It is in this context, I think, that we first look at the stars in awe and feel the loneliness the distances demand. Up until then we are number one and afterward, with a sudden breathless awareness, we are number one in 1 billion -- or a number so large that we cannot imagine it. The first picture of our planet from the astronauts on their way to the moon was both beautiful and frightening. The smallness of our safety net in this universe jumped out at me as I saw the beauty of the clouds partially covering the blue oceans and the small green splotches of land. To know that I was somewhere way down there made me wonder about my importance in life and even question my need for existence.
This feeling surfaced again on a recent flight to Honduras when the largeness of reality of those things around me on the ground suddenly disappeared into obscurity as our plane climbed to 5 miles above the earth. First, the people on the ground disappeared as the plane ascended over Nashville, then the cars became dots as the houses were squished into suburbs and the streets to spiderwebs of strands so thin and fragile they could only be seen by the first light of the new sunrise.
The haze and clouds obliterated even the largest ground topography leaving me suspended in thin air and puffy white billows that looked more substantial than the earth below.
We would be going about 2,000 miles into a foreign culture where most of us couldn't even communicate. It would be a different type of aloneness for those on their first trip abroad but the feelings of separation would be lessened by being in a group of 28 all with a common bond and speaking the same language of compassion.
There was also the technical support of phones that would keep us in contact with home, albeit rarely used and difficult to connect at times. The respite was that it was only a week-long trip and barring adversity we would be right back where we started from soon enough and hopefully not missing anything important back home.
Editors Note: George Robertson is a physician with Family Medical Associates, PC, in Lebanon.