(Written months and months ago. Just getting around to posting.)
It is incredible that I can worry so much about life in light of it being so fragile. Or, is that why I worry? I don’t know. But there’s something about the fragility of it all, the brevity, that would seem to warrant worry as unnecessary.
Zimmer puts this in perspective well, saying:
While these few pages can’t do full justice to the majestic depths of life’s history, one thing is clear: our own time in this universe is almost inconceivable brief…. If the four billion years that life has been on earth were a summer day, the past 200,000 years – which saw the rise of anatomically modern humans, the origin of complex language, of art, religion, and trade, the dawn of agriculture, of cities, and all of written history – would fit into the flash of a firefly just before sundown. (Evolution, 71)
Which, in many ways fits into the history of how we’ve thought of ourselves. Thinking at first the world is flat. Then that the sun revolves around the earth. That man is the pinnacle of creation. Man thinking he is the center of all things. Which, of course, is the way we still act. I can’t see much beyond myself, and my own problems, even though they are – in comparison – here today, gone tomorrow. The blip of the firefly.
What I find, though, is that while these world shattering realities make me feel utterly small and insignificant, they also increase my awe at all things. Nature and beauty and creation happened, happen, and are happening at such a grand scale, of a magnitude I will never comprehend, and the fact that it all holds together so well for so long, and adapts so well, and can support life, complex life, is astounding.
At first I thought, ‘How does all this jumble about evolution fit into the Biblical framework?’ (A question I’m still seeking to understand, though am comfortable with not understanding.) But one thing, at least, seems clear. Our history, the history of this universe, is massive. And we are insignificantly small by comparison. And this fits into the Biblical understanding that man is nothing before God. ‘What is man that you are mindful of him?’ Our years ‘are soon gone, and we fly away.’ Like the grass, here today, gone tomorrow. Withering. ‘But the word of the Lord remains forever.’
This Word. Is it possible there is a reality more real, more solid, unceasing, with no beginning and no end, the source and life of all things? The Word of the Lord. Not ‘the words’. For words exist in a moment, like a breath, then vanish into nothing. Only existing because of the movement of molecules hitting our eardrums. All a fragile process.
But what is this Word? This Word that can create worlds, planets, stars, black holes, color, sound tastes, smells, and creatures, of almost infinite variety? Variety and diversity which adapts itself to its surroundings. Which has the built in power to evolve into beautiful variations.
It is beauty and mystery too deep for my simple words.
While I don’t understand it, I can’t help but cling to the poetic beauty of the beginning verses of Johns gospel. (But isn’t that the way it’s always been? We are drawn to what is beautiful, not only what is factually true. Facts do not breathe life into a person. But beauty does, striking a chord so deep – too deep for words.)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life…
Can the Word be a person, rather than a sound formed by tongue, lips and teeth? The Word. Without beginning and with no end. The life which was the light of men. In some ways this makes no sense at all. Yet at the same time, it seems like the only thing there is to cling to. A truth which defies logic. A man who defies categories, affiliations, time and space.