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Life Lessons

Christmas Eve from the Moon

“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known,” said author and astronomer Carl Sagan.

And so it was 43 years ago when we came home from Midnight Mass to one of the most memorable Christmas Eves in my lifetime. On the television were grainy images and a message at the bottom of the screen that said, “Live from the moon.”

Back then, as the Vietnam War took its tragic toll and protesters were in the street, that TV image from the Apollo 8 space mission provided something apart from hard reality: a sense of awe.

There was awe over those closeup images of the moon, awe over the technology that made the mission possible, awe that the whole thing could be on TV. This sense of awe only increased when astronauts Bill Anders, Frank Borman and James Lovell took turns reading from the Book of Genesis.

It all added up to a sense of wonder, peace and hope.

Even if we are no closer to world peace than we were then, I hope we never lose our sense of wonder and hope.

“When men lack a sense of awe,” said Lao Tzu, “there will be disaster.”

I’ve been lucky enough to experience awe in my life and work: upon hearing the final chord of Beatles’ classic Sgt. Pepper, experiencing the birth of my children and grandchildren, seeing Jose Canseco hit a home run into the fifth deck of the Toronto ballpark in the playoffs, being present in the gym when an athlete takes a leap in performance, and seeing the eyes of the children at the family Christmas party when they meet Santa Claus.

In a world that goes nuts about Air Jordans and wonders what Adam Lambert or Lindsay Lohan will do next, we need more nights like the one 43 years ago, when Christmas, hope, Earth and the moon, body and spirit, all blended to give the phrase “star of wonder” an extra special meaning.

Finally, as Borman said in lunar orbit, “From the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas – and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth.”

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