For millenia, we didn’t know what we looked like.
As a planet, I mean. Until the 1940s, when a sub-orbital
spacecraft snapped the first blurry images of Earth.
Soon, color space photography captivated human eyes,
showing us more and more of ourselves. We glimpsed
our massive bright blue waters and the wisps of our
cloud formations hovering over green and brown lands.
And then in 1972 a crewmember of Apollo 17 snapped
the famous image referred to as The Blue Marble. By seeing
our full planetness, humans connected to the Earth in new
ways and with greater concern, creating the Environmental
Protection Act and Earth Day, among other methods to
address our misdeeds against our home.
Space exploration also raised
spiritual questions. My father once
described to me the quandary of being
a pastor when the first pictures from
outer space exploded onto magazine
covers. Well-meaning church folk
inquired of him: If this is what the
planet looks like, where is heaven?
Upon reflection, it’s not really a
shocking question. Planets and theology have been interlinked for eons in most cultures. Ancient Greeks,
Incans, and Egyptians believed that the moon and other celestial objects
were deities. And a surprising number
of myths offer animal connections to
the moon. In China, the Moon Rabbit, a companion of the planet’s goddess,
was responsible for creating the elixir of
life. The Buddhist Jakata tales include a Bodhisattva bunny. Across the globe,
Mesoamerican stories also feature lunar
rabbits. A Cree story suggests that on
clear nights, one can even be seen riding
Ponderings about moon animals are
not limited to the ancients. Amusingly,
in 1853—in what is now referred to as The Great Moon Hoax—a New York newspaper printed a six-article
series revealing a fantastic discovery.
According to The Sun, a well-known
astronomer viewed unicorns, goats,
bison, tail-less beavers, and bat people
on the moon’s surface amidst grand
temples, tall trees, and the shores of the Bay of Rainbows. One of the articles
reported a “universal state of amity
among all classes of lunar creatures, and
the apparent absence of carnivorous or
ferocious creatures.” Indeed, in The Sun
the moon sounded a lot like ... heaven.
Once humans landed on the moon,
NASA’s astrobiologists performed 300
experiments looking for life. But alas,
they reported that extraterrestrials
were not present. And so most talk of animals on the moon ceased, ponderings now relegated back to sci-fi shows
Meanwhile, scientists assembled
tortoises, apes, dogs, mice, frogs, and perhaps unsurprisingly, rabbits,
launching them into space to see what would happen. And they sent
some human animals, too. These
pioneers became dual citizens—at
least orbitally and temporarily—of two
What might we gain from considering ourselves in the same way, affected
by both our earthly presence and the
influence of the moon? Here are a few
INFLUENCE IS OFTEN INVISIBLE. The
moon is an undeniable part of our life.
It affects the number of hours in our days and the length of our seasons. It
keeps our axial wobble in check. And
it moderates the ocean tides, affecting
not only people but all sea life. We are
influenced constantly by forces we
don’t think about. What we do affects
beings we don’t know.
Reflection: How can I tune in more
keenly to my influence?
BALANCE MACRO AND MICRO. The Blue
Marble helped humans appreciate a
bigger picture of shared connection.
On the other hand, it glossed over the
incredible multispeciesness of our
planet. Humans make up only 0.01 per-
cent of life on Earth, yet speak of the
planet as if it is solely for us. To come
to interspecies balance requires us to
consider our language and seek more
knowledge. Instead of speaking of
“enjoying nature,” we need to recognize
the eastern chipmunk, nine-banded
armadillo, and snowshoe hare. Rather
than merely “loving the ocean,” we can
learn about the hourglass dolphin, blue
crab, and tiger prawn.
Reflection: Can recognizing individuals rather than habitats help me
balance the needs of 100 percent of life?
DITCH THE TERM ALIEN. Defining a
being by focusing on differences rather
than similarities sets us up for bias and
discrimination. At the deepest essence,
all life was formed out of stardust.
While evolution and our parents helped,
99 percent of what makes our bodies
was created initially in the heart of a
star. When we were born, we had no idea
we were individuals. We were awash in interconnectedness until we were
taught how to be a me and what was a
Reflection: Can reconnecting to
shared origins help me jettison fear of
the other on Earth and throughout the
RECONSIDER THE USE OF OTHER
SPECIES. Laika, the first dog to orbit
space, was a stray found on the streets of
Moscow. She was launched in Sputnik 2
with one meal and seven days’ worth of
oxygen. Sadly, humans have sent many
other beings into space on one-way
trips. To be a planetary being requires
looking critically at how we use each
Reflection: How can I help topple
existing hierarchies that place one
being in unbalanced power over
HONOR OURSELVES AS MOON-IMALS.
To become citizens of the universe, not
just a single planet, is to see more than
mystical energy, geology, or beauty
when we stare up into a radiant night
sky. It is to utter reverently under our
deepest breath, “I am part of that.”