Sunday, April 26, 2015

Consider the Cosmos

The 25th anniversary of the Hubble space telescope is being celebrated this April.
As a former teacher I believe it's an event not to be missed.
Wait, I take that back.
As a human being I believe this is an event not to be missed.

You see, the Hubble ranks right up there as one of the most important scientific achievements ever made by mankind.  The, "Hey, Misters Galileo, Newton, and Einstein!  Will you please move over to make room in human history for Hubble!" kind of achievement.
Magnificent is the word that comes to mind.

But that "magnificent" thing was touch and go at first.
Because it looked like after all the billions of dollars spent and decades of toil expended by the best and brightest brains, Hubble was going to be a monumental, catastrophic failure.

You see, something was terribly wrong at the beginning.  The pictures sent back by the mighty telescope were out of focus and fuzzy. Useless.

Epic failure even.

"It was impossible in the first place," they said.
"You eggheads were fools to even try it," they said.
"You idiots wasted all that money!" they said.
"Give it up and go home in shame!" they said.

I remember the derision and jokes in the media.  I recall NASA scientists being referred to as "techno tutkeys."

But the turkeys didn't quit.  Those best and brightest brains persevered through the pain.
And with all the extraordinary truth that Hubble revealed to mankind, maybe that's one of the most valuable truths of all.

Yes, the brains went to work again.
They decided to figure out how to repair it.
But, it turns out that making a service call on a delicate scientific machine the size of a school bus, that happens to be hurtling around the earth at tens of thousands of miles per hour, is not an everyday fix-it.
Yet, after months of mindnumbing brain work and backbreaking practice, the brains sent more brave souls out into space with a plan and a cosmic screwdriver.

Then the incredible photographs sent back to earth by the working Hubble took humankind's breath away.

One universal truth was revealed immediately.
An eternal principle that may not have been expected.

That truth is beauty.

Awe inspiring, incredible beauty.
Throughout the universe, beauty is everywhere.
In Genesis it says, "And God saw everything he had made, and behold, it was very good."
Apparently, "If there is anything beautiful, lovely, or of good report, we seek after these things," doesn't mean just here.

Another truth Hubble declares is that when Father said, "World's I have without number," He wasn't kidding.

Yep, eternal principles. That's what the Hubble sees.

Glorious examples of astounding intelligence.
Systems, plans, precise organizations.
Eternal births and deaths and reorganizations of matter into new stars and galaxies.
Galactic engines spinning billions of stars throughout the universe.

All of it clothed in beauty.

So this is what I see when I look at those incredible pictures.
Evidence of eternal principles everywhere.

Priesthood power.
Worlds without number still being prepared.
God and his infinite love for his children.

It's all there in the Hubble pictures. Look.
Scriptures embodied.

Did Father use explosions to create these things?  I don't know.
I do know that human beings sometimes use explosions in the building of bridges, dams and highways. Usually when they need to move a great deal of material quickly.
I also know that Father is the most masterful mathematician, engineer, artist and astronomer in the universe.  I don't question his methods.

So where do human beings fit into all this mind blowing immensity?

Well, the scriptures also say that among all of God's creations, man is his most magnificent creation of all.
They say we are all children of God.  The one who created all this.  That we are a part of the plan.

Sometimes I've had a little trouble with grasping that eternal truth.
Mainly because looking around at humanity, the word magnificent doesn't always come to mind.
It doesn't always come to mind when I look at myself either.

But once I had an experience that made a great difference to me.
I can't explain it except to say that I know from where the message came. I'd like to testify of it publically.

It happened as I was looking at a favorite coffee table book on space. It was filled with amazing photographs from the Hubble.

I was looking at a photo of deep space.
The Hubble's camera had focused for several days on a single spot of sky that appeared to be completely dark.
After time passed, the dark space filled with spots of light so far away that light hadn't been able to reach the camera with normal exposure.
The lights appeared to be stars.
But the spots of lights weren't stars.
They were galaxies.
Each galaxy containing, among many other things, millions of stars.
All in a spot of dark sky.

I suddenly felt incredibly overwhelmed. Insignificant.

But then came this feeling. This undeniable impression.


Your victories matter. Your personal triumphs over evil, laziness, stupidity, habit, despair, whatever isn't light,  matter.

On this one single planet, in this single solar system, in this single galaxy among billions of others, in this vast universe, whenever you choose truth over error, something is helped.
That was the feeling.

I don't know how or why it helps, but I know it does.
I testify to you of this.

We matter to Father.
He created all this and we are the most precious of it all to Him.

So, in honor of Father's great works, and of the brains, courage and perseverence of a few of His most magnificent creations, "google" the Hubble website and be prepared to be awed.

Maybe have a kid sit beside you when you do.
Be awed together.

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Friday, April 17, 2015

Gospel Truth Found in the Strangest Places

I'm a movie fan.  Of some movies that is.
I  hate to admit this because I'm sure my time could be better spent doing something else.
But I'm a sucker for old classics, musicals, and anything Disney.  And sometimes the occasional newer romantic comedy.

And as far as the old classics are concerned, "They don't make 'em like they used to," is more than just an old saying.

Thank heavens that Cary Grant, Gregory Peck, John Wayne, James Stewart, Sydney Poitier, and Gary Cooper will always be there for us on film.
(Larry says don't forget Maureen O'Hara and Sophia Loren, but what does he know.)
They don't make old classics like them anymore for sure.

