Homes in collision

In July 1994, like millions of others, I watched the comet Shoemaker-Levy crash, as predicted, into Jupiter. Galileo, the sturdy spacecraft sent to explore the largest planet in our solar system, relayed images of the impact.

The astronomy community was jubilant. The pictures Galileo sent back of the collision were the first moving images I watched via the Internet. The Web site was the first one I ever bookmarked, lo some thousands of Web pages ago.

Since then, I routinely bookmark Web sites that explore the stars. If you're interested in going to "infinity and beyond," let Robert Cowen's article (right) jump-start your voyage of discovery.

And if you're curious about returning home after being away for years, or just harboring fond memories of where you grew up, Marjorie Coeyman's interview with Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe will give you pause (page 17).

A military dictatorship banned Mr. Achebe from visiting his homeland. But with the recent transition to a new, more democratic government, he was allowed to return for a visit.

Uncannily, his experience was like that of the lead character, Okonkwo, in his best known novel, "Things Fall Apart." In it, Achebe chronicled the tragic story of the destruction of native culture brought about by the arrival of Europeans and their introduction of a new system of religious beliefs to the Ibo in Nigeria. His return home troubled him in ways similar to the tragedy he wrote about because so much had changed in such a short period of time.

Satellite explorations like that of Galileo, when linked to the Internet accelerate the pace of globalization. Achebe's reflections remind us how closely tied each of us is to national and cultural roots and how precarious existence becomes when these ties are subject to destructive change.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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