Intro Note: I’m SUPER-excited to be a new permablogger here at Wheat & Tares. Thank you, hawkgrrl, for making it happen. I’m sure we’re all going to have a lot of fun. 😀
A few months ago some friends and I visited the Adler Planetarium in Chicago. It’s a great place, part planetarium, part science museum, part research facility. I’m a giant nerd about all things astronomical so I, of course, really enjoyed myself. We shelled out to see the show and it was pretty neat. The most memorable bit, at least for me, was the trip through the Hubble Deep Field; I had seen it before on my computer but it was breathtaking to see it unfurl across the arch of the ceiling overhead.
The Hubble Deep Field is just so cool. Over 10 days, December 18-December 28, 1995, astronomers focused the Hubble Space Telescope at a miniscule piece of the night sky (in the constellation Ursa Major) that looked completely empty. What they found were 3,000 celestial objects, the vast majority of them galaxies.
It always gives me goosebumps. An empty dot of space actually contains somewhere around 3,000 galaxies. There’s so much more in the universe than we ever imagined, or, frankly, could imagine. It’s the actual definition of mind-blowing. We thought space was empty but it’s so very full.
Seriously. Google it. It is so awesome.
After the program, as we were walking to the car, my friend expressed her astonishment. I was there, jazzed, high on science, ready to share my joy at the vastness of the universe. But, instead, my friend said that it scared her. That it was too big, too much, that the scope of how much we don’t know was more than she could handle.
That stopped me dead in my tracks. I reoriented, got in the car, and the conversation moved to other topics. But my mind kept on coming back to her completely opposite reaction. Slowly, it helped me understand things about how people understand religion and the Gospel that I had never realized before.
Here’s the thing, one of the things I find amazing about both the Gospel and science is that feeling that there is still so much that we don’t know. If, as we are taught and believe, our existence will be one of eternal progression, then that’s absolutely mind-blowing. Have you ever tried to think about eternity? I have, and it both gives me a headache and a sense of overwhelming awe. There’s so little we know and so much that lays before us, waiting to be discovered and experienced.
I love that about the Gospel. To paraphrase one of my favorite hymns, there is no end to learning, there is no end to growing. I look at how my life has changed, how I have changed, in the 3-plus decades I’ve spent on Earth, and to try to extend that out to eternity? It’s impossible to visualize but it is awfully exciting.
But, like my friend’s reaction to the planetarium, there must be people who find that idea of eternal change terrifying. I imagine it would feel like there was no steady ground. There’s a reason why rhetoric has turned more and more to obedience and commandments. Actually, there are probably a lot of reasons, but one of them is that, to many people, the surety of obedience and commandments is comforting–it feels right. Things are done the way they’ve always been done and that’s the way they should always be done.
And that’s one of the great contradictory lines that modern Mormonism has to walk. How much change is too much? How much change is enough? Should we change or shouldn’t we? What should we do?
But not too normal, we have to be in the world but not of it, after all.
But, I would contend, now we’re feeling the pain and anguish of turning too far to the other extreme, of embracing traditionalism and then tightening our grip. Just as we need the comfort of obedience, of knowing what is expected and doing it, we need the free-fall of uncertainty, of an eternity we can only know as we experience it. We need to stand but we also need to seek. We need to look to God and ask, and learn, and grow.
The universe is larger and more populous than we thought it was. And, likewise, there is more to God’s plan than we know right now. I can’t wait to find out all of the things I don’t know.
First a thanks to Hawkgrrrl for bringing on a really interesting addition to the team.
Megan – Hello fellow nerd!! I have a picture of Earth-rise and one of Hubble Deep Field in my cube. I hope to hear more great blog entries like this one.
I do think you have hit upon something. Growing up I had a feeling that the church had all the answers and that was comforting. When that totally fell apart in my late 40’s it did feel like a free fall. After a few years now, I am MUCH more comfortable not knowing. I don’t know what will happen to me after I die – and I am OK with that now. I don’t need to know as I feel God loves me and I trust that. And of course I live not so much by commandments as by doing what is right (mainly helping others).
Eagerly looking forward to your future blog entries!
She said it was more than she could handle. You said it gave you a headache. Maybe you are more similar than you want to allow.
Even if you are ready for more change, you won’t want think less of others for not being as ready as you are.
“…believe that He has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man cannot comprehend all of the things which the Lord can comprehend.” Mosiah 4:9
Welcome! I also get excited about the idea of so much more to learn.
Funny enough, I was at a planetarium show last week for my nephew’s birthday. Just showing the expanse of the universe, zooming in on the Milky Way and then the Solar System felt overwhelming. I must have been like your friend a bit where I felt like I hit a point of “does not compute.” For some reason the sheer physical space felt overwhelming, but thinking about the expanse of time I didn’t have as much of a problem with. I guess I just tied it to my brain never doing so hot with understanding mechanics/physics. I do agree that some people just derive more comfort from routine and predictability. Others tend to find it stifling.
This kind of thing is what led me out of the church. It’s all way too big to be satisfied by a god such as that found in the D&C.
Talk to the God you left, and believe Him, or in other words, let Him talk to you and some day
“114 But great and marvelous are the works of the Lord, and the mysteries of his kingdom which he showed unto us, which surpass all understanding in glory, and in might, and in dominion;
115 Which he commanded us we should not write while we were yet in the Spirit, and are not lawful for man to utter;
116 Neither is man capable to make them known, for they are only to be seen and understood by the power of the Holy Spirit, which God bestows on those who love him, and purify themselves before him;
117 To whom he grants this privilege of seeing and knowing for themselves;
118 That through the power and manifestation of the Spirit, while in the flesh, they may be able to bear his presence in the world of glory.”
Who did you let lead you away from this?
some clouds obscure the continental body, a cypress wrapped in fog. The transceiver sweeps the room, searching for the little swaddled drum. When they found my father buried in his pale cathedral, they said he was having the time of his life, that phrase exactly, so nearly true. And yet. So far