Looking through the James Webb Space Telescope and Seeing Myself
“Very early in my life it was too late.” Author Marguerite Duras
WHILE REMINISCING recently, it occurred to me that life isn’t what I expected it to be. I hoped to flying by now. Not just soaring to some kind of worldly success — but really flying! Snagging the thermals with fellow eagles, going eyeball to eyeball with the captain of MetLife’s “Snoopy 3” blimp, or dive-bombing the sea lions in Monterey Bay.
Maybe the unfilled expectations are because there is much I don’t understand. Yet, I still don’t know why things aren’t the way I think they should be.
Have you ever thought you were born just a little bit behind or ahead of your time? It’s a feeling that you don’t quite fit into your particular situation. People who believe in reincarnation probably think they are a little behind or ahead of their time. They often describe how they were a famous historical figure such as Charlemagne the Great. They never seem to be the guy who mucked out Charlemagne’s stables. I don’t believe in reincarnation. With my luck I would be Joan of Arc and some medieval January 6 committee would accuse me of arson. Also, I wonder if people who believe in reincarnation know whether they are coming or going.
It is not unusual to think you’re a little out of kilter with the world. Comedian George Goebel described it this way: “Sometimes I feel as if the world is a tuxedo and I’m a pair of brown shoes.” Or maybe, you really are the brightest bulb in the chandelier and everyone else is much dimmer by comparison. There is an old joke about a mother watching her son’s Army Company marching in a parade. She turns to a friend and says, “Look everyone is out of step but my son.”
I remember in first grade that everyone seemed to be able to tie their shoes except me. See? Very early in my life it was too late. Or everyone’s laughing at a joke you don’t get.
You stick out like a sore thumb, or to put that cliché into modern parlance, it is like the new James Webb Space Telescope focused on you alone and everyone can see that your thoughts were formed from massive amounts of gaseous material 7,000 light years ago. That’s how out of date you are!
Speaking of the Webb Telescope, I gawked in wonderment at the first photos transmitted. I heard Frank Sinatra singing: “fly me to the moon and let me play among the stars.” The photos of the Carina Nebula showed just how many stars there are to play among. I read about people saying how insignificant they felt in a universe larger than imagined. Those images gave me some perspective. I’ll never be able to fly, but I am in the time and space where I’m supposed to be. I am who I am supposed to be, liking who I am, where I am, whom I’m with, what I’m doing, and enjoy the people around me. I’m grateful I wasn’t born in another era, such as pre-historic times. I would have been an awful cave man. “Mastodon again! We had that last night.”
Scientists say that Earth was formed 13.5 billion years ago. The Webb Telescope is showing photos of galaxies that go back almost that far. If there was life then, I’m sure there were no planning commissions to tell God to resubmit His plans for the universe. “I’m sorry Mr. Creator, intelligent design just isn’t going to fit in with our charming village.”
Recently I’ve had my own Webb Telescope experience of going back in time. I began zoom sessions with three high school classmates.
I hadn’t seen or heard anything about them in 68 years when one of them, who is tech savvy, connected us. The sessions have been great as we relive those glorious high school days and bring each other up to date on our current lives. It occurred to me that outside of immediate family, I’ve known these guys longer than anyone else on the planet. The James Webb Space Telescope has taken us back to almost the beginning of the universe. The zoom sessions have taken me back almost to the beginning of me.
Together, the telescope and the zoom sessions have taught me that “then” is different from “now.” That’s the way things should be. It doesn’t matter whether or not life is what I expected it to be. As long as I’ve found joy in the life I am living, it’s a pretty terrific universe.
Contact Jerry at firstname.lastname@example.org