Pigs, the Space Station, and Perspective

Perspective. It matters. You’ve heard the “ham and egg breakfast” wisdom? The chicken is involved, but the pig is committed. (Of course, these days, anyone who needs eggs is pretty committed, too.)

Point of view. How we see. What we see. How we evaluate what we see.

I was out in the backyard one recent evening trying to catch a glimpse of the International Space Station zooming by. And I wasn’t just looking up and hoping for luck.

A couple of years ago when my brother told me that NASA would send you emails or texts regarding dates and times to see the space station flying overhead, I signed up. (You can, too, at https://spotthestation.nasa.gov/.)

So, yes, I was outside that night. Not very late, but very dark. Pretty cold. Staring out toward the northwest, about ten degrees above the horizon. That’s approximately a couple of handwidths high at about five degrees per hand. Just extend your arms all the way out and pretend to be measuring a horse. Your arms need to be extended all the way out or your perspective will be messed up. One hand. Two hands. Stop. (Notice that I’m slipping in the word “perspective” here on purpose.)

According to NASA, when the space station is visible at night, it’s the third brightest object in the sky. And it’s most certainly the fastest moving object visible in the sky. Fast moving and quickly gone. You usually have 3-6 minutes to catch a glimpse of it as it blazes across the black velvet.

So I was outside. Looking out toward the northwest, as that email notification advised. And there it was! No doubt about it. Bright, check. Fast, check.

Of course, I’d seen it before. But what I saw that night was a bit unusual.

First, a couple of planets appear unusually bright this month, and I almost mistook one of them for the space station. Almost that bright, it was not sky-streaking. And I’m pretty sure it was a good bit farther away. Ya think?

Second, a plane was flying by as I’d spotted the real space station. From the ground, it looked like they were going to pass dangerously close to each other. NASA and the FAA were gonna have a hard time explaining such a mid-air collision. Maybe they’d issue a press release like all organizations do when they’ve messed up. The standard lawyer, risk management, cover your tail section, verbosity: “Please be assured that safety is our primary concern, and in our tireless and unending efforts to serve you better . . .” We blew it. But we can’t exactly say that.

But you already know that such an air disaster is not going to happen. It’s much more likely that Trump and Biden would embrace, uttering to each other words of heartfelt admiration, and ride off together into the sunset.

Nah, no mid-air collision. Just an odd perspective that evening.

As I watched, the space station flew into the branches of one of our big trees and was lost.


Well, I did lose it in the tree. I kept looking for it past the three promised minutes of visibility. I knew that tree could eat a kite, but I never expected it to obliterate a space station. That’s crazy, you say?

Well, I’m just reporting on what I saw. My shivering “guy on the ground” perspective. Of a planet. A plane. A tree. A space station. And three contradictory and reality-challenged views.

Notice that reality is not changed even a little by a skewed perspective. Remember “the blind men and the elephant”? One, feeling the elephant’s leg proclaimed the beast to be tree-like; another, feeling its trunk, was sure it must be snakelike.

And all of this leaves me wondering. Not about chickens and pigs, space shuttles and trees, or blind folks and elephants.

Nor does it leave me truly wondering about reality. Real is real. Truth is true. You don’t get your own reality or your own truth any more than you get your own personal law of gravity; neither do I. Both are, I believe, rooted in God’s very nature.

Genuine truth is not changed by the depth or intensity of our feelings about it. Like this or not, some opinions regarding truth are closer to the mark than some others. And that matters. A map that’s accurate is a blessing. A map that’s largely erroneous is misleading and dangerous.

But just a little thinking of the kind we’ve been doing here should add a good bit of humility, mercy, understanding, and grace to . . . our perspectives. If our Creator’s view is, as his people have always believed, not limited at all, no wonder our Father is the God both of all Truth and of all Grace. No wonder. But it’s the greatest wonder of all.

You’re invited to visit my website, and I hope you’ll take a look there at my new “Focus on Faith” Podcast. At the website, just click on “Podcast.” Blessings!

Copyright 2022 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

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