Thursday, December 14, 2017

Cosmic Bookshelves

Free-use image taken by the Hubble Telescope 
I am not known as someone with a good sense of direction… I thought of that last night when I realized how easy it would be for me to lose myself in staring into the heavens…staring into the stories told by the constellations. 
I had gone to the 4th floor terrace of our community home in the Trastevere in Rome with a freshly downloaded star-identification app.  By inputting my geographic location and pointing the camera to the sky, I was able to see forms appear and identify different stars and planets.  As is true for many people, Orion is a constellation I can easily identify with bare eyes.  For the first time last night, though, I realized Orion was fighting Taurus.  And there!  On the other side were two intertwined figures!  Up above the chapel cupola, Ursa Minor!  Bears, bulls, dippers, hunters, creepers (Cancer, the crab)… all there, splayed across the cosmos…available to the imagination… Once I had the suggestion through the app, it appeared to my eyes…and the stories unfolded from light-years away.
How easy it was to also imagine that people had long shared these stories with one another.  How easy to imagine that tales were created by humans to explain the arrangement and ordering of something so much larger than themselves.  How quickly I could identify with the desire to know more intimately the as yet unreachable vastness of the cosmos…the veil…between here and a there we cannot quite imagine but believe must surely exist.
So yes, I was lost in the heavens last night…lost in God…God who in generosity and profound creativity created the wonder I beheld above and all around…who gave me the imagination (and the inspired technological assistance) to draw lines, to make connections, to hear the stories being told, stories that are as old as the first footsteps that walked this Earth and stopped so someone could look up.
There were earthly stories told too, while I was up there on the terrace.  Those stories were told in the lights of the city of Rome, the sound of ambulances, the silences… The stories of my day, stories from emails received, work done, life lived and shared while tromping through what is immediate and exceedingly real, kicking up leaves of hurt, of injustice, of birth, of simple joys, of hopes both realized and secreted away.
Meandering as I was through the shelves of revelation, I couldn’t help by think--what a fullness both volumes of stories offer…a never-ending living library of God that we are each born to read and to help write.

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