Tonight, Asteroid 2012 DA14 passes between us and our moon. Oh, you didn’t know that? What an Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day we would have had if its trajectory had been different.
The asteroid is about 150 feet wide and will miss us by a distance less than a round trip between New York City and Sydney, Australia. And we only discovered it last year (hence its name). Just for reference, 1908’s Tunguska Event was caused by a meteor about 120 feet across that detonated in the atmosphere. And it did this to 800 square miles of remote Siberian forest:
Woah. Yeah. And it’s injured over 400 people so far.
The whole thing does remind us of the futility of our actions on a planetary scale. Sure, we can muck up the atmosphere, but that took a few decades and a concerted effort to burn through our natural resources. Here, we have little time to do anything but watch it on the radar and for some populations, see 2012 DA14 in the sky.
Now, there will be self-righteous doomsayers that the Satka Meteor and 2012 DA14 is God’s way of reminding us that He (and it’s always’s a “He” to these people) exists and that He is pissed at us, so this rock is His way of getting us to warn us to repent and follow the doomsayer’s theologies. I think it’s cute because this God always seems to be on the side of these doomsayers. But they claim to offer a hopeful out: their God can save you.
But who really wants to hope in a god like that, a god who likes to play chicken with the human race? This is a cruel god and a god that these doomsayers don’t believe exists. They know He exists. They have passed from faith to knowledge, the worst kind of theology. A theology that knows God exists is the most dangerous kind. A person that knows God exists and knows how God acts is of the most dangerous kind of people, because the God they know operates in the ways these people know the world and themselves. And in my experience, we don’t know the world and ourselves very well.
The word science comes from the Latin word for “I know,” scio. There are many different kinds of knowledge, all of it is limited. We didn’t know about the Satka Meteor and what we do know about 2012 DA14 is that between 6pm and 9pm GMT, it will be the closest known asteroid that has missed us. Satka, we didn’t know about.
So, don’t consider us “lucky” or that “it’s God’s will that 2012 DA14 will miss us.” It will pass us and we’ll have decades before it passes us again a bit further away. Satka didn’t miss us. It kissed us. Unkindly.
There’s nothing we can do. There are better things to worry about, like the ways we nearly miss each other every day. The word disaster is Greek for “bad star”, when astrologers saw comets and meteors and zodiacs as offering insight into foreboding futures. How many ways do we avoid disaster in our own lives? How many ways do we not? This Lent, let us focus on the ways we can be kind to people who have suffered their own disasters, whether in our neighborhood or Satka, Russia. Let us be mindful that it is only a matter of time until we suffer our own. Let us have the mind, hearts, and hands to help one another in times of disaster instead of worrying about asteroids that barely care to kiss us.