I was advised early on in my son Joseph’s life to pump his legs, to move his arms, to get those muscles going. Since I love music, I decided to do this through daily dance parties. He and I have a wonderful time and we listen to a variety of music, but a favorite of mine and thus a popular choice for our dance parties is DISNEY MUSIC! Some of the most played songs from that list are from the Moana soundtrack. It’s perfect because it’s upbeat and very rhythmic, plus it has very talented singers and is beautiful.
Hopefully soon I will be able to share the beauty of the full movie with him too (we’re not there yet). I’ve watched this movie MANY times and one of the things I think most people overlook is the character’s wayfinding abilities. I can barely make it to the grocery store without Google Maps and these people are navigating THE OCEAN!
Although this is a fictional movie, wayfinding is a real thing, people using nature to guide them on their way. It was more commonly used years ago before we had maps and GPS, but it is still used today. This may not fit our modern-day idea of science (laboratories, trials, etc), but there is a lot of scientific knowledge needed to be a proficient wayfinder.
Although other techniques are used, the main wayfinding technique is to track the movement of the sun and stars. Men and women have always been able to see stars travel across the sky, but Heraclides, in the 4th century B.C., was the first to suggest that the Earth spinning is what causes the stars to appear to travel across the sky. This idea didn’t gain traction, though, until ~1900 years later.
Even without this knowledge, people DID notice that the sun and stars would rise in the east and set in the west. Those lights in the sky followed a similar pattern each day. This knowledge allowed them to use the sun and stars as guides. During the day, if you knew the time of the year, the sun’s position in the sky could tell you the direction you were going as well as the time of day.
Taking your cues from one big ball of light in the sky, though, is simple enough once you get the hang of it, but there are billions of stars in the sky. Those who are wayfinding memorize HUNDREDS of stars. For each individual trip, they may use dozens of stars. They will find a certain star in the sky and follow it as it travels across the sky, measuring its height. They measure the height with their hand (shown in Moana).
Here Moana measures Orion’s Belt (the three stars) to be 15° from the horizon. As the star they’re following gets too high in the sky, they then find the next star in their sequence, their next star to guide them. The stars don’t go straight up from the horizon, though. They appear to rotate around a celestial pole in the sky.
With current technology, we can now capture their rotation around the pole with long-exposure cameras. Here is an image of the southern stars rotating around the south celestial pole. The closer to the earthly poles you are, the closer to the horizon that celestial pole appears.
Our current technology has taught us so much about the stars: their chemical makeup, their life cycles, their age, but none of that adds to the simple yet immense knowledge needed for wayfinding. These people spend years learning the movements of the stars in the sky and learning how to let those stars guide them on their journeys to wherever they wanted to go.
Currently I am trying to navigate my new journey as a mom, and as much as I’ve loved this new role, recently I’ve felt very lost and overwhelmed. I’ve tried to type-A over plan everything to help me feel better, but it’s not enough. What I need is God. I need him to be my guiding star.
After that realization, I’ve been fortunate enough to spend a good amount of time in adoration, and during that time I just gave it all to Him – my stress, my exhaustion, my pain, my joys, my gifts. I prayed the simple prayer, “Lord, guide me.” I asked Him to help me navigate this messiness that we call life. I’ve also tried to go to daily Mass more, and I broke down in tears when the day after the first time I prayed that prayer, the Psalm for the day was, “Guide me, Lord, along the everlasting way.” (Psalm 139) I felt like this was God answering me, encouraging me to continue that prayer, asking for His guidance.
It has now been over a week and my life is still a mess, but knowing He is there, allowing Him to guide my path, has given me immense relief. My heart is calmed. I may not know where I am heading, but I have my guide leading my every move.
This Sunday is the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, aka Christ the King Sunday. Christ IS our king. He is there to lead every one of us. As we prepare for Thanksgiving then Advent then Christmas then New Years and ALL the insanity that comes with it, ask Him, “Christ, my King, please guide me.” The next few months are always stressful and difficult. More than just liturgically, bring Christ into it. Bring Him into every piece of that craziness, that mess, that stress. Let Him lead you through these rough waters. Let Him be your king. Ask Him to guide you each day.