“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
That was my answer as a little girl and there was nothing else I wanted to do but to go to space, see the stars, meet some friendly galactic neighbours and see the world(s).
But that ambition died real quickly the first time I watched Space Odyssey 2001 – also as a young child. That evil genius HAL scared me much even though I must have barely grasped its intentions but the scene that killed my dreams of space ventures? When the astroanaut Poole drifts off into the deep darkness of space.
That was my first taste of terror.
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My son’s favourite cartoon right now is “Miles from Tomorrowland” where Miles and his family go on epic adventures as they explore space. Matthew’s favourite character from that family? A robo-ostrich named Merc.
To engage Matthew, I ask how he would like to go to space someday and find adventures of his own.
“I dowan!” he exclaims. This child is quite different from me, I decided.
“We can all go together and explore space!” I encourage.
“Oh. You will come with me?”
“Of course! We can pilot our own spaceship and go to see the stars! And find our own Merc!”
Reluctantly, he agrees.
Some 30 years after I first watched Space Odyssey 2001, I’ve learnt not to be frightened of being set adrift in outer space because my chances of actually going there, is zero.
I am both relieved and disappointed.
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“When I was a kid, it felt like they made something new every day. Some gadget or idea, like every day was Christmas.”
This line from Interstellar haunts me.
When I first heard it in the movie, immediately, I decided: He’s talking about us, now. In 2015.
Since then, I haven’t found a reason to think otherwise.
Just the other day, I read this and instead of giving thanks in my heart like I usually do, I think, “How is this possible?”:
And now, they’ve found water on Mars. Liquid, flowing water.
I had grown up reading sci-fi novels built around the canals in Mars. Fact or fiction, I didn’t know then. But they were stories that combined adventure, horror, mythology and science fiction. I loved them all. I devoured them all – hook, line and sinker, if need be.
For decades, space exploration has thrown up little new finds. But suddenly now, there is flowing water on Mars? Some have suggested it’s all a conspiracy, because how do you only now find water just as the Mars Mission is being planned?
Is it that we have access to more information and news sources or is it that there are more discoveries being made everyday now?
It’s like, everyday is Christmas.
And if you haven’t heard me say it before, here it is: I love Christmas; I wish it’s Christmas everyday.
It looks like my wish has come true.
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Why can’t gay people get married?
Why is it wrong to think euthanasia is right?
Are we so sure there are no ghosts… or aliens?
Three fundamental questions. My last stronghold protecting me from the Catholic Church that I found myself aligning to.
The answers: Because of procreation; Because life can only be taken away by the One who gives it; There are but they can be demons and devils rather than souls; The possibility has not been ruled out by the Church.
The Church who talks about life up there has not ruled out the possibility that there is life out there?
So the Vatican Observatory is one of the largest in the world, with telescopes pointing upwards to heaven. The Pope’s astronomer who’s won one of Science’s most prestigious award, the Carl Sagan Award, has captured my imagination whenever he talks about how the pursuit of Science and/or Religion need not, are not, should not be mutually exclusive.
Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno said: “That’s a quote from the letter of St. Paul to the Romans. ‘God reveals himself in the things he has created.’ And so we are called to study the things He created in order to get to know God better. For me personally, when I encounter the physical universe and the way it works, I experience a sense of joy which is that same joy I feel in prayer. It is the presence of God.”
As little as I know about Science or Religion, I know how marvellously wide my worldview expands when I learn about the cosmos… and when I understand that little bit more about the theology of the Catholic Church.
There is room to wonder and lots of space for magic.
And I think to myself for God-knows-how-many-times: When I get to heaven (okay, if I get to heaven…) I need to get my hands on that great big book of answers.
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My husband wants to live forever so he can see the world grow old and how it will change and how the last star will fade.
I don’t wish to live forever so I can see the same things that he desires to witness… from the comfort of my niche in heaven.
—– ♥♥ —–
So what do you want to be when you grow up?
My son’s current answer: A Smokejumper.
—– ♥♥ —–
All things said and considered, I know my time on this Earth will come to pass too, long before the answers to the universe can be found. And so my hope lies with my children.
I pray that by the time he and his sister grow up, there will be space enough for them to explore, discover and embrace new worlds. May their hearts burn ever passionately for what’s awesome and unknown out there, for galaxies and God, universes and truths.
And may it always be Christmas everyday.