"It's gone," said a senior US official in one of the first formal statements to the news media about the Columbia space shuttle, which broke up over Texas just 16 minutes before its scheduled touch down on Saturday morning at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. All crew members were lost.
The photos of the seven astronauts - five men and two women, one of the men an Israeli, only three of the crew with prior experience in space - suddenly seem like photos of family. Warm and smiling faces of a crew taken just prior to launching, a crew setting out to push back the limits of our knowledge and open new paths of scientific understanding. And now they are gone.
Most of us had scarcely heard of them, never seen them until they were smiling back at us from every TV screen, every computer monitor, every front page of a newspaper. Somehow, though, that doesn't diminish the longing to draw, if possible, something positive from the embers of tragedy. To glimpse, if it can be glimpsed, that all the good of these individuals, and of the entire space shuttle endeavor, is not gone. That some shred of goodness is lasting, immortal, beyond the reach of tragedy.
Almost as if in anticipation of space flight, the Psalmist wrote thousands of years ago, "If I ascend up into heaven, thou [God] art there:... If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me" (Ps. 139). If the divine presence is there, then all of the good of these seven - and of the cause they represented - can't be completely erased.
It is this sustaining presence of God, who is the divine Mind and Love of each of us, that upholds us all at times like this. And more. It is the presence of God, which ultimately will help us not only feel calm in times of tragedy, but move closer to the day when the likelihood of tragedy begins to diminish. What is not gone is the Love that continues to be present, continues to ring each individual with comfort. What is not gone is the divine intelligence at hand to enlighten those individuals in positions of responsibility, to give them the wisdom to find solutions so risks grow smaller. What's not gone is the divine guidance that makes the quest for such solutions worthwhile and finally successful.
Late in his ministry, when every human help and comfort was gone and he was abandoned, Jesus turned unswervingly to his Father. Our Father. And he found there the spiritual resources, the God-given abilities he needed to sustain him through the darkness and bring him into light. Those spiritual resources and abilities were not gone in his time and are not gone today. They directed him to safety. Couldn't they do the same today as we better grasp them and put them to use as the Master did?
Perhaps in Jesus' time, and in ours, a conviction persists that the potential for tragedy lurks near every complex undertaking, every significant breakthrough to progress. Maybe it's time for us to rethink this conviction. To challenge it. Even to consider this conviction as obsolete in the presence of the Mind that is with us even if we "ascend up into heaven" or "take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea."
Maybe it's time for us to say "Be gone" to every conviction that potential tragedy must skulk at the fringes of every great breakthrough to victory. Maybe it's time to mentally, spiritually flee from such convictions to a recognition that God-given ability is not a double-edged sword, capable of good, but also able to cause unintended harm.
The ability that derives from the Divine is capable only of accomplishing what is consistent with the divine nature. We need to know this, to become deeply, prayerfully conscious of it. Then we find the outcome is safety, security, well-being. Never harm or tragedy.
Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy once wrote, "Jesus demonstrated the inability of corporeality, as well as the infinite ability of Spirit, thus helping erring human sense to flee from its own convictions and seek safety in divine Science" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 494).
As we flee from convictions about potential tragedy and replace them with a conviction in the comforting and healing presence of God, we'll gain peace of mind. More to the point, we'll make a contribution, however slight, to the ring of divine safety and comfort encircling every one of His offspring.
I will not leave you comfortless:
I will come to you.