Monthly Archives: June 2012

Make a wish.

I worked for part or all of 13 summers at Camp Ramah in New England. For those years, Ramah was home for me. They are treasured memories and I think about those summers very often. The other day, I thought of one aspect of camp life I hadn’t thought of for a long time.

It was the custom at Ramah that each bunk would invite someone to come in to the bunk at night when the kids were in bed to tell a story, discuss something with them, sing songs, tell jokes- whatever, just to quiet the kids down so that they could fall asleep. The truth is that the majority of the younger kids would fall asleep before the story or song was even half finished and the older ones would be up long after the guest left. But, it was such an important part of the day and one of my favorite parts of camp. I looked forward to being invited in and I had a repertoire of stories, discussion topics and games I used depending on the age group.

One of my favorite things to do was to read the kids one of my favorite short stories. The story is called Kaleidoscope and in it, astronauts who have survived the explosion of their space ship are floating away from each other through space headed for a certain death. Their final conversation with each other is marked with anger and pettiness until one of the astronauts realizes he has floated out of radio range of the others and is aimed for the earths atmosphere where he will burn up. He realizes his life has been full of disappointment and wishes something would happen which would make his last moments worthwhile in some way in the world.

The story has a great ending and I won’t ruin it for you. You can find the story all over the internet. Just do a search for Kaleidoscope but make sure you include the author’s name.

The author of this great story died this week and while I wouldn’t claim to be an expert on all of his stories, I remember many of them and realize what a visionary and a tremendous talent he was.

If you haven’t read any Ray Bradbury stories, start with Kaleidoscope and go on from there.

By the way, this was one story the kids managed to stay up for. And the ending always was a wonderful surprise.

 

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Venus

Tomorrow, we will witness something rather rare and we all should make sure we see it because the next time it happens will be in the next century. Venus will pass directly between the sun and the earth and will block out a small part of the sun (1/32nd, I believe) as it does.

First a word of warning: don’t look directly at it. It might be fascinating and rare but it is also dangerous. So, either wear the special equipment designed for such an event or go to one of the many places where people will gather together to watch on tv or with a live feed from a telescope. (There are several such events scheduled for Ann Arbor.)

I love astronomical events. I watch (unsuccessfully) each year for meteor showers. I look forward to every lunar eclipse, the occasional solar eclipse and the other such occasions. Several years ago, when Mars’ orbit brought it closer to earth than it had been in centuries, I found it captivating.

I know that forecasting such events comes down to science and mathematics and I truly admire the ability of astronomers to pinpoint the event with such accuracy. I defer to their calculations and realize that there is no guesswork involved. Once you figure out the math, you know where Venus will be. End of discussion.

But, there is so much more to it than that.

For me, the predictability of the universe is one of the clearest expressions of Divine creation. The ability to recognize and appreciate the cycles of the stars and planets and to map them out with such precision is a testimony both to the stability of the world and the miracle of our ability to understand it. And for me, there is no greater proof of God’s existence and plan for creation.

My daughter, who is taking a high school astronomy class, asked me the other day whether I believe in the Big Bang Theory and I assured her I did. But, I also told her that I believed that God’s hands, as it were, were all over the Big Bang and that there need be no conflict between science and religion. In fact, I told her, I can see no better proof for the existence of God than the little black dot that will move across the sun tomorrow afternoon and our ability to predict it and, most importantly, to appreciate it.

I can’t wait for tomorrow afternoon. I can’t wait to see it (indirectly of course) and to say a bracha: Baruch atah…oseh ma’aseh biraysheet, Blessed are You O Lord our God who performs the acts of creation.

 

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