Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Homing Humans

I was reading today in the fabulous book, "Catwatching" by Desmond Morris a snippet about cats' homing devices. A German zoologist did an experiment where he crated several cats then drove them many miles outside of town using a very circuitous route, to a maze that he had constructed in a field. The entire maze was enclosed so that no natural light could enter to give navigation clues to the cats. The majority of the cats selected the passage which was pointing directly toward their home.

Other cat scientist people though there must be some sort of flaw in that method. So they performed more tests with US cats. They doped the cats, putting them into a deep sleep before the trip so that they couldn't retain any visual clues. Upon arrival they were allowed to wake up fully and then were put to a similar navigational test. Astonishingly, they knew their way home.

Morris goes on to say that it has since been discovered that may species, including human beings, "possess an extraordinary sensitivity to the earth's magnetic field which enables them (and us) to find the way home without visual clues. The experimental technique that clinched this was one in which powerful magnets were attached to the navigators. This disrupted their homing ability.

"We are still learning exactly how this homing mechanism works. It seems likely that iron particles occurring naturally in animal tissues are the vital clue, giving the homing individuals a built-in biological compass."

I am intrigued by the idea that humans have a built in homing mechanism based on iron particles that point to a specific place. It begs some questions. What home does your built-in mechanism point to? What magnets might disrupt your homing device and put you off-track? What does your personal compass use as its own North Star?

Many of you will see what obvious (to me, at least) parallels I can easily draw here, but I'll tell you what I hope my own homing mechanism is.

Though "beautiful downtown Burbank" is a wonderful place to live and the place I currently call "home," it is not my permanent home. Nor is Walnut Creek where I grew up. Humans move around a lot. No one stays in the same place for a lifetime. What, then, is "home?" For me, I define home as the place I came from originally and the place to which I hope to someday return permanently -- heaven. Whatever name you assign to it, to me, it means the permanent home of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

My compass can be a lot of different things -- a testimony of the divinity of the Savior, daily prayer, the scriptures, the guidance of the Holy Ghost -- essentially, anything that keeps my homing device pointed to heaven.

The strong magnetic forces that mess up my own personal compass, or the built-in ability to sense where the pathway to home is can be anything. Too numerous to name, says King Benjamin, and in today's world, are constant and omnipresent. They also change from day to day, depending on individual and circumstances.

Polaris, the guiding star by night that is constant and doesn't change position even as all the other nighttime constellations rotate and move, can be an obvious analogy to Christ. Always there, always beckoning, always guiding. I just have to be willing to look and be guided.

What home are you looking for? How will you get there? How do you know what path to take? How do you not get off course?

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