Vastness, presence and meaning

It is a profound mistake to imagine that Christianity ever intended to dissipate the bewilderment and even the terror, the sense of our own nothingness, which come upon us when we think about the nature of things. It comes to intensify them. Without such sensations there is no religion. Many a man, brought up in the glib profession of some shallow form of Christianity, who comes through reading Astronomy to realise for the first time how majestically indifferent most reality is to man, and who perhaps abandons his religion on that account, may at that moment be having his first genuinely religious experience.
CS Lewis, Miracles

Saturday. Evening Prayer on the train:

For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday,
which passes like a watch in the night.
Psalm 90.4

This puts my life (all our lives) in perspective:

  • all my little concerns, the worries and projects that mean so much to me today, will be of no consequence in a thousand years time, and are perhaps of little consequence in God’s time;
  • I feel freed by this; it is a relief;
  • it is not that God does not care, but there is something bigger going on here than my (and our) egocentric, narcissistic, human-sized (in space and time) perspective;
  • I want to be part of that bigger perspective, though I can have little if any idea what it is about;
  • and so I look at nature, at the vastness of the Earth, of the unimaginably bigger vastness of the night sky.

Perhaps ‘salvation’ is being saved from ourselves, from egocentricity, from narcissism?

It took me back to Richard Rohr’s Five Hard Truths (which you can find in this blog post):

  1. Life is hard.
  2. Your life is not about you.
  3. Your are not in control.
  4. You are not that important.
  5. You are going to die.

Meanwhile, I am re-reading As It Is in Heaven by Niall Williams:

Stephen slowed down. He had awoken that morning with the urgency of arriving in Kenmare, but now, when he had moved beyond the habitual perimeters of his own life, he felt the wonderful ordinariness of the market towns he drove through: the shopping and talking, the women that slipped like breezes from the church after weekday Mass, the buying of carrots form parked vans, the saluting of friends, nods and laughter, gossip, deals, and the talk of funerals that moved the world along. By the time he had driven fifty miles into Kerry Stephen Griffin had begun to learn the small history of life, the unchronicled plain fable of the everyday in which until that morning he had not taken part.
p.114-5, emphasis mine

A sense of meaning is found in the meeting-point between the apparent insignificance of our lives portrayed in Psalm 90, and this idea of the “fable of the everyday”.

When fully alive in the particularity and ordinariness of the “fable of the everyday”, then we are also alive in the unfathomable, “majestically indifferent” universe. If we are to have any meaning in the vast-time-and-space-ness it can only be in this here-and-now granule of the beyondness of space and the enormity of time.

My heart can only open when I am present, when I stop thinking and worrying about what is to come, and realise (in mind and body – in thought and sensation) that everything I need is already given.

Only when I give up all my projects can I realise that I am part of Your Project (about which I can know nothing).

Instead of leaning slightly forward, always moving into the future, I can walk upright, in the present moment, alive now.

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