us. We live in a world surrounded by knowledge and technological miracles compared to just a few decades ago, and that trend is on track to continue for the foreseeable future.

Depending, of course, on the paths we choose.

May our faith in something greater than ourselves and our hope for a better future guide us to always take the path that leads to a park at noon on a sunny day, and maybe even grass on Venus. 

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