Jacob is studying space this week. He went to “Space Camp” and actually came home from school excited instead of moaning and groaning about how boring it all is. One of his math assignments revolved around the constellation Orion. He had to figure out how many light years away each of the stars in the constellation are. With that very exciting opening to a blog, let me tell you why I have been thinking about Orion. When we look South on a winter evening we see “The Hunter.” It is one of the most easily recognized of the constellations. We don’t have to search too hard to find the ancient man with his belt and sword. From our
vantage point here on earth, it would appear as if all the stars are in the same plane. However, if we were to climb aboard a spaceship and fly towards Betelgueus or Rigel we would quickly find our perspective changing. The stars that make up what we call Orion are light years apart. From a different vantage point high above the earth, we would never be able to pick out the familiar broad shoulders of the hunter. We would however, as the Hubble telescope has shown us, have our eyes opened to a universe, beautiful beyond anything we can imagine as we stare into the nighttime winter skies. It is all about vantage points.
In a similar vein, I have picked up pencil and tablet recently and begun trying to learn some the drawing skills that I gave up so many years ago. Drawing is more about seeing than it is about moving a pencil on a paper. If we are going to draw we have to take the time to really see what we are looking at. One drawing book gives the example of drawing a tree. When we think of a tree we often already have a fixed symbol in our mind that tells us what a tree looks like. Often this symbol is one we developed in kindergarten and looks something like this. In order to
draw a more “adult” version of the tree we have to retrain our brain to look at a tree and see a tree as it truly is and not as the symbol that our brain has attached to it. Our brains are very efficient when it comes to storing information and sometimes we have to override our brains by changing the way we look at things if we want to truly see things as they really are.
So much of life is like constellations and trees. We have developed “efficient” and “simple” ways of looking at the world. These models serve us well when we are doing sixth grade math or stamping Christmas trees on gift tags. However, if we want to stretch ourselves further and expand our horizons we need to look beyond. Albert Einstein turned the Newtonian world of physics on its head by doing a gedankenexperiment or thought experiment. He asked himself, “What would the world look like if I was riding astride a beam of light.” From this question he developed what we call the theory of relativity—something I most likely will never grasp- but the point is he “thought outside the box.” Jumping astride a beam of light can be a little daunting at first. Putting pencil to paper and drawing what you actually see can be daunting also. However, the more you do it the less scary it becomes. S0 now that you are all wondering, “Where on earth is she going with this?” Simply put, changing the way you look at life can be scary, changing the way you look at life can be exhilarating, changing the way you look at life can lead to new discoveries, changing the way you look at life is not always a bad thing. Like Einstein, sometimes solving a problem requires us to climb aboard a beam of light. Or like Peter, sometimes finding an answer requires us to step out of the boat and walk on water.