Waiting on Orion

Waiting is not something we do well as Americans. Waiting is not something I do well as a person immersed in a culture suggesting at every turn we should strive to “get it all now” and so avoid missing out on some “essential element” necessary for a rewarding life.  Whether it’s limited-time offers or small windows of opportunity to achieve some material gain, or ongoing demands needed to refine imperfect relationships, our best efforts sometimes leave us waiting at the base of a mountain shrouded by clouds where resolve is tested by outcomes hoped for, but not seen.

Rising before daybreak is not something I do easily, either, especially after consecutive “graveyard shifts” to fulfill a new job’s requirement.  Rising before dawn, any day, is not what my biological clock takes kindly to, in this season of life, for any reason.  Never-the-less, after this morning’s delayed historic event, I wonder how many others may have silently grumbled as I was tempted to do.

It would have been easy to be angry with the captain of a boat detected in a “closed off zone” near the designated launch site, causing the first delay of the Orion rocket launch. It would have been tempting to say “it isn’t meant to be” after two delays due to ground winds and malfunctions of the rocket system’s fuel valves.  And I won’t pretend I was happy passing a tall cup of coffee “to go”, on the way to the beach, not wanting to miss the thunder and rumble powering a precisely timed lift off.  But then, I am an American, among others, unaccustomed to waiting or being inconvenienced for long.

If it weren’t for the quietly rising sun sending its soft glow ahead of splendorous rays above the ocean’s horizon, I would have complained. If it weren’t for the gigantic ghost ship shrouded in cloud cover, purposefully suspending its forward motion off-shore to observe an anticipated display, I might have grumbled.  If others had not imperceptibly gathered in the early morning with children playing in the surf, dogs skipping over seaweed-strewn breaker lines, and elderly observers sitting silently in their portable beach chairs—— I might have missed the best part of a new day.

Today, we were all waiting on Orion, the Delta IV Heavy launch vehicle expected to open a new chapter in space exploration.  Identified as the most powerful rocket in America today, the United Launch Alliance (ULA) project out of Decatur, Alabama, is expected to reach an orbit 3,600 miles above the earth. Although no crew will be onboard this trip, cameras and data gathering sensors will be recording systems of the rocket that must work before people can safely make the journey beyond earth’s orbit to asteroids, the moon, and eventually Mars.  Lofty goals named after a tragic figure found in Greek mythology.

According to Greek legend, “Orion” was a powerful hunter —a son of Poseidon, god of the seas—who had a dreamy look and melting charm among both women and men. (A more contemporary “Urban Dictionary” identifies men or women referred to as an “Orion”  in similar, unflattering terms.)  According to legend, Orion was blinded by an earthly king who did not want him loving his daughter; never the less, Orion’s sight was mercifully restored by the rays of a rising sun.  (Thus the name given to children today with the meaning: “Rising sun” or “Dawn”).  Orion then became the closest of companions with Artemis, a Hellenic goddess of the hunt, wild animals and the wilderness, and a defender of young children.  As fate would have it, Orion is killed by Artemis who has been tricked by her twin brother, Apollo.  Jealous of his sister’s love for one he has also loved, in a less honorable way in secret. Death of the beloved becomes the hurtful blow. Realizing she has been tricked by her brother, and in remembrance of her “pure” love for a lost companion, Artemis purposes to honor Orion by placing him as a constellation in the sky with a Scorpion behind him, as a warning to everyone under heaven of the treachery of those who are false to their lovers and false to themselves.

In astronomy, the constellation of stars making up Orion are the brightest in the night sky, visible world-wide, between November and February.  Orion the hunter appears between Canis Major (the great dog) and Taurus (the bull).  As a more current militaristic reference, “Orion” was the name given to a land-based U.S. Navy patrol plane with a four-turbo-prop engine, used to detect, track, and destroy enemy submarines. It was armed with missiles, torpedoes, mines, and depth-bombs.

Even Biblical scholars have identified references to the Orion constellation in  the Old Testament books of Job 9:9;  Job 38:31,32 ; and Amos 5:8  as  Kecil, “a fool” or “wicked one”.  According to Arabs, Orion is a mighty man akin to the Assyrian Nimrod, who rebelled against Jehovah (God), and was chained to the sky as punishment. The three bright stars in Orion’s belt seen as a glorification of a hero in the sky by Arabs, are viewed by Hebrews as a band of bondage worn by one who rebelled against God.  Thus, “Canst thou loose the bands of Orion?” ( Job 38:31 ) is a challenge from God to men who perceive themselves to be self-sufficient.

Fausset, Andrew Robert M.A., D.D., “Definition for ‘Orion’ Fausset’s Bible Dictionary”

bible-history.com- Fausset’s; 1878

In whatever context “Orion” is remembered, or becomes another event in history, I wait along with others.  I am no judge of other’s dreams and visions, but I do wonder how billions of dollars can be raised to give flight to lofty aspirations that blast off and out of sight, shaking the very earth on which we stand, leaving behind unresolved needs and issues on a planet we all call “home”.  As we are “Waiting on Orion”— even as I will be, along with thousands of others at launch time tomorrow —what will we do, standing here on the ground, to make this planet a better place for everyone who lives beneath the stars in the heavens, as its trail dissipates above us?

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