Awestruck at this cosmic moment
I have a confession to make. I am fascinated, nay awestruck, by outer space. The magnitude of it, the sheer potential for mystery and surprise, the awesome interactions of quarks, black holes and galloping galaxies all boggle my mind. Add to this the suspicion that occasional planets not unlike our own are frolicking about amid the bigger bodies; that some such planets may have life forms of one kind or another; that we may even have cousins up there, some of whom we may eventually meet.
The Hubble Space Telescope is one of the spectacular scientific successes of the century. I believe its pictures will profoundly affect our vision of ourselves, help us put our whole human project in perspective. Our cover picture is courtesy of NASA, which knows a good thing when it sees one and is eager to spread the wonder around.
We are at a cosmic moment, even if we made it up ourselves. Months ago, we at NCR decided to celebrate the moment by appealing for messages for a metaphorical bottle that we would then send off to some worthy destination. Readers responded with enthusiasm and creativity, and we wish to thank all those who wrote. We asked for suggestions as to how to dispose of the bottle, but few got fired up on this account. For now our subscribers are the obvious destinations of the many messages.
Finally, all those messages needed work to cope with the sheer quantity and understandable repetition. At that point two of our more redoubtable staff members, copyeditor Patty McCarty and special projects editor Pamela Schaeffer, stepped in to make the message ready for the bottle. This huge undertaking they accomplished with panache and sensitivity. If every writer who wrote is not included, we hope every point of view is. Together the fragments add up to a mosaic of who we are at this special moment. With gratitude and pride we dedicate this special section to our readers.
The keen observer may already have noticed that our wily layout persons, Matt Kantz and Toni-Ann Ortiz, took some creative liberties with the Hubble picture. There is no objective evidence that the NCR message bottle is presently drifting thus precariously in the Eagle Nebula, and the same is true of other stray objects in the picture that graces the cover of our special section.
Before returning to reality, take one more look at that big picture. The moment captured by the Hubble telescope happened 5,000 years before Jesus came calling, and as of that first Christmas the image still had 12 quadrillion miles to travel, at the speed of light, before reaching Hubble and us. And each of those shapes that seem to rear on their hind legs into the sky measures about 6 trillion miles from top to bottom.
I still stand by what I wrote when NASA released the pictures in 1995: If life is stirring on some slushy young planet out there in the Eagle Nebula, what would we wish for them? We would not want them to make our mistakes. If we had the luxury we might make a list of caveats. But if we had only one shot, it might boil down to something as banal as be kind to one another.
The Jesus 2000 supplement to our Christmas issue, featuring 60 of the judges favorite art works, has been receiving enthusiastic response. There has been a constant flow of reader requests for more copies. Cost of the separate supplement is $5, which includes postage and handling. To order, please send check or money order (no credit cards) to NCR J2K, 115 E. Armour Blvd., Kansas City MO 64111-1203.
Meanwhile, requests are pouring in for prints of Jesus of the People, Janet McKenzies winner of the Jesus 2000 competition. These are or will soon be available from Lasting Visions. Just call 888-890-0005, or check the Web site at www.lastingvisions.com
McKenzie, since Jesus of the People was announced, has been extremely busy with interviews and other trappings of fame. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
You are, at this moment, reading a truly historic document. Never before has anyone read an issue of NCR spanning two millennia -- and we did not have to bend time to bring this issue date about. It will be a while before we have its like again, so hold on to your copy.
Happy new millennium!
-- Michael Farrell
National Catholic Reporter, January 7, 2000