….Without God Secular Vision for a Changing World (Exercise #3)

Previous exercises in this series can be found here. Readers may still contribute their responses.

Exercise #3. What You See Is What You Are

For me, images can be as powerful as words, sometimes even more so. What I present here are some images that have inspired me, taken my breath away, or made me breathe more deeply. One thing they have in common is that they give me a sense of belonging, of meaningful connection to space and time and to other human beings, which helps me think about who I am.



There is a vast universe beyond us. To take a page from Carl Sagan’s musings, it is humbling to realize, from one perspective, how small our sun is, lost among billions of stars on one arm of a spiral galaxy like this one, unremarkable among billions of galaxies. I find it exhilarating to realize that, though we may never unravel all the mysteries, our little species boldly investigates the nature and origin of it all. We have begun to take for granted the existence of such photographs, but we should never forget that they are the massive backdrop against which we measure ourselves.



There is also a universe within us, down to the microscopic and the subatomic. We exist in a middle ground, that of living creatures. In this photo the myriad of sperm cells swirl around a center that attracts them, pulled by the gravity of creating a new life. I see the animalistic urgency, the competition to win the prize. But, as science has discovered, though one cell is the victor, the rest are needed to dissolve the egg membrane and allow that one inside. Competition and cooperation coexist from the first moments of our conception.



Deep within us is the need to reach out to others. We have found ways to leave a record of our thoughts, impressions, and accomplishments, so that our lives might have some kind of lasting impact on generations to come. We are impressed by the variety and dynamism of other life forms. We must see ourselves mirrored in them.



These hands are touching in quiet, loving devotion, a larger hand and a smaller one. Think of all we offer to our children—our knowledge, our wisdom, and our support as we try to provide them a secure, peaceful future. What we offer them brings out the best in us.


Dear reader, please upload an image below that is special to you and explain why in fifty words or less. Do not send images of yourself or people you know personally. Where possible, try to select images that are in the public domain, creative commons licensed, or are fair use. We will publish a number of them.