Since my family is filled with NASA wogs, I keep half an eye peeled for news from the space program. This week the big news was the installation of an observation window on the International Space Station. This seven-paned, chunky bubble will allow astronauts an amazing view of the cosmos when it is unshuttered (a shutter system will be employed most of the time for safety reasons).
The stated purpose for the window system is direct observation of the robotics area external to the station, but commentators all note that the “beauty” that may be seen through station’s portholes. The headline for the above link is “Nice View! Space Station Gets a Bay Window.”
Some recent postings about aesthetics had put me in a mind to comment on how the aesthetic impulse of beholding beauty was overshadowing the scientific reason for the window’s installation, but when I read the story to the end, I was astounded by something that the reporter included:
“Looking out on the Earth is just inspiring,” said space station resident Timothy “TJ” Creamer. In fact, it’s the crew’s No. 1 pastime in the off hours — at least it was before the Internet came aboard [my emphasis]. Now “we can actually surf the Internet and find diversions,” Creamer told schoolchildren in a TV hookup this week. . . . “First thing I did on internet? Order my wife some flowers,” commander Jeffrey Williams wrote in his online Twitter account.
I can’t help but find a parable in this: you’re in outer space, achieving the dream of a lifetime, with the opportunity to spend time gazing on a view that only a handful of people have ever beheld, and you end up spending your time on Twitter?
I’m not complaining about the astronauts who are doing this, because, well, I spend more time on Facebook than I do in my backyard; I am, therefore, chief among sinners who ignores the beautiful for the technological. I do this even though I cherish these lines from William Wordsworth:
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
The Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.–Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn. (1806)
We humans have a terrible impulse to celebrate the work of our own hands over and against the work of God. Perhaps Paul summed this up best in Romans 1:25:
“They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served something created instead of the Creator, who is blessed forever.”
Each of us possesses a tendency to turn his back on the evidence that “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky proclaims the work of His hands” (Ps 19:1). Each of us tends to stare into a meagerly self-reflective mirror rather through the windows of the world that allow a more extensive view.
I should point out that the aforementioned Commander Williams on the International Space Center, the guy who ordered flowers for his wife from space, apparently keeps a right perspective on what he’s seen in his journey through space: The Work of His Hands (Concordia 2010). . We should all be so reflective on our God’s world.