star trek

To Go Where Ones Have Gone Before

We have all heard William Shatner in Star Trek say, “To boldly go where no one has gone before.”  It’s catchy and it makes you want to join the exploration.  But you know what?  You don’t have to go into the future to explore.  It is all around us.  If we occasionally take time to explore our past, I think it can make us better people.   

When I drive by a dilapidated farmhouse out in the country or an abandoned factory in a city, I have the urge to explore them.  Most of the time I do not stop; no trespassing signs, safety concerns, and besides, I’m usually driving purposely towards my destination.  I’m a reflective person.  I like spending a few moments walking in the presence of where others went before.  The few times I have stopped have always been rewarding.

                I believe the word castle creates more imaginative thoughts in most people’s minds than almost any other word I can think of.  The word castle just immediately transports you to a different time.  A land far away: a time of adventure.  Just think how many movies show us the mysterious castles situated high on a hilltop.  Even the sounds of castles conjure up thoughts.  The huge gates being opened with the horses galloping over the bridge spanning the moat.  The blacksmith banging on steel.  The pigeons seeking shelter in the tall towers.  Not to mention all the battle scenes with arrows flying, battering rams, swords, arrows, and hot oil. 

                Farmhouses can do the same for me.  I guess this goes back to my very early years as a child visiting my grandparent’s farm.  They had an 800 acre spread in the central Texas hill country that is hilly, covered with an abundance of oak trees and lots of wildlife, notably deer.  The spring brings the wildflowers and beautiful bluebonnets.  I remember Grandpa milking the cow as he would sometimes squirt the milk at me, and then giggle.  Most mornings Grandma, who we called Mama Sue, would go into the chicken coup, shoo away the hens, and collect the eggs. 

She cooked on an old big black stove.  Everything seemed greasy to me and Grandpa would sip his hot black coffee out of the saucer.  The milk was thick, warm, and had some sort of scum on the top that I did not like.  Being from the city, I was used to cold milk from a bottle, not fresh milk poured from the can that Grandpa had just collected.  She would sometimes get a coat hanger, grab a chicken and cut off his head.  Fried chicken is what we ate in those days.

I really liked riding on the tractor with Grandpa, or in the back of his pickup when he made the rounds to feed the cattle.  I enjoyed messing around in the barn playing hide and seek among the stacked hay bales with my brothers and cousins.  I recall watching a sow with her piglets, a big Billy goat roaming around the barnyard, petting a gentle milk cow, and watching the peacocks fluff up their feathers.  I learned to shoot guns at an early age as we occasionally we would go to the dump with 22 rifles.

My grandparents lived on that farm all of their adult lives before they eventually retired to live in town.  They raised their five kids there, of whom my mom was the middle child.  That was a way of life I will never know.  I think I might have liked it, but of course I will never know the amount of work involved. 

I remember as a second grader working on a craft project where we had to cut out material and paste on an 8 by 12 piece of cardboard to tell what we would like to be when we grew up.  I had Mom help me cut out a red shirt from some old cloth, and from the blue cloth some pants.  I told her I wanted to be a farmer like Grandpa.  She had a quiet, almost sad look on her face.  Years later Mom told me just how much work is involved on a farm.

The next day in class some of the girls had all white dresses on their cardboard because they wanted to be nurses.  I understood that, but some of the guys had all blue uniforms because they wanted to be policeman, or all red uniforms for those wanting to be a fireman, and that I did not understand.  I just thought they would all like to be farmers like their grandparents.  I assumed they all had grandparents from the farm like me.  Funny how we get some thought patterns in our thinking without realizing it can be way off. 

The old farmhouse that I visited in the 1950’s had wood burning stoves, creaky wooden floors and smelled old to me, but I liked it.  When my uncle built a new house on the same spot, the old farmhouse was moved to become a barn, next to the old barn.  Over fifty years later I recall peeking into the old farmhouse that was now storing grain.  There was the bedroom where I had slept, and the den where we warmed ourselves by the fire.  Times past, times long ago, where others had gone before.  Where aunts and uncles had been born and raised.  Where horses, cows, donkeys, sheep and goats had roamed about.  A way of life that most Americans in centuries past lived, yet alien too many of us now. 

I think Mama Sue and Grandpa represented millions in that they were hard working, God fearing, decent people that helped to continue nourishing the sound foundation our country was built on.  Their way of still fascinates me in a lot of ways.  I also felt a lot of love from all my grandparents, all born right about 1900. My grandparent’s generation, those that were adults in the early 20th century, were inspirational to me in many ways.  You don’t have to be an archeologist like Indiana Jones visiting exotic far away places in the quest to explore.  You may not find an ancient artifact worth millions like they do in the movies, which as you know, you are not allowed to keep, but your exploration brings a different kind of treasure.   A treasure you can keep in your heart.  “To go where ones have gone before,” renews my dedication to try and pass the same blessings I received from past generations on to my kids and future generations.  By the way, I have an old oil lamp on my bookcase that came from the junkyard of my grandparent’s farm.  It looks old but may only be 50 or 60 years old.  Not much of an antique, much less an artifact, and it may actually be just trash, but it is treasure to me.  It brings back a treasure trove of wonderful memories.         



Star Gazers: Pondering God’s Blueprint

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.