NASA/Cosmos Studios

Today’s Guest post is by Childe Jake, a rather newly hatched blogger with an uncanny ability to convey his thoughts in a clear and enlightening way. His blog can be found at:

I’d like to bear you my testimony, but I do not presume to know for certain that it is true. My post is in the format of a Mormon testimony, though I no longer practice any version of that faith system. I do not use this format to mock it. I use it because it is familiar and hopefully will resonate meaningfully with readers of Wheat and Tares. In any case, I am grateful to have the chance to speak to this community of thinkers.

By way of background, I am a big fan of the late science fiction writer Sir Arthur C. Clarke. Over my three-plus decades on Earth, I’ve read many of Clarke’s writings, both his fiction and non-fiction. And I’ve read some of his greatest works multiple times, underlining and pondering the themes and implications for the real world.

If you haven’t read any of Clarke’s stories, here is what you need to know for now. He depicts humanity confronting the vast and often unforgiving universe. In so doing, his characters–and readers–become keenly aware of the preciousness of Life. You should also be aware that Clarke tended not to hold organized religion in high regard. He supposed it an inevitable, but ultimately unhealthy, byproduct of our species’ childhood. Still, his novels are filled with divine flavorings.

For example, near the end of Clarke’s novel Imperial Earth, the protagonist has this realization:

He had experienced that indescribable shock a man may know only once in a lifetime, when he is in the presence of the transcendental and feels the sure foundations of his world and his philosophy trembling beneath his feet.

The above excerpt, along with a general understanding of Clarke’s worldview, leads me to believe he had a testimony of some kind. Perhaps he even experienced an epiphany, though he would not have ascribed it to supernatural origin. In a universe that is overwhelmingly violent and not conducive to Life, Clarke supposed that Mind is the most prized resource. This belief filled Clarke with a passionate desire to see humankind advance in worthy ways, both physically and intellectually.

You could say that Arthur C. Clarke functioned as a kind of John the Baptist for me. Through the theatricality of space opera, Clarke prepared my mind for the message that came next. And this subsequent message was from Dr. Carl Sagan, literally arriving via a pillar of light. Though, Sagan’s pillar of light did not come from above. Instead it came from behind, via a film projector.

I feel awkward admitting this. But when I gained my testimony over a decade ago, I was likely drinking a jumbo cherry cola and eating buttered popcorn. As I often did in college, one night I treated myself to a movie. I saw the film adaptation of Dr. Sagan’s novel, Contact. If you have not seen or read Contact, you only need to know this for now:  it depicts humanity confronting the vast and often unforgiving universe. In so doing, we become keenly aware of the preciousness of Life. I was not prepared for how intensely the film moved me.

I left the theatre with a palpable energy running through my torso. I would describe it as a stirring sensation. Perhaps others would use the term “burning.” I drove around for awhile, letting the feeling linger. Contact had shaken me. I had received dramatic lessons before about Life and the universe, but that night for some reason my heart and mind were particularly susceptible. Here is what I learned.

Whatever the ultimate truth of the universe is, we are precious. Thus we ought to nurture and care for one another without prejudice. In all likelihood, the greatest challenges humanity faces, and may yet face, will require the best from everyone: the god-fearing and atheistic; the liberal and conservative; the masculine and feminine; the old and young. If a voice ever does come from the sky, we will need to face its message together, or risk perishing even if the message is benevolent. And if no voice comes, the above mandate is even more crucial.

For many years, I searched for something that could bring me purpose and fulfillment. And I found it. Inspired by Clarke and Sagan, I confronted the reality of a vast and often unforgiving universe. Doing so provided me a keen awareness of humankind’s preciousness. God or no God, Heaven or only heavens–the more I understand the universe, the more I want to be a beneficial constituent of it. This is my testimony, and I leave it with you in the name of Life and Mind. Amen.