This is my column in today’s Greenville News.  I hope you enjoy it.  Again, sorry about my problem with the comments section.  If you’d like to contact me, just go to www.edwinleap.com and use the ‘Contact Ed’ form.

          What if, in your garden one day, you stumble upon a fairy?  Imagine her, slender and beautiful, perched upon the top of a daffodil.  See her wings, thin and frail appearing.  Her eyes are violet, and black hair cascades down her back to the tips of her tiny legs.  She is injured, and though you do not speak her language, she looks up with pleading eyes, expecting to be treated cruelly. 

            If you are like me, and have a beautiful daughter who loves all things fairy, you know that this is a rare and wonderful moment.  You scoop your fairy up in your hands and carry her ever so gently inside; she is suddenly your responsibility.  You provide her with water and food, and try to discern and meet her every need.  You put the intrigued cat outside, or in her carrier, because you see the interest in her twitching whiskers and the terror in your little patient’s rapid breathing as she beholds the great feline monster. 

            With fluffy safely put away, you turn down the loud noises and gather the family around.  You commit yourselves to the care of this once in a lifetime wonder.  Despite reports to the contrary for millennia, you believe with relative certainty that this is the only fairy ever to be cared for in a home in the United States.  You feel blessed, thrilled, and nervous and go through your days with the delight of someone who has seen a magnificent and beautiful thing of enormous worth.

            Her healing takes months but the joy of her presence makes the time fly.  When you release her, she turns and smiles.  She floats up and caresses your face with tiny hands, brushing your eyelashes with wings as soft as spider webs.  She repeats the same for every member of the family, even the cat, who bows her head in some kind of animal understanding of the wondrous.

            Your life has been forever altered.  The unexpected presence of your visitor, so unknown, so special in the vastness of the world, has given you a glimpse into a world of wonder.  You float through life knowing that you have had a gift, a privilege, unknown to any other human beings on the planet.

            But wait!  Something very similar happens every day.  It’s all in your perspective.  You see, every single man, woman and child is that unique.  The universe is so vast.  Just in our ‘neighborhood,’ it’s 93 million miles from the earth to the sun alone.  It’s 4.2 light years to the nearest star other than the sun, called Proxima Centauri.  A light year, to refresh your memory, is how far light can travel in one year at 186,000 miles per second.  I have difficulty grasping the math. 

Now, the disc of the Milky Way galaxy is 100,000 light years in diameter, though a ‘mere’ 1000 light years in thickness.  It is estimated to contain 200 billion stars.  The entire universe, by some estimates, is between 10-100 billion light years across.

What does it all matter, and what does it have to do with mythical creatures?  Simple.  Every person you pass, meet, know, love, hate, hold, kiss, help, kill or ignore is, in cosmic terms, as rare as your magnificently beautiful garden fairy.  Though it seems likely that there is life on other worlds, we so far have no evidence of it.  And we’ve been listening!  For all we know, we humans may be the only sentient beings in the universe!  In all the vastness of space, of rocks and planets, stars and pulsars, nebulae and meteors, we may be the only living things capable of pondering all of it! I don’t say that out of arrogance or ignorance.  It’s just the reality we have so far observed.

So as I see it, we make two mistakes in the way we view human life.  We say that because there are ‘so many of us,’ we are individually insignificant.  Or we say that because we are living in a vast cosmos, tiny specks in space we cannot comprehend, we are equally insignificant.

Both ideas are false.  We are many and we are few.  We are few, and we are incredibly rare.  And because we are rare in the enormity of what surrounds us, each of us is as valuable, as fantastic, as treasured to the Creator as that imaginary garden fairy.  I do wish we would learn to treat one another that way.

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