Astronomy is interesting to me, but not fascinating. I like to visit planetariums, and listen to the presentations, but I have never wanted to spend a lot of time looking through telescopes in the backyard. I have visited the Macdonald Observatory in West Texas several times, but those are huge telescopes.
Star Trek however was totally fascinating to me. I have seen every episode of the original series and still occasionally enjoy watching a rerun. I loved the concepts that Gene Roddenberry challenged the viewer with: The transporter, alien life forms, and parallel universes. Most of all the idea of warp speed intrigued me. To be able to travel many times the speed of light still sounds impossible to me.
Even though they could travel up to warp nine, that is nine times faster than the speed of light, the Enterprise never left our own galaxy. The Milky Way Galaxy alone would take years to travel through at the speed of light. As for reaching another galaxy, the distance is thought to be too great for humans to accomplish, even traveling at a high warp speed.
The vastness of space is mind boggling: Infinite is the word. I remember when I was about ten asking Dad what infinity was. “It just goes on and on and never ends,” he said.
At the McDonald Observatory, visitors are allowed to peer through about a half dozen rather large telescopes. The Visitors center also shows short movie presentations. On our last visit there was a brief film that tried to give us an idea of infinity. The movie was obviously a low budget production, but it sure intrigued me.
If you take a square meter, and expand to ten square meters, and then to 100 square meters, and on to 1000 square meters, that would be 10 to the third power ( ). If you or I represent that small one square meter, then the film showed just how small we would be from a thousand kilometers up in space. The moon is less than 400,000 kilometers away. Pictures of the earth from the moon show our planet as small from that distance. Of course, the earth would not be visible from , or 10,000,000,000 billion kilometers away. Astronomers guess the universe to be about kilometers in distance from the earth. The point is, which we all know, was that the universe goes a long way out, indefinitely. No big news flash there. But here is what interested me.
The film stopped at the outer reaches of the known universe, and then slowly backed up. Through many, many far away galaxies, then traversing lots of vast voids of space, re-entered the Milky Way Galaxy, eventually to our own solar system and back to earth. Then descended from the higher part of our atmosphere down to the surface of earth where that one person is resting on a blanket in a city park. Back to square one, or the square meter we began from.
Then the film takes you on a journey to go smaller, that is into the human body; Through the organs, and into the cells. You descend into mitochondria and into the cellular level. With the electron microscope we continue getting smaller and smaller, actually into the electrons and protons. I had cell biology in college, and I had microbiology. I guess what fascinated me was scientists can now go back to . Not quite as far as going to reach the outer expanse of space, but is getting pretty small. I’ll bet in time it gets smaller. Almost like a universe within each one of us.
At first I felt small and insignificant. However, as I pondered the reality that there is life at all levels within me, just like throughout the universe, I then felt a sense of purpose within God’s realm. Others may feel the immensity of the universe makes them doubt there is a Creator. On the contrary, that is opposite of what I felt. I feel God’s blueprint in creation.
There was a lot of talk in the media a few months ago about a couple who tried to attend a dinner at the White House, but they did not actually have an invitation. I was a little surprised at the uproar because I’m sure this has happened before. Perhaps with the necessity for heightened security in Washington, or the lack of it in this particular situation, helped generate public interest in the story. I was also surprised at how important it must be for some people to meet persons of position such as the President. It would be an honor to be invited to the White House for a dinner, but for any of us to try and present ourselves as important and sneak in the way they did was puzzling to me.
The closest I have come to attending a dinner by invitation would have been when I was in uniform and we had formal military dinners. This military tradition probably goes way back historically and strives to build esprit de corps while providing opportunity for social interaction. Dress up uniforms as you know display any medals individuals have achieved. I was not extremely high ranking so I was seldom going to be near the head table. I also did not have an abundance of medals. My wife and I were invited once to sit at the head table of a luncheon with three brigadier generals( one star), so that was a special occasion. I recall a few occasions where either a Lt. General( 3 stars), or a General(4 stars), were in attendance, but never one near the level of the President. The food was good and lots of toasting, so if you like to drink, you will have a good time. As for myself, I not much of a drinker; I was also seldom truly at ease. I’m sort of ashamed to admit this because I think it is for wise a person to basically be themselves wherever they are. Since I was a bit uncomfortable, it made me question myself. You know the feeling. When you are standing at the punch bowl and everyone else seems to be laughing and having a great time, except yourself. I find myself fidgeting with the cup in my hand as I search the room for a friend, anyone that I can talk with. At that moment I begin to convince myself I must not be that interesting to converse with.
