A recent episode of the CBS News program 60 Minutes included a feature on the Voyager space probes. The two probes were launched in 1977 with a primary mission expected to last four years. Forty years later, and well beyond their expected mission lives, both Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 continue operating.
The story featured a photograph of Earth taken by Voyager 1 that has become known as “Pale Blue Dot”. At some 3.7 billion miles away, our home is nothing more than a tiny speck dangling in the sunlight reflected on the camera’s lens. Seeing this image made me feel very small and insignificant.
“Pale Blue Dot” taken by Voyager 1 on February 14, 1990. Everything we know is at the tip of that arrow. Photo credit: NASA Images
Surely, my presence on the dot does not matter.
As the program continued, the reason for my feeling small and insignificant became clear. “On the dot” and “matter” cannot be separated. Everyone I love currently resides on the blue dot or did at some point in time. For my life to have a chance at being meaningful, I must be with the ones I love, sharing and experiencing together.
The only impact that can resonate 3.7 billion miles away from our home is the one we create together. The quality and quantity of each individual’s contribution summed across time. I have influence on this collective legacy and so do you. As a sum of these parts, maybe we can all continue well beyond our initial expected mission lives.
I have shared a number of posts extolling the love and support received from family and friends. It is a blessing to have such an amazing group who cares for me. However, my greatest source of strength and true foundation is at home. My wife is not one for the spotlight and there have only been restrained mentions of her in the writing shared here. But with this post, I exceed the recommended maximum wattage and let the spotlight shine.
We were out for a walk one Sunday evening late last summer. No one else was around as we strolled along the trail, making it feel as if the park belonged only to us. The sky was a cloudless crystal clear blue so brilliant it looked artificial. All the vibrant colors of nature sizzled brightly under that sapphire canopy as if my vision had an augmented ability. The focus of this heightened clarity turned toward my wife and an intense recognition of how fortunate I am to have her washed over me.
There was no magic raining down from the blue of the sky that evening. The magic came from the person at my side. Care to guess her eye color?
Dealing with change is a major challenge for me. Continuing to move forward when routines and schedules are in flux may be my biggest weakness. While processing a period of change, imagery of a flowing river carrying particles toward its terminus came to mind. All the gathered bits of earth travel along, like sand flowing in an hourglass, and are eventually deposited to create something new at the delta.
Mississippi River Delta. Credit: Nasa Images
A eureka moment happened when it occurred to me that delta is also the symbol used to represent change in an equation. The recognition of multiple meanings for words like ‘delta’ and ‘current’ was intriguing. Sand represented both the passage of time and parts of my routines that were changing. New land is created at the terminus of a river, just like the grains of my life were shifting to eventually create new routines.
Writing this poem helped me get through that time of change. I realized change occurs with breakdown of status quo but also creates something new and fertile.
Let’s take a ride on the river together.
The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra’s second annual INfusion Music Festival took place this past May. One of the festival concerts was very different from the usual live symphony experience. The first half presented Liquid Interface, a composition by Mason Bates. It blends the orchestra and electronic sounds with shifts between the two occurring seamlessly. Liquid Interface is described by the composer as “a piece inspired by water in its variety of forms, inhabiting an increasingly hotter world in each progressive movement.” It was fascinating how the sounds of the live orchestra and synthesized elements created flowing streams and dripping water. The air felt as if it was cooled with the evaporation of sound.
The second half was an equally amazing experience, combining the powerful lyrics and vocal talent of Amos Lee with the full Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. At times the orchestra provided a beautiful lush backdrop; while other times the orchestra added a power and richness to Amos Lee’s performance that was transporting.
This was another case of a mesmerizing live musical performance triggering my creative flow and I had to capture the words as soon as possible. Typically, I would reach for my phone to make a few notes, but there was no way to do that during the concert without being disruptive. So, as soon as the final song ended and everyone leapt to their feet in a standing ovation, thumbs flew into action creating a stream of text messages to myself. A great deal was captured in that moment, and once I was home, the poem was put on paper in one rapid-fire release. Some of the lines I do not yet understand, but nothing was filtered out as words poured onto the paper. No doubt Liquid Interface, Amos Lee and the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra filtered through my mind and spirit that evening to allow creation of a “River of Light”.