Sunday, September 30, 2012

Infinitely diverse star-stuff

I am an incurable follower of science fiction. I find great inspiration and great hope in science fiction, and I find much of my personal faith reinforced by science-fact and science-fiction.

One example of this is when I hear the opening of the TV series Star Trek speaking of "Space...the final frontier....", and I hear both Scripture and music echoed in my mind.  First, I hear Psalm 19:1:  "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of God's hands." Then I am carried back to a church-choir performance of "The Heavens Are Telling" from Hayden's oratorio "The Creation" (here performed by the King's College Singers of Cambridge). Each, in their own way, speaks to me of the grandeur, the beauty and majesty of creation.

Another concept that I have stolen and incorporated into my faith journey is that of the IDIC - the Vulcan concept of "Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations" also first introduced in Star Trek. I saw this image come to life in my faith experience very early on - trusting that the same Creative Spirit that brought us the massive face of Mount Everest also brought us the microscopic beauty of snowflakes and crystalline lattices; and that the immense, lumbering mass of whales and the unbelievable grace and speed of the hummingbirds feeding outside our kitchen window were both the product of the same Creator.

The Catholic priests and nuns of my early childhood told me what the Genesis stories said about creation. But my first real concepts of the infinity of creation came not from religious folks, but from a French oceanographer while watching  The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau, as well as the visions of space which came from coverage of the early Mercury and Gemini spaceflights. 

So when Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry's 1966 science-fiction classic, showed us a starship filled with people of every land and race, both on Earth and  alien worlds, I could see on that black-and-white screen the truth of Psalm 133:1 - "How good and pleasant it is when brothers (and even sisters!) live together in unity."

But listening to Matthew Gallion's sermon today on the fecundity and fertility of God, I was struck not only by how amazingly filled-with-life Creation is, but how the stunning fertility and diversity of life is built out of the same simple ingredients. Ninety-nine percent of living matter is made of six elements. Throw in another dozen elements, and you have 99.99 percent of our solar system! Only twenty amino acids, dancing in infinite strands of RNA and DNA, decide whether we are going to become humans or hummingbirds or whales. Out of a very small pantry, Creation has served us an infinite banquet.

As I listened to Matthew this morning, it brought me this last sci-fi metaphor, from the TV series Babylon 5.  This series is the story of a space-station, home to dozens of space-faring races who come together in a kind of interstellar United Nations. In one scene, the Earth-born commander of the station, John Sheridan, talks with a member of another race, Delenn of Mimbar, about the deaths of several members of the station's team.  In the ensuing discussion, Delenn makes the declaration that "The universe knows what it is doing."  Sheridan replies, "I wish I had your faith in the universe. I just don't see it sometimes. "

Delenn continues, "Then I will tell you a great secret, Captain. Perhaps the greatest of all time. The molecules of your body are the same molecules that make up this station, and the nebula outside, that burn inside the stars themselves. We are 'star stuff.' We are the universe, made manifest - trying to figure itself out."

In these few words, once again, I hear the Creator reaching out just as Humanity reaches out, and a Divine truth is re-revealed to me through the power of what-is and what-might-be. Matthew's words were working for me in "the thin places" -  not between "the sacred and the profane," but between the reality which I can see and the Reality of which I can only dream.

1 comment:

  1. Your thoughts remind me of a statement a friend made a couple weeks ago:

    "'the incarnation is evidence of God's intentional solidarity with humanity and all of creation.'"

    So i'll say to you what i said to my friend--
    i don't know what my theological beliefs are these days but... i want to believe in this.

    Just give me a bit of time, i'll find my way back.