From an astronomy class I took a few years ago, I knew that 10 x 50 binoculars were nice for star gazing, so I was looking forward to checking out the heavens. It amazes me that you can look at the night sky with a naked eye and see hundreds and hundreds of stars, but with just an inexpensive set of hand held binoculars you can see thousands more that are just outside of our naked eye range.
A few nights ago, I went outside with my binoculars and leaned against my truck and began combing the sky for star clusters my naked eye missed. I stared a long time at Rigel and Sirius, the two easiest stars to find in the sky after the trio that comprises Orion's belt. I like Sirius because of all that I have heard about the Dogon tribe in Africa and their amazing knowledge of this star.
After a few minutes, I lowered my binoculars and just stared up into the sky - lost in its vastness. I guess 10 minutes had passed before Mr. Wayne came to mind and after 20 years, the quiet man who was the neighborhood enigma when I was growing up had suddenly had the answer to it all.
Let me push back the clock a little to the mid-80's in east Baltimore. One of my buddies had a step-dad named Mr. Wayne. Mr. Wayne was a modest man, very quiet and very polite. The thing that made him stand out to all of us neighborhood kids was the fact that whenever the night sky was fairly clear, Mr. Wayne would lean against his car and just stare at the stars for hours and hours and hours. Some of the knuckleheads would crack stupid jokes, and call him crazy and call him names and tease his kids. But, for those of us who were close to his children, we were told that 'something' had happened to him in Vietnam. I never really knew for sure, what had happened and I don't think his kids knew either - but we knew that it was probably something horrible and he should never be disrespected for it.
But, I always wondered, "What was so important about looking at the night sky?"
- Did the stars guide him away from a life threatening situation?
- Was he tortured under a night sky?
- Was he held captive and all he could see where the stars?
I'll never know. I haven't seen Mr. Wayne in 18 years and I have no idea where he or is family are now.
However, while I was standing in front of my house looking up into all that God created - I felt small. I felt downright tiny. I felt like a single little molecule in a universe that was as it was supposed to be. I felt like at that very moment, I was doing what I was supposed to be doing among the grass, and the trees, and the wind, and the earth and the galaxy and the universe.
When we look into a dark sky and see star light, we are looking back over time. The light we see at any given time was generated millions of years ago and is just reaching us now. Some of the stars we see shining bright every evening are no longer even in existence - having burnt out and collapsed while dinosaurs ruled our planet. The universe is vast, it is magnificent, it is humbling. And therein lies what I believe Mr. Wayne understood. I think that whatever happened to him during the war left him scarred inside and I think that part of him needed to find perspective in the madness of war, or the madness of the world. I think that when he looked up at the stars, he could put the past in the past and he could find comfort that he was now among the grass and the trees and the wind and the earth and the galaxy and the universe.
I think the stars made his universe as it should be.