Maybe the ‘me’ that must die is the ‘I-want-to-be-God me’ and maybe the ‘me’ that Christ saves and breathes life into is the ‘Made-in-God’s-likeness me’ which is totally loved and cherished by Creator, Christ and Comforter.
“In the beginning…” These words start the Genesis story of creation and also start the accepted mainstream science story of the origin of the Universe. Despite the best efforts of respected scientists in the early 20th century (including Einstein) to support a universe that was in “steady state”, all the evidence pointed to a beginning. Instead of stars coming into being, burning and then exploding to create new stars, the Universe had a definite start. (This of course raises the perennial question, what happened before the Big Bang?)
After about 10 billion years our own solar system formed – a modest star in a modest galaxy having a planet in orbit that had all the conditions for life. All of the key elements were present and water could exist as solid, liquid and gas. It only took an, as yet undetermined, event for the chemical soup to start on a self-perpetuating cycle of life, reproduction and death through the single-celled organism. After a few billion years of their ubiquitous reign, something happened for the single celled creatures to become more complex and to become multi-celled creatures. After that time it has been a relatively rapid avalanche of progress through the development of plant and animal species.
Even with five or six mass extinctions we still see today a vast and diverse array of plants and animals. And of course we see the existence of the one species that has the capacity to understand much of it and to wonder at its origins and its meaning.
Hand in hand with our growing knowledge about the mechanics of biology, physics and chemistry has gone our desire for understanding of the purpose of life and the universe. Our evolving scientific knowledge has informed us about the beauty of the cosmos and has yet to diminish the thirst in many for an understanding of the Creator.
These are the questions that Science does not try to answer and we search for our answers through prayer, meditation, reading the sacred text and interaction with others.
I am continuing the series that discusses a selection of polar opposites and takes a look at whether there has to be a duality between them. In this entry I want to look at Life and Death from a slightly different viewpoint. I will admit up front that I am no expert on death, having had very few close people in my life die, other than a handful of elderly relatives for whom death seemed to be a natural progression of their existence, albeit a sad one for those who remained. Still, I have a desire to know more about mortality, mine and others, and perhaps that is because I have not had to encounter it in its full power.
A few weeks ago I wrote about a walk, with a difference, to the top of a mountain. As we walked towards the summit of Mt. Disappointment, we went through a peculiarly fertile patch of forest. It was on the weather side of the mountain and so perhaps received more rainfall than neighbouring areas, and it probably saw very little winter sun. The ground was thick with the remains of thousands of years of falling leaves, bark and even tree trunks. The decomposing mass of vegetation was being consumed by fungi, bacteria and insects. Our feet were surrounded by the remains of so much death and decay and decomposition.
And yet this death was then the source of life for innumerable species of flora and fauna. Fungi, ferns, flowers and trees had found life and made home in this rich and fertile environment. Larger animals fed on the countless insects that had made home amongst the rich source of food.
So what was it? Was it a cemetery or a maternity ward? Of course the answer was that it was both. Death had given way to life and it was impossible to tell where one stopped and the other began. The Buddhists are familiar with this and teach on the cycle of rebirth. We in the West have mixed views on death and its finality. Some see it as a doorway to a better existence while others see it as the final step in our mortal journey.
Today I don’t want to touch on the subject of human death, but rather look at those minor “deaths” that we experience throughout our lives. Of friendships, of opportunities, of our vocation. Like a few weeks ago, I don’t want to offer empty platitudes, because some of these experiences can be grievous. But I do want to offer the idea that the death of a previous known experience can, like the forest, become fertile ground for new beginnings.
Perhaps that is what sets us apart from the animals – our ability to look beyond our immediate circumstances and glimpse a new future.