Pluto, Our Tongue, and God
Pluto is the brightest of many objects orbiting the sun in what is known as the Kuiper Belt. Yesterday, the NASA probe New Horizons going 31,000 mph passed Pluto, snapping pictures and recording data. The 3-billion-mile journey there took nine years. This is an awesome feat for the human race. When Pluto was discovered in 1930, it was hailed as a planet. Now that we know more, it has been re-dubbed as a “dwarf planet.” Pondering the immensity of the universe beyond earth gives me vertigo. It’s impossible to fathom the mind-boggling distances and seemingly endless number of extraterrestial bodies—stars, asteroids, planets, and black holes—surrounding our little blue and green Earth hurtling through space. No wonder some Jewish man ages ago gazing at the breathtaking night sky exclaimed, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?” (Psalm 8:3-4).
Our mortal bodies themselves are amazing. Recently while reading a children’s magazine, I came across an article on the tongue. Usually I don’t give my tongue a thought unless I bite it, but I now have a new appreciation for it. This muscle helps us taste. It is covered with little knobs that grip food. Nerves called taste buds between the knobs signal the brain what the food tastes like. (Taste buds on the back of the tongue sense bitter, toward the front on each side are sour taste buds, closer to the front on the sides are salty, and on the tip of the tongue are sweet.) The tongue pushes food to the teeth so it can be crushed. Saliva glands at the side wet the tongue in order to soften the food. The tongue moves food to the back of the mouth to be swallowed. If the glob of food is too big, the tongue humps up and closes the way to the throat so we don’t choke. Besides enabling us to eat, the tongue helps us speak. Facts not found in the children’s magazine: We show dislike by sticking out our tongue and express love with it in a french kiss. Analyzing other members of our body that we take for granted, such as the eye or heart, would similarly reveal how remarkable we have been fashioned.
The marvelous way our bodies work came home to me years ago when I experienced a numb thumb and such severe pain in my shoulder that it sometimes brought tears to my eyes. The doctor explained that the problem was a herniated disk in my neck—not my shoulder at all. The trapezius muscle runs from our neck to our shoulder. When somehow this muscle knows there is a problem in the neck, it contracts to cause pain and prevent movement, thereby protecting the spinal cord. Truly we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). By the way, the nurse who prepared me for surgery told me that her husband was cured of epilepsy after their parish had prayed for him. When I said that I’ve been praying hard to be cured, but God hadn’t answered my prayer, the nurse responded, “He is answering it . . . through doctors.” And he did.
What realization or experience has confirmed your faith in a loving and wise creator?
Thought-provoking column. I never gave much thought to the tongue, either.
I’m still trying to get over the tiny, tiny finger nails belonging to my 2-week-old great-granddaughter. Like I tell my family, “they just didn’t happen. Somebody put them there.”
Keep those columns coming.
Congratulations, Joe! I can identify with your awe at the latest member of your family. My new nephew entered the world on July 4.