I generally prefer old movies for other reasons too.
For one thing it's distressing that so many of today's films are rife with meaningless sex and violence.
I've decided that I refuse to be entertained by violence, cruelty, or meanness. So all mean movies are out for me even if they are PG. Someone once commented that those types of films show life in all its gritty reality. Well, flowers are just as real as sewers and I'd rather spend my time with them.
And as far as sex is concerned, today's film makers don't know beans about it anyway.

In my opinon, the sexiest scene ever filmed is the one in "Friendly Persuasion."
It's a movie about a Quaker family during the Civil War.
Gary Cooper and Dorothy Malone play a devoted and long married couple. She's a Quaker minister.
One day they had a rare but major disagreement. She leaves in a huff to take up residence in the barn. Later, after sending the children to bed, a lonely and mostly apologetic Gary heads out to take her an extra pillow and blanket.

The steamy sex scene shows a dimly lit barn with a horse quietly munching oats. An obviously still miffed Dorothy is seated, arms crossed, atop a quilt that covers a deep pile of fresh straw. Stacks of baled hay sit beside her making a makeshift headboard and night table, complete with lantern and Bible.

A hopeful Gary enters and says something inane about the weather. He tentavively makes his way to her side. He stands there quietly and then taps his toe gingerly on the edge of the covered straw. He's testing for comfort.

That's all you see.
A close up of Gary's boot gently tapping on the blanket.
Then the scene fades to dawn the next morning.
The sun is just coming up behind the barn. The two of them are walking with arms around each other, loaded with pillows and quilts, slowly making their way back to the house.

You need to be married to appreciate what happened here. And you need a good imagination too.
Well, I've been married 50 years and I can still imagine plenty.
Yes, indeed. A very sexy scene to be sure.
And all those poor, misguided people who think "twerping or whatever it's called" is sexy should watch "Friendly Persuasion" to see the real deal.

And then if the "twerps" want to learn about sexy dancing they should check out Lauryn Bacall.
In one of those iconic Bogey and Bacall movies she does the sexiest dance ever filmed. It's been remembered for more than half a century.
There she is, fully dressed in a modest suit, covered from neck to wrist to knees. She then moves ever so slightly, almost demurely, to Hoagy Carmichael's jazz piano as she makes her way across the room. There's a haunting look on her lovely face.

And while movies are usually just entertainment,  I've noticed something special that happens every now and then.
Once in a while I'm surprised to find that a gospel principal has been illustrated in a film.
Just yesterday I watched Disney's "Saving Mr. Banks" and found one.

"Saving Mr. Banks" tells the story of the making of the movie "Mary Poppins." Walt really had a time getting that beloved film produced due to obstacles put in place by the author of the books.  It took him 20 years of persuasion. Seems there was a heap of emotional baggage along with a spoonful of sugar in that magic bag Mary carried around all her life.

You see, the book is really based on the childhood experiences of the author, P.L. Travers. It alludes to her family, and her beloved but alcoholic father.

In the movie there's a scene where Bert, a cockney chimney sweep, is talking with the children about their often absent and distant father. The children tell Bert that their father doesn't love them.   He disagrees.  The conversation then takes a turn to a discussion about living things in cages.

Bert says to the children, "Well, I never do likes to see any living thing locked up in a cage.  But then you knows of course, cages comes in all sizes and shapes, don't they."

Mr. Bank's cage was money and ambition.   Mrs. Travers father was locked in a bottle.
Cages do indeed come in all sizes and shapes, but all of them, no matter the kind, are very, very sad.
And, have you noticed that when it's a father or mother that gets locked up, sometimes the whole family gets locked up with them. Sadly, sometimes it's a life sentence for everybody.

I think Heavenly Father hates to see his children in cages too. He's often tried to warn us about them.

Then too, I remember a scene from African Queen.
Of course you know the story of the lady missionary, Rose, reluctantly rescued by the scruffy, supply boat captain, Charlie.  It's the beginning of the first world war. After a series of preliminary events the two of them find themselves on a mission to help their country and the cause of freedom.  It's an impossible mission. They set out to sail down an unnavigable river to a lake to destroy an enemy ship. No sane person would ever attempt it. Certain death awaits them many times over. They encounter all sorts of obstacles from enemy gunfire to raging whitewater.

Finally both of them end up struggling waist deep in the swamp, hacking through the reeds and actually pulling the boat through the muck and mire.

The gospel scene opens with Bogey lying on the bottom of the boat, spent, sick and exhausted near to death. Rose is on her knees, praying. In her prayer, which she believes is her last, she tells Father that they've done everything they possibly could but have failed in their mission to help. She asks forgiveness for their sins and asks Father to welcome them home. She dissolves in a heap.

The gospel truth turns up at the start of the next scene.

Upriver it begins to rain. A deluge even.  It's the start of the seasonal monsoon. Floods swell the waters flowing downriver, surrounding the boat carrying the unconscious pair. The boat rises and begins to move. Eventually Bogey awakes to discover that they are only a few feet from the lake!

It was only after they did all they could that Heavenly Father stepped in.
He could have sent the rains earlier, after all. He knew how it would turn out in the end. But He waited until they had contributed all that was in their power to give first.

What do the scriptures say? "For we know that it is by grace we are saved, after all we can do."

Yes, indeed.
Sometimes eternal principles turn up in the strangest places, don't they?