The earth is the Lord's and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it. -- Psalm 24:1
This passage has stuck with me this week, as I continue reading about man's growing understanding of the universe we live in, both the larger universe of which our planet Earth is a very tiny component, and the sub-atomic universe which makes Earth as we experience it daily look gargantuan in comparison. How can it be that our universe is as big as it is small? It's all very mind-boggling, to say the least. I don't pretend to understand all of what I am reading, but one thing I've gathered over the last few days is how inter-connected everything is.
We think of ourselves as being independent creatures, of every thing being separate. If space separates us then we are independent, autonomous beings. If we want to influence something over there, then we need to go over there. But the sub-atomic world of quantum physics describes a different reality. Brian Greene writes in "The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality," that "Quantum mechanics challenges this view by revealing, at least in certain circumstances, a capacity to transcend space; long-range quantum connections can bypass spatial separation. Two objects can be far apart in space, but as far as quantum mechanics is concerned, it's as if they're a single entity. ...A quantum connection can unite them, making the properties of each contingent on the properties of the other. Space does not distinguish such entangled objects. Space cannot overcome their interconnection. Space, even a huge amount of space, does not weaken their quantum mechanical interdependence." (pg. 12, 122) Even Einstein found it impossible to wrap his brain around this idea. Ironically, his efforts to disprove this theory actually provided the necessary insight to prove it!
And although I knew everything is made up of atoms, I was surprised to read Bill Bryson's explanation that, "Every atom you possess has almost certainly passed through several stars and been part of millions of organisms on its way to becoming you. We are each so atomically numerous and so vigorously recycled at death that a significant number of our atoms -- up to a billion for each of us, it has been suggested -- probably once belonged to Shakespeare. A billion more came from Buddha and Genghis Khan and Beethoven, and any other historical figure you care to name. ...we are all reincarnations -- though short-lived ones. When we die our atoms will disassemble and move off to find new uses elsewhere -- as part of a leaf or other human being or drop of dew. Atoms, however, go on practically forever." (A Short History of Nearly Everything, pg 134). As organic things decompose, they cycle through the earth and air, through plants and animals, and eventually through us. This certainly made me consider anew how much of what I throw away does not get recycled, but will always be as it is now, taking up space in some growing trash heap.
Pastor Ron Rude, who came to speak to our youth group about creation and evolution last Sunday, fully incorporates such scientific insights into his understanding of God. In his latest book, "Re-considering Christianity," he considers the creation story in Genesis 2, the creation of Adam from dirt, in light of evolutionary biology. "Human beings, according to the storytellers, are earthlings. Or better, dirtlings. ...As a simple microscope can begin to show, one square foot of soil is teaming with billions of life forms, including bacterial decomposers, microbes that attract atmospheric nitrogen into the soil to feed plants, mites, fungi that foster plant immunity, earthworms, and insects. As these creatures live, so we live." (pg. 24) Pastor Ron told us last Sunday that 90% of our bodies consist of bacteria, so this is no exaggeration.
All these gleanings came full circle when I read in Pastor Ron's book a quote from John Muir: "When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world."
I am persuaded, as Pastor Ron states in his book, that God has been in
the process of reconciling man to all of creation, including the earth
and all therein, for millenia, because, in our delusion, we have thought of ourselves as separate, even as chosen, above others. But all that this worldview accomplishes is hardship: we only alienate ourselves from creation, from our neighbor, from ourselves, and, if only in our own minds, from God, when we think this way. In reality, we are not separate. We are part and parcel of each other. Whether we like it or not, we are entangled with each other and with all of creation. We always have been, and we always will be.
I am aware, as never before, how superficial my understanding of unity has been. While I promote the idea of inclusion and unity, I have viewed this as something yet to be accomplished. But in reality, we are all already a part of God's kingdom. There is no separation from God, from our neighbor, from creation. Any sense that there is is an illusion.
So, what will I do with this new perspective?
Something new, I think.
As the church year ends, and Advent begins, there is always a sense of anticipation in the air. Advent is about the beginning of something new. I, too, am ready for something new. As I read the last reading today for the church year, and wondered what I would read tomorrow, it dawned on me that I have been reading the daily lectionary for the last three years, a daily Bible reading for the last four years. I could start over again. The daily lectionary repeats every three years. Or I could do another daily reading program. But, although I like the structure of a daily reading, none of these ideas feel at all appealing. So, what else could I read?
Then this idea of inter-connectedness made a connection in my brain. And I thought of other Scriptures. Perhaps it's time to venture into other Scriptures, or even the writings of other faithful people, as a daily discipline, and explore how these resources resonate with my thoughts on faith and life. Perhaps it's time to fully trust that I will always hear the word of God I need to hear, however far from home I roam. I'm a little uncertain as to how this will pan out, but I'm looking forward to tomorrow. And that's always a good thing.
May the peace
which passes understanding
be with you always.