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Rotating Earth gifWow moments . . . Most of us get to experience them at some point, whether through some form of service, personal epiphany, or, as in my case, interacting with a favorite author. These wow moments are launched from one extraordinary foundation: inspiration.

This post is (inasmuch as words can be) a blood relative of the post I did just prior to this one, The Breath Of Morning. Give it a quick read if you haven’t already, then come back. I’ll wait.

Last night I sent the following e-mail to an author I have great respect for, and whose books I have thoroughly enjoyed and learned from. I had not the least expectation nor passing thought that I may get a response, much less only an hour later.

I have been tuning in to NASA TV every now and again to see what’s happening on the International Space Station. Today I was treated to something that stunned me. Something of such profound beauty it was practically spiritual.

As I watched it I thought of all the mind expanding things I have learned through your books, of all the places you have been as you have sifted through the history of mankind and the very elements themselves. You have studied the aftermath of matter spewed into our realm from deep within the earth, parsed through the physics of modern day barbarism even at the cost of your own emotions, and traveled to depths below our oceans where the pressure is such that styrofoam cups are compressed to fractions of their original size. You’ve yet to go to space . . . yet.

I watched perhaps only twenty seconds of live footage of the ISS as she floated over 200 miles above the Earth, somewhere over the Middle East. Our home was slowly rotating beneath it. I was struck by the visible speed of its rotation—the ISS is not in geo-synchronous orbit, of course, and the Earth’s movement was, to the eye, slow . . . but there was an indescribable magic to witnessing your home from afar. We are so intricately aware of our terrestrial place that seeing it from a different perspective holds the same kind of wonder and awe as one’s first kiss—heady, profound, and though you are fully aware of its presence, utterly magical.

The dumbest of observations floated to my head as I stared at the orbital scene: Judging by the visual speed of the planet’s rotation it seems that 24 hours passes far quicker than we believe it to.

If only all mankind were able to watch the kind of scene I watched today, perhaps splayed upon an IMAX screen in airports, rail terminals, and government buildings, just maybe we could begin to see how important it is that we find some way to unite. You can’t convince me that as a species humans will ever find a way to love one another respectfully—but we are all we have, as far as we know.

Humbly,
J.W. Nicklaus

Just under an hour later his reply hit my inbox.

Not been into space yet? Actually, lay on your back in a dark clear place at night and you can see immediately that we are already in space. There is no more fantastic place in space to be than on a planet with a life-sustaining atmosphere – watching an electronic civilization entering a terrifying adolescence.

Jupiter is easy to find tonight, near Venus – and there: Europa and Ganymede, each, almost to a certainty, with hydrothermal life in icebound seas.

I had written “Spinning Blue” in the subject line of the e-mail. Yet, in its own microcosmal way, I know for certain a singular denizen of that gorgeous planet had, thanks to the author, his own personal ‘wow’ moment.

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