Astronomers have spent a decade observing and photographing the Milky Way's 100 billion stars, which orbit planets very much like ours. I am continually astounded as I imagine all that we still cannot see and perhaps never will. There are unknown neutrinos, black holes, galaxies, stars, and layer upon layer of huge planetary systems that die and multiply; all within a vast universe that we will never be able to fathom.

And yet, here on planet earth, we continue to stumble and fall as we witness horrific events of our own creation. We sacrifice ourselves to lives and societal influences that breed discontent, loneliness, restlessness, hostilities, annihilation and war. We allow perversions, criminality, nepotism and paid-for cronyism to continue to decimate our society as we stand by in shock at the resulting fallout and wonder why.

We listen to empty-souled pundits and warmongers, and even as we continue to isolate ourselves from the rest of the world, we count ourselves to be special amongst all nations and even blessed. In 1963 John F. Kennedy said, "Our privileges can be no greater than our obligations, the protection of our rights can endure no longer than the performance of our responsibilities."

This begs the question, what are our responsibilities -- both collectively and individually? "Love they neighbor as thyself." (Mark 12:33) Does that mean only those who live next door to us or does that mean those who share this earth? Does this include those who do not think as we do? Those who look differently than we do?

This past year I overheard two statements from people who obviously felt it was just fine to say and feel as they do. "Obama's an okay guy, but his skin is the wrong color." And then, just the other day, "I'm putting these things in an area where the Egyptians that come in here won't find them. I want other people to get these things."

In the first instance I spoke my mind, in the second, I stood absolutely still and felt my blood pressure rise uncontrollably and then I left that local shop. I know that I am not going to let that statement stand as though it is acceptable to discriminate against anyone.

We are living in a time where we have the greatest amount of information and possible wisdom at our fingertips and yet, we seem to know less than we ever did. We seem to have forgotten how to live, how to be kind and how to give of ourselves.

As we each journey through life, we may be stuck in patterns of thought, behaviors and outlooks that are deeply ingrained. As with both these people whose words filled the air with poison, we may not even know that our prejudices define us, blind us and divide us from all humanity, not just those whom we seek to punish and persecute. We may be parents but we need to be parented.

I've been thinking about paradoxes and have found some that really make me think. To live you must die. (Mark 8:35). To gain you must give. (Matthew 19:21) To rule you must serve. (Luke 22:26) Suffering has a purpose. (Luke 5:10,11)

"To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven. A time to be born, a time to die, a time to plant, a time to pluck up that which is planted ... A time to weep, a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance ... a time to get and a time to lose, a time to keep and a time to cast away. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-7)

"So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts to wisdom." (Psalm 90:12)