Monday, October 30, 2006

Where the Wild Things Are

I heard a wonderful talk a couple of weeks ago on the topic of Science and Religion and Where They Meet (or something like that), given by a local Catholic scholar. Over pasta and salad in a fancy restaurant, we pondered the perplexing profundity of Power that made all things to Be (sorry, I couldn't resist a little alliteration overload there). In a section of the talk that had some mind-boggling factoids, the speaker called us to reflect on the vastness of the universe. He tossed up some numbers that were nearly impossible for us to catch with our 3.5 pound brains. The Sun is 30,000 light-years from the center of our galaxy. The Sun is 93 million miles from Earth, yet it is 270,000 times closer than the next nearest star. The Sun is only one of the more than 200 billion stars in our galaxy, the Milky Way. The Milky Way is only one of billions of galaxies in the universe. Before these "astro"nomical figures, the human mind just quivers like jelly. "Whoa" is the only adequate response, or maybe just a little "Whu..." And get this: If the law of gravity were just infinitesimally off, lighter or stronger in its pull, the Universe would have either imploded or diffused at a rate that would not have allowed for life as we know it to exist. And yet, as we know, here we are. Formed from the heart of stars and the dust of the earth. Miraculous beings we are, who can reflect on all of this splendor! One in a gazillion we are, each of us. And each of us breathed into by the Divine Love that tumbled forth this ocean of light and dark, this magnanimity and microscopity, from the behemoth Jupiter to the fragile heart of a red red rose, wet with dew, glistening in the light of that same far off Sun. Whew.... I think we need to hear these numbers and to ponder this vastness more often. We need to know where the wild things are, or simply that they are, somewhere. We need wildness, as Thoreau was so fond of saying. To know that there are still, even in this 21st of centuries, places on earth where a human being has never set foot. There are paths untrod and untrammeled by our sometimes dirty feet. There are delicate flowers on the tops of high peaks that will never be seen by human eyes. There are still species unnamed, depths uncharted, realms outside our reach. And that is good for us to know. It reminds us of a simple and startling fact: we are superfluous. We did not have to exist for God's happiness. And yet we are here for His Glory. Love is by definition superfluous, extravagant, overflowing. We are on the crest of that wave of Love, that exitus, exhaling, inspiration that made all things for Love. And He has made us now, in a certain sense, necessary, to give the return of Love, as sons in the Son who return the gaze of Love. We are a crucial part of this cosmic symphony. God has created us to be the conductors (or sub-conductors of our section of the work). We lift up the voices of these instruments He has made. So for the places beyond our reach, for the deeps of space and the worlds unseen, for the creatures great and small and for the height and the depth and the breadth of all that IS, we praise Him and give Him thanks! Psalm 8 When I see your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and stars that you set in place - What are humans that you are mindful of them, mere mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them little less than a god, crowned them with glory and honor. You have given them rule over the works of your hands, put all things at their feet: All sheep and oxen, even the beasts of the field, The birds of the air, the fish of the sea, and whatever swims the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord, how awesome is your name through all the earth!
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