A number of possibilities go through my mind. Maybe I am boring. Perhaps I present myself as not very approachable. I find myself wondering if I my face revealed the obvious fact that I was not that comfortable in those settings. Maybe they felt the same way. It helped when my wife was present, giving me someone to talk to, but even then I found myself worried if she was comfortable. If she was not, then I did not have a good time. I do not recall any outright negative experiences, so for the most part I think all was fine.
Every now and then I find myself reliving those feelings. Maybe at a wedding or a funeral, but for the most part I don’t worry as much about it now. When we were young I wanted to be invited to dinner parties and get-togethers. Now I Iook forward to being home alone with the wife. As a matter of fact she is just about to put something on the table to eat. Nothing much per say, just some soup and salad. We cannot eat as much as we used to. Oh, but it is quiet, and just the two of us ready to engage in meaningful conversation. We hold hands, offer a prayer of thanksgiving and genuinely enjoy our bounty and each other. I am quite content.
The phone rings. I wonder if it is the president: (yeah………….. right). No, just our usual dinner time telephone solicitor. They often invite themselves into our home at mealtime. I would like to make a suggestion to these evening intruders. If they will quite calling me, I promise I won’t intrude on the president during his dinners.
I was only about five years of age at the time when one of my older brothers told me Dad was going to let us stay up late and watch Pork Chop Hill. At the time I did not know what a pork chop was, much less what Pork Chop Hill meant. “It’s a war movie,” he said. It was the late 1950’s, a time of westerns and war movies.
I don’t recall much about the first time seeing the movie except at the end when the Americans were surrounded and the enemy had flame throwers. I probably saw the movie sometime again during the 1960’s and perhaps again on late night movie time during the 1970’s. I thought it was a decent film especially since it had my favorite movie star, Gregory Peck. I picked up a VHS of the movie around 2002 because I wanted my sons to see the final scene. They are both adopted from Korea but mostly I wanted to share a part of American history that is not well known, that being the Korean War.
Years ago I taught history part time and was surprised how little students know of this war. I suspect the students of today know even less. It has become known as, “the forgotten war.” Several of my college professors fought in Korea. One described how cold it was, (40 below), and that at one point they were surrounded by thousands of Chinese soldiers. Most young Americans probably do not know that American troops fought the Chinese for years in the Korean conflict. Some American units were surrounded and outnumbered 20 to 1 during some phases of the war, and still fought their way out.
We hear a lot about the World War II veterans dying, but our Korean veterans are beginning to die also. I was recently reviewing the obituaries in the Abilene Reporter News and noticed a man from Clyde named Clark F. Kreitler who passed away in late April 2010 and that he had been at Pork Chop Hill. I was impressed he survived. In addition he received the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, and the Silver Star, our nation’s second highest military award next to the Medal of Honor. I did not know the man but we all acknowledge his accomplishments. It prompted me to peek one more time at the end of the black and white movie. I know it is Hollywood, and I don’t know how accurate the movie is, and I’m not glorifying war. However, for a closing scene it’s not bad.
The Americans had fought hard to take and retake the hill. Lots of casualties. As some of the survivors were coming down the hill after being relieved, an Army Lieutenant played by Gregory Peck narrated the following:
“Pork Chop Hill was held. Bought and paid for at the same price we commemorate monuments at Bunker Hill and Gettysburg. Yet you will find no monuments at Pork Chop. Victory is a fragile thing and history does not linger long in our century, but those who fought there know what they did and the meaning of it. Millions live in freedom today because of what they did.”
On this memorial day weekend a number of war movies are shown such as Patton, Tora! Tora! Tora!, and The Longest Day. If you’re going to watch a war movie, Pork Chop Hill is not bad. By the way, Clark Kreitler was a lieutenant at Pork Chop, just like Gregory Peck in the movie. Or maybe I should say Gregory Peck played the part, just like Clark.