From the Editor

Invictus vs the Grand Architect

Editor Michael Sherer

Editor Michael Sherer

Those of us who have access to the Internet know there is an astonishing amount of information available at the click of a mouse. (The new president of St. Olaf College recently reminded me, “Everybody needs an editor, but be careful, because the Internet is the one place where nobody edits what you read.”)

With that note of caution, I recommend you discover a single site that can provide you with more useful information than you can ever possibly use. Go to www.refdesk.com. Once there, click on the link “Astronomy image of the day.”

In recent weeks some spectacular images have been showing up, including one that shows us a photo of several wheeling galaxies — unimaginably large rotating circles of stars.

Thinking about what’s really “out there” makes an expression like ‘How Great Thou Art’ sound like hopeless understatement.
Who is the “captain of my soul”? Viewing those photos from the cosmos makes the answer obvious. The One who made and maintains this deep space panoply is clearly the master of my fate.

Many of us were struck by the fact that, as he prepared to die, mass-murderer Timothy McVeigh quoted a 125-year-old poem, Invictus, which ends famously, with this compound sentence: “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.”

We’re told McVeigh showed no remorse for the blood on his hands. Perhaps he had arrogated divine prerogatives to himself. If we can convince ourselves that we are, ultimately, in charge, then whatever we choose to do can appear to us to be justified, good, and right.

Adolph Hitler was pretty sure his program was right for the world. (This was the man who advocated rewriting the 23rd Psalm to read, “The Führer is my Shepherd.”)

I don’t know whether Timothy McVeigh spent much time looking at the stars. When I look at them, I’m pretty sure the author of Invictus had it wrong. My Master rules the galaxies—and me. Knowing that, I’m free to master my own worst instincts.