It’s a complex world. So naturally it must be a super complex universe. Even the most gifted among us have a subject or two they struggle with. Solving a complex problem can be quite rewarding. I have to suppose the rocket scientists, physicists and others who planned and executed New Horizons’ recent flyby of Pluto are pretty pumped about the data and images coming back from the ex-planet and its moon Charon. We might sometimes get spoiled by former successes such as sending men to the moon and bringing them back safely. So naturally it might seem just so much ‘the next thing’ to fling a little craft out to the edge of our solar system to snap a picture of a couple rocks. A complex problem indeed.
In the nine years the New Horizons craft has been in space there have been plenty of ugly things going on here at home. Some might argue the money spent on the mission could have been better spent here at home helping to alleviate suffering and searching for answers to more nearby complexities. And it very well might have been. I can readily imagine how loudly such cries might have been if by some misfortune the craft had failed or had been destroyed by some unseen galactic debris. It is much easier for me in my comfortable station to wax about the values of space exploration than for a refugee family suffering the indignities of our failures to solve the complexities which confront them. It’s complicated.
It is so complicated. But with every little step we take to understand the world around us, to fathom the wider universe and measure it, to explore and appreciate our own little third rock from the sun, to work with each other to understand how we might alleviate suffering and live together in harmony… with every little step we chip away at the complexity.
Pluto was unknown to Isaac Newton. Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, they had no clue. But in their gifted brilliance they put together ideas and explanations of our physical world that allowed Clyde Tombaugh to find Pluto in 1930. And now a mere 85 years downstream from Clyde’s discovery we have some fairly nice photos and a nifty pile of data to go with. Our scrapbook gets ever larger and our abilities to explore and chip away at all sorts of complexities get ever sharper. It is indeed a complex place we inhabit. But we are indeed complex creatures. With the grit and determination we’ve inherited from many generations of wonderers, explorers, and complex puzzle solvers we can continue to chip away at the complications in our path. Perhaps we’ll learn to listen to the better angels of our nature. I might even suggest it will be tough on our descendants someday if we ever do solve ALL the complexities before us. What then?