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December 25th, 2008:

“God Bless All Of You…On The Good Earth”

apollo8sdtampForty years ago, we watched three human beings travel to the Moon. Well, they got there, and took a spin or two around it, and then came home. They didn’t land, but that’s ok. (Gravity wells are a bitch.) We didn’t appreciate at the time what a feat it was, and would not in fact understand the bittersweet truth for many years thereafter: We had a window; it opened, and it closed. It may not open again—but while it was open, we took it.

Nonetheless, that was a Christmas unlike any other. For years afterward I had a poster with the Earth rising over a gray Moon and the inscription: “In the Beginning, God…” It was part of the Christmas Eve reading by Borman, Lovell, and Anders as they circled the Moon, which brought tears to countless eyes (including my own) and continued the movement of my idea of God into the cosmic, far beyond the cartoonish oversimplifications that were taught in Catholic grade school, things that, sadly, still define Christianity in most of the world. God and the universe are far larger and more complex (and wonderful) than we can possibly imagine, but I gave it a good shot, and forty years on I am a different man for it. I require broader perspectives in myself than I otherwise might have been content with, and (more significantly) I challenge all conventional wisdom. That was my biggest Christmas present in 1968.

Carol and I will rejoin her family later today in Crystal Lake (along with Bill and Gretchen and the girls) to have Christmas yet again. (Why do something that good only once?) I leave you for the moment with the conclusion of Apollo 8’s Christmas message:

“And 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.”