... in perspective

Published on 05 Jan 2019
A view of Bogota from the mountains

I heard a radio interview a couple of years ago with a famous Canadian astronaut (Commander Chris Hadfield). The interviewer talked to him about all sorts of things, including asking him about his religious belief. The astronaut was agnostic, but explained that he felt that his ability to look down on the world from the space station had changed his perspective on the world. When you see it from that almost divine distance, it becomes even harder to understand human conflict. Of course, the International Space Station is also a rare example of true international cooperation, which must encourage this point of view. In that tiny space, there is no room for conflict, and the astronauts get along as well as, or probably better than, brothers and sisters. I've no doubt that at least some of that gentleness and humane quality continues once they leave the space station. I'd hesitate to call the Commander a saint, but he had as much apparent gentleness and wisdom as a St Francis or a St Ignatius. A really Ignatian ability to be detached when it was necessary. 

Recently someone I know posted a video taken by one of Commander Hadfield's successors at the Space Station and I was reminded of this perspective on Creation. Then last week I was visiting my brother in Colombia and we were taken up the mountains. Now, when I say mountains... I've no idea how high up it actually was, but when I posted a photo I'd taken of the city below (without zoom) my father said he thought it had been taken from a plane!

Aeroplane travel  allows us this perspective. It's curious that in English we talk about 'looking down on people' in a negative sense, but I'd say, for me at least, that looking down from such a great height at the tiny buildings, lights and signs of human inhabitation below doesn't imply condescension but the oppositve, a kind of special warmth of feeling for all of us, a sense that I am as tiny and insignifcant as all those I can see below, but together, en masse, we form humanity. 

Rather than bringing me nearer the perpective of an ancient deity (like Zeus) who could look down and meddle in earthly affairs, the idea of God descending to us in the human person of Christ comes to mind. So, one my high up mountain, I felt actually much closer to those below than I had done when walking among them, and I loved them all.