universe that is expanding at an ever-increasing rate, and our political/social worlds that are contracting seemingly day-by-day in bizarre, irrational ways. While it is true that these two opposing forces are always at work, there appear to be periods in history when our human experience of the collision is experienced and felt more strongly. And this is one such time.
For example, the big news this week -- the really big news -- was the announcement by NASA of a discovery in space. Not too far from our solar system (only 40 light years or 235 trillion miles, which is relatively close, cosmically speaking), seven earth-size planets have been detected as they orbit a dwarf star named "Trappist-1." Furthermore, some of these planets may bloat within the atmospheric conditions known as a "habitable zone," meaning there may be oceans, and oxygen that could make possible the photosynthesis of plants, and life-forms of greater or lesser development than our own.
This immense discovery "out there" in space comes at an interesting moment when we also turn our attention to the Academy Awards and one movie in particular, "Hidden Figures." This movie unveils not only the technology that made possible our rush into outer space, but also the human drama playing out within our "inner space." We are made to see our constricted world of racism, gender bias, and the patriarchal ideology of white male superiority and privilege.
The story of the movie, based upon the historical events of the early 1960's, pulls us into the world of NASA at that time when the engineers are struggling to send John Glenn into space. It is an untold story that surprises us still when the unannounced heroes of that competitive race with the old Soviet Union to explore space turn out to be three black females who solve the complex math and physics problems while shouldering the indignities of discriminating harassment. Go figure! And just as we are pulled within that ugly world of our nation's shadow side, we are ultimately lifted up with the portrayal of courage, integrity, competence, and the human capacity to reach toward the stars.
It is a wonderful thing when we see old prejudices collapse, old barriers which separate us crumble, old beliefs which dehumanize us proven wrong with facts that demonstrate who we truly are. We feel uplifted when we connect with others in a vision that pulls us upward toward a shared destiny. For this is the way of our universe. How interesting that the movement continues toward further expansion, perhaps infinitely, but an expansion that seems to draw out the best within us in the service of realizing how our individual differences contribute to a greater good for all -- but only if we value the unique contributions each one can make.
Meanwhile, back on planet earth in Washington, D.C., within the White House, announcements this week seemed to be of another order. The view of the world from within that nationalistic compound continues to contract. Little is left to the imagination of the kinds of people chosen for leadership positions. Their role is to draw the walls of would-be fortress America even closer. Deportations in ease, terrorize neighborhoods, fracture families, reduce the needed work force here at home; transgendered people are left in a maze of dwindling support for their painful, challenging transitions to the inner identities with which they were born; capable students and leaders of our educational, civics, industrial, and scientific work are denied entry to our country; certain people of certain geographical locales and religions are automatically barred from immigration status, while those already in the process are left in a state of limbo; the media and those responsible judicial authorities who question, or want to question executive and congressional leaders are denied access or avoided by extreme measures; ties with authoritarian governments are left unexplained, etc.
But all of that is just some of what is happening here in the United States. We are not alone. Nationalism appears to be rampant across the globe. Our U.S. nationalism pops up on the world stage with a strong tilt toward the right end of our political spectrum, baptizing the pseudo-patriotic policies, laws, and xenophobic every-day life in a fog of religious fundamentalism, stereotypical prejudice, corporate greed, a self-righteous condemnation of business, health, environmental and social justice regulations, celebrated in an orgiastic euphoria of temporary spikes in the stock market.
It is a sad thing to see our hard-won way of life and ideals collapse in an contracted world-view of fear and intimidation. We know that all offs will suffer, even more so the poorest of the poor among us, as well as our institutions, and our ideal of a country serving as a light for the world with the human rights of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
Be mindful, however, that just as there is an expansion of outer space which no nationalism can deter, there is also an inner space whiten dictator or bully can diminish. In fact, I think that thief we connect with here in this expanding inner space makes possible the eventual power to bring an end to our dehumanizing contracting world. How could intuit be so that as we descent into the core values of our soul, that sacred nucleus from which the spiritual and beautiful and healthy life germinates, those ideals reach up toward the stars and that human destiny for which all human beings yearn.
Or, more simply stated, as the Gospel of Thomas quotes Jesus:
The Kingdom is within you and it is outside of you. But if you
will not know yourselves, you dwell in poverty and it is you who
are that poverty.
The Kingdom of God will not come by waiting for it. It will not
be a matter of saying, "Here it is" or "There it is." Rather, the
Kingdom ... is spread out upon the earth, and men do not see it.
(Gospel of Thomas LOG.3 and 113)