“To be whole is to be part; true voyage is return.”
—Ursula K. LeGuin
“My battery is low and it’s getting dark.” One month ago, scientists professional and amateur alike celebrated—and mourned—as a little robot’s life came to a heroic end with those words: its final message back to Earth. The Opportunity Mars Rover was meant to last only ninety days after landing on the Red Planet, yet managed to explore the planet’s surface for almost fifteen years before finally succumbing to a dust storm that prevented her from recharging.
What stood out to me about the news coverage of the rover was the way people anthropomorphized the robot, referring to her as NASA engineers did: by her nickname, Oppy. Social media was alight with poems, artwork, and memories of the robot, our parting tribute to another human miracle.
Maybe the metaphor is too obvious: pursuing opportunity has sometimes led me into very lonesome, vulnerable places. But in the best of times, I had a team back on Earth cheering me on, reading my reports, anxious to see what I would discover next, reminding me of the worthiness of my mission.
Too often, I’ve told myself that I have to do whatever it is I’m trying to do all by myself. Too often, I see the great stuff other people are doing, and I wonder how I could ever measure up. I feel like a fraud, and I hide my light under a bushel. Maybe you do, too.
But you—yes, you! Little old you!—are brilliant, and you're worthy of being out there among the stars, traveling at light speed, discovering things no one has ever seen before. What you are learning while you’re here, alive, with us, could change everything. With a ground team behind you, who knows how far you could go—maybe farther than you could have ever imagined. Maybe farther than anyone could have ever imagined.
What could you accomplish this week if you knew you had a ground team wishing you well? How could you expand the map of our shared wisdom? To whom will you return after your mission, and what gifts will you bring? And who are the other explorers around you, needing a word of encouragement that would mean so much coming from you?
Blessed Spirit of our Lives, create in us a community of mutual support filled with strength and courage, blessed with wisdom and power, gracious and giving and reaching out everywhere. Amen.