Red Johanna Beach, Great Ocean Rd, Victoria, Australia.
~ from Chapter One, “The Man in the Cave”, The Everlasting Man by G.K. Chesterton
“Far away in some strange constellation in skies infinitely remote, there is a small star, which astronomers may some day discover. At least I could never observe in the faces or demeanor of most astronomers or men of science any evidence that they had discovered it; though as a matter of fact they were walking about on it all the time. It is a star that brings forth out of itself very strange plants and very strange animals; and none stranger than the men of science. That at least is the way in which I should begin a history of the world if I had to follow the scientific custom of beginning with an account of the astronomical universe. I should try to see even this earth from the outside, not by the hackneyed insistence of its relative position to the sun, but by some imaginative effort to conceive its remote position for the dehumanized spectator. Only I do not believe in being dehumanized in order to study humanity. I do not believe in dwelling upon the distances that are supposed to dwarf the world; I think there is even something a trifle vulgar about this idea of trying to rebuke spirit by size. And as the first idea is not feasible, that of making the earth a strange planet so as to make it significant, I will not stoop to the other trick of making it a small planet in order to make it insignificant. I would rather insist that we do not even know that it is a planet at all, in the sense in which we know that it is a place; and a very extraordinary place too. That is the note which I wish to strike from the first, if not in the astronomical, then in some more familiar fashion.
Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park
“…we all like astonishing tales because they touch the nerve of the ancient instinct of astonishment.’ – G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
“What we need for the moment is not so much a body of belief as a body of people familiarized with certain ideas. If we could even effect in one per cent of our readers a change-over from the conception of Space to the conception of Heaven, we should have made a beginning.” Dr. Ransom of C.S. Lewis’s “Out of the Silent Planet”
On July 4, 2016, NASA’s space probe JUNO successfully entered Jupiter’s orbit. It was the second spacecraft ever to do so after the Galileo probe which orbited from 1995–2003.
For me, it is beyond ironic that NASA chose to name the probe JUNO and I think C.S. Lewis would have been delighted that they a chose pagan myth to tell the story of their scientific endeavor. Here is the thinking from NASA: “In Greek and Roman mythology, Jupiter drew a veil of clouds around himself to hide his mischief. It was Jupiter’s wife, the goddess Juno, who was able to peer through the clouds and reveal Jupiter’s true nature. The JUNO spacecraft will also look beneath the clouds to see what the planet is up to, not seeking signs of misbehavior, but helping us to understand the planet’s structure and history.”
The stated mission? They hope to improve the understanding of our origin. JUNO will spend twenty months orbiting the gas giant, peering into its clouds with the hope of penetrating the myriad of mysteries that mask its making. JUNO hopes to pull back the colorful veil of gases behind which the king of planets hides his truth from us.
This is exciting, indeed, but even if JUNO is able to expose all her beloved’s secrets, will we truly be closer to knowing all there is to know about our origin? Perhaps.
What about the “why” of our existence? Can science alone answer such a question?