The First Miracle

By Francis Frangipane

Life. It is the most unique commodity in the universe and inconceivably rare. As far as we can verify, in a cosmic sea of vast, immeasurable emptiness, earth alone is blessed with life.

But what is life? The answer I seek is more profound than a mere catalog of what life contains; it is more fundamental than identifying the joys and sorrows of earthly existence. I am asking, what is the substance we call life? We are so completely ingested into life itself that we cannot appreciate its actual substance; we do not esteem the singular glory found in this teardrop from the eye of God.

Some will argue that life is plentiful on planets throughout the universe.

I ask you, what planets?

For all the interesting possibilities science fiction has put before us, these imaginative writers have done us a disservice. They have convinced us we are just one of many civilizations in a universe brimming with alien societies. Yes, their speculations widen our imaginations, but they have also caused us to devalue the spectacular rarity of life in our own world.

And life is rare.

We imagined it could be found on Venus. But, according to NASA, the temperature of Venus is over 800 decrees, hot enough to melt lead. The equatorial winds on Venus blow a constant 220 mph and its atmospheric pressure is 90 times that of earth. We expected to find life on Mars. But Mars has almost no atmosphere. Its temperature drops to a frigid minus 130 degrees at night. It is a barren, lifeless planet.

Of the one thousand stars nearest earth, not one has an orbiting planet, much less life itself! In the farther reaches of space, NASA has found 421 stars with a combined total of 500 planets. Yet earthlike planets, zero. http://planetquest.jpl.nasa.gov

Astronomers have scrutinized the celestial heavens, peering at stars thousands of light years away. A light year is the distance light travels in a year speeding at 186,000 miles per second (or 6 trillion miles a year). They’ve searched from points above and beneath the equator in every direction, but no planet with the capacity to support life has been found.

My point is that this substance we call life, while plentiful on Earth, is utterly rare in the cosmos. By way of perspective, imagine Planet Earth at the center of a huge circular orb tens of trillions miles in diameter. The area inside the orb represents the reach of scientific exploration through the use of satellites, optical and radio telescopes. The only place of verifiable life within that immense realm is the Earth. From the planet outward in every direction all that exists is the incomprehensibly vastness of blazing stars and lifeless space.

There may indeed be extraterrestrials, but to reach us they will have had to discover a different means of space travel, one that is not linear. Otherwise, they will have had to travel thousands of years through space to find our tiny world.

The fact is, at least within the sphere of our explored universe, we remain starkly alone, one tiny bluish dot of life in a vacuum of deep darkness and unfathomable emptiness.

A View From Space
In 1968 a unique opportunity was granted humanity. For the first time we were given a chance to step outside our world and look at life from the universe. The day was Christmas Eve. It was the first lunar voyage of the Apollo 8 crew. From the surface of the moon they gazed upon the earth. The following is NASA's account.

“First, they showed the half Earth across a stark lunar landscape. Then, from the other unfogged window, they tracked the bleak surface of the Moon. "The vast loneliness is awe-inspiring and it makes you realize just what you have back there on Earth," said Lovell. The pictures aroused great wonder, with an estimated half billion people vicariously exploring what no man had ever seen before.

"For all the people on Earth," said Anders, "the crew of Apollo 8 has a message we would like to send you." He paused a moment and then began reading: "In the beginning God created the Heaven and the Earth."
After four verses of Genesis, Lovell took up the reading: "And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night."

At the end of the eighth verse Borman picked up the familiar words: "And God said, Let the waters under the Heavens be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear; and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters He called seas; and God saw that it was good."

So here we are on the good Earth, each summoned to the most exquisite adventure: we are alive! How shall we spend our precious days? Watching television? Or living in fear or anger? Let us not squander our wondrous opportunity!

Finally, allow me to answer my initial question: What is Life? To all on Planet Earth it is a gift from God to be cherished and protected; it is the first of His many miracles.

What we make of it is our gift to Him.

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