Thursday, November 15, 2012


I read this yesterday:
"I have much to write you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink.  I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face." (3 John 13-14a).

It was written long before automobiles, long before airplanes, long before video calls. To "talk face to face" was no quick and easy task, and John's decision to engage more personally rather than by simply adding more words to the letter points to something significant.


Constellation Orion
Light moves fast -- somewhere around 700 million miles per hour.  Numbers like that certainly sound big, but so big that their bigness seem to lose meaning.  After all, what is 700 million miles?  So instead, we tend to express the speed of light as a more understandable unit: 186,000 miles per second.  Still hard to imagine, but at least it's in range of something mildly familiar.  In other words, light travels fast enough to go the entire distance around the earth about seven times in one second.  (Yeah, I know the earth isn't flat and isn't a vacuum.)

Measuring distance in light-years feels a bit like measuring weight in gallons -- there is a logic to it, but not necessarily the usual logic.  One light-year is the distance light can travel through a vacuum in one year (therefore around 5,880,000,000,000 miles).  In comparison, the sun is around 8.3 light-minutes from the earth (therefore around 1/63,000th of one light-year).  The next-nearest star is over four light-years away.  That is, even traveling 186,000 miles per second, light would take over four years to reach the next-nearest star after the sun.  So -- light moves fast, but space is big, so the magnitude of light-years makes more sense.


Going back to John, I've learned to "measure" significant conversations in terms of distance: How far am I willing to go to approach this conversation in person?  Maybe I'll call it "conversation-miles." Some interactions are just best done face to face, and are worth the investment.

I don't know what John anticipated talking about face to face, but whatever it was, I love that he made the distinction and made it clearly, and I love that it mattered enough for him to show up in person.

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