Sky Story; a tale of learning
by Rev. Jasmine
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To Jonathan thank you for always telling me the truth.
A small girl and her young father are in a moving vehicle. The girl gazes out the window of the car to the sea; it is a spectacularly beautiful day. The sea is bright, blue and calm on this afternoon; it looks just like the sky. As she realises this, she remembers a fact her mother had told her which she had also learned from the Good Word. She tries to remember the verse; Genesis, she recalls, ‘and God separated the waters’, yes, that is it. So she mulls this over in her mind for a while as she and her father continue travelling alongside the sea.
After thinking on it for a minute or two, she looks up at her father and recounts to him the story of how God made the sky, and why it is blue; isn’t it amazing?, she enquires. He looks down to his daughter with an expression of concern. The sky is water?, he asks his young reflection. Yes, she exclaims, when He created the Earth He commanded the waters to separate, and then half went up into the heavens and the rest stayed down here for us. She sits happily up in her seat, smiling at her father.
He is silent for a moment; he keeps focus on his daughter in his peripheral view while he continues to drive the car. He contemplates how such an incredible story could become such a solid part of his young and intelligent daughter’s consciousness. After he gathers his thoughts he broaches the topic again, you know, I always thought the sky was blue for a different reason.
His daughter looks up at him again, eyes wide, awaiting a revelation from her knowledgeable father. She can’t think of any other reason the sky is blue. But her father, he is smart, he knows everything as far as she can see; she awaits his explanation eagerly.
He continues to drive the car, keeping his eyes on the road, and says, have you ever seen a prism? She responds positively. He inquires further, well then, you have seen how a prism is able to take a beam of light, which looks white, plain, and reveal its full spectrum, just like a rainbow in the sky? His daughter thinks for a moment and says, yeah, Dad, it’s really cool how a prism can do that.
The father continues, well then you understand that light is made up of lots of different colours, and that certain things are able to show you the different colours. Some things, like air, are able to do something like what a prism does. They continue driving along, the daughter listening intently, the father choosing his words carefully.
He goes on; The sky looks blue because our atmosphere acts sort of like a prism and it scatters the light, but instead of making the sky a neat rainbow, its scattering makes the blue end of the spectrum show up as the main colour in the sky and become visible to our eyes rather than all the other colours; they are allowed to pass straight through the atmosphere. So, if you go into the sky in a spaceship, eventually you can get out of the Earth’s atmosphere, and suddenly the sky isn’t blue anymore; it’s black out there in space because there’re no gases or other things which could act like a prism or could scatter the light to make it look blue, or red, or any other colour.
And anyway, darling, how would a big load of water stay up the sky like without falling down? Water is heavier than air, isn’t it? Above all, sweetie, you know that water isn’t even blue, is it? Water in a glass is clear; water appears blue because it reflects the light of the sky. So, even if there was a body of water in the heavens, it wouldn’t necessarily be blue, would it?
The child thinks about what her father has just said. She thinks about what she knows of space travel and for the first time realises how ridiculous the Genesis story really is. In all the footage in all the films she’s watched in her short life about objects being shot into space, and images of space from telescopes and space-stations, and books about space and the universe, there’s never been any mention or inclusion of some kind of water-barrier, or of wetness, or anything remotely like it. She understands prisms, she is starting to understand her father’s explanation of the blue appearance of the sky; it seems to make perfect sense, really, especially considering the lack of any real evidence for water in the heavens.
The new reality raises concern within; how could her mother have been so wrong and so determined for her daughter to believe the Bible’s story as truth, as knowledge? Is religion, faith, the only reason for such a belief?
For a moment she struggles with this new concept; it is not at all what she had been taught throughout her life, but at the same time it contains a more understandable reality and truth as far as she can see. The Bible, the good book, God’s word… maybe they’re just stories? Her father must surely be telling her the truth, not a story from a book he doesn’t even own a Bible.
But Mum said that Genesis was right. You know, that God created everything and separated the waters. Is the Bible wrong? It can’t be, can it?
Well, honey, it could be wrong. It’s a book, isn’t it? Books, like the Bible, have stories in them, and not all stories are to be believed as the truth, are they? They are metaphors sometimes, at other times lessons about morals, but those things don’t make them true accounts.
The girl is perplexed. She wants to believe her father; the things he is saying make her feel comfortable and attuned. The Bible may have been her only knowledge up until this moment, but at this moment its inadequacy and confusion is most clear to her. She must question everything, and she must seek out the truth.
The young girl turns to her father; he has a smile on his face as he watches the road ahead of them, leading to the beach. She looks at the sky; she sees it as a scattering of blue light. A seed of true knowledge is lodged within her and she begins to smile as they follow the sea. She understands.