Arrogance and Asteroids

Many years ago I attended a seminar presented by John Dobson, the “sidewalk astronomer.” He was offering his unique wit and wisdom regarding the cosmos from an observatory on top of Pine Mountain east of Bend. After his talk, a few of us gathered around to ask questions and otherwise enjoy the presence of this icon in the astronomy world. 

Dobson’s somewhat brash but humorous approach to everything was influenced by a masters in Chemistry and 23 years as a Vedantan monk. He had a wonderful sense of the integration of science and spirit. He is fondly remembered as the creator of the Dobsonian telescope, an easily constructed reflector built by participants in his sidewalk astronomy events. 

But I remember him for his one simple statement: “Humans are so arrogant they act as though asteroids don’t exist.” We discussed the essential truth of impermanence that evening on Pine Mountain. Humans seem to deny impermanence until their last breath—like the current pandemic deniers insisting the virus is a hoax as they die of Covid. This kind of arrogance is the root cause of so much suffering. 

I wonder what will happen when the earth is in the unavoidable collision path of a large asteroid. Will we deny its existence? I suspect we will try to blow it up before it hits our atmosphere, but I doubt that will work on really huge rock. Maybe we will finally come together and wonder what all our fussing has been about. Maybe we will receive the blessing of impermanence with some sense of grace. Maybe, just maybe, we will experience a collective awakening and know love for the first time.

Or, maybe we will wake up now. I imagine Buddha experienced an asteroid collision in his own mind and witnessed the destruction of obstacles to compassionate awareness. He then taught the law of impermanence and suggested now is always the best time to wake up.

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