A Community of Exhilaration

A new post from Deacon David:

I wrote in September about events in our lives, happenings in our hearts, and “religious experiences.” And then Hurricane Maria blew Puerto Rico to smithereens, California caught fire, and two neutron stars collided.

Yes—the stars collided long ago and far, far away—but it was real. There was a press conference about the discovery last Monday, October 16. The people who talked about their discovery were exciting to watch and spiritually exhilarating. Their experience offers insights about emotional and spiritual health.

Last August 17, 2017, new, exquisitely sensitive detectors—called Virgo in Italy and LIGO in the US—reported faint gravitational waves. First in Italy, then in Louisiana, and then in Washington state, these amazing instruments—the longest L-shaped sensors are 2.5 miles long—had detected faint “ripples” in what Einstein called “space-time.” (Do a Google search for “neutron star collisions” or “gravitational waves” or follow the links at the National Science Foundation website www.nsf.gov.)

Within hours of the first alert, scientists alerted 70 observatories around the world. 100 scientific instruments and thousands of scientists, from South Africa to Chile to Australia to Europe, the Soviet Union, and North America, focused on what became a two-week happening. One of the resulting scientific papers has 3,500 co-authors. The scientists’ revealed much about themselves and the nature of spirit at work in our world.

First, they formed an intimate global network through long-term collaboration and instant interchange. Seeing this neutron star collision was the breathtaking result of a multi-year, global collaboration among thousands of scientists in hundreds of institutions. 15 people from both Europe and the US made brief presentations about specific facets of the discovery and their interest in it. They had worked together long enough to become professional colleagues and personal friends.

Second, they shared a common mission for exploration, discovery, and sharing of new knowledge. These people all sought a deeper understanding of how the universe works. Every observation was data to confirm or disprove a hypothesis about the nature of creation. They are all detectives investigating reality.

Third, they had created an honoring culture. There were as many women as men. Each had something to contribute and much to say. They graciously introduced each another during their presentations and deferred to one another’s special knowledge in the Q & A period that followed. It was exhilarating to watch such easy and respectful collegiality.

Finally, they built in care for themselves and their work. They acknowledge both the intensity of their work and the time off needed for maintenance and upgrading their instruments. They were all looking forward to processing the new data from their observations and stepping back for downtime to prepare for further discoveries.

This reason I found these scientists so engaging and exciting is the resonance of their experience and story. The Church is an intimate global network, with a shared common mission, an honoring culture, and the means of caring for ourselves and our work. In learning about these scientific discoveries, I become clear that exploration and discovery is needed in inner world of the human heart. People all around us appear to be so stressed, afraid, disoriented, and paralyzed, we need to learn how to care for the world around us. The vision of an intimate, intense connection between what we learn about our inner worlds and what we discover about helping our neighbors in the world around us, is a source of great fascination and the promise of surprising exhilaration.

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