--Cosmic Voyage, Narrated by Morgan Freeman, IMAX/NASA
--Powers of Ten (1977), EamesOffice, LLC for IBM
Today (Sunday, 10/6/2013), I was asked to assist at St. Boniface Episcopal Church in their 9:00am liturgy. It was a more than usual special today, because there were two baptisms as part of the Eucharistic rite. The Rector, Fr. John Hall, presided at the portion of the worship that included the baptismal rite. I was asked to preside at the Eucharistic rite itself (at the Altar), which goes to the end of the worship. For whatever reason, I was aware of the special experience of both the space and the time of this worship.
I was also in for a surprise today. The Rev. Charles Kiblinger, Episcopal Priest and retired faculty member at Virginia Theological Seminary began a four part adult forum series entitled, "The Gift of Life: Its Mysteries and Responsibilities." As a way of coming at his topic, he utilized the YouTube presentation of Powers of Ten, which is the second of the two links above. I have added the first link, Cosmic Voyage, because it is an updated and technologically advanced version of the original. Both are excellent and worthy of watching before going further. Each YouTube presentation is about 9 minutes long.
Because I was already mentally and emotionally captured by the sense of space, being part of Charles' class caught me up in the wonder and awe of what space means. Whether we step back in chunks of 10x from a 1 meter frame, or go inward in chunks of 10x magnification below skin level, there is an almost overwhelming sense of space. It shifts one's perspective regarding how we fit in the scheme of things.
At "platform level" (our daily reality), we see ourselves as individuals, or units, within a particular environment. Our frame of reference is based upon the input given us by our senses. If all senses are in working order, I can, for instance, be a fair judge of my distance from an object or another person. If one eye is not working, the lack of parallax will make it more difficult to determine depth distance. If I can't smell, my capacity to taste and to experience that depth of my surroundings is diminished.
At "platform level" I look up at night and see a panoply of stars, a few planets, perhaps the moon. There is a sense of vastness -- especially on the Great Plains at night and away from any city lights -- when looking into the night sky, but there is so much I do not see by the limitation of my sensate capacities.
On the other side, if I experience a leg cramp while exercising, I can immediately feel the pain and, in many cases, see the muscle knotting under the skin. In the morning, when I check my fasting blood glucose, I stick my finger with a special lance device and draw a drop of blood. The strip that absorbs the drop will then give me a glucose level in mg/dl (milligrams/deciliter). A good microscope might show those glucose molecules, but what about the insides of the red blood cells...the atoms that make the cells and the quarks that are the building blocks of protons and neutrons in the cell nucleus? How about the center of a carbon atom within the double helix strand of a DNA molecule...the foundational substance of what formed us as a human being?
We are held together (literally) by forces at the atomic level. While our bodies and objects appear and register as solid to our senses, there is actually a vast amount of space between those particles at submicroscopic levels (measured in angstroms).
The universe is held together by similar forces on a cosmic scale, which is ultimately measured in light years -- each light year equaling the amount of space traveled by light in one year, or about 5.878625 trillion miles. We have an extremely limited (if not impossible) capacity to grasp those distances and space. Yet, they exist. What is a human that anything beyond us should count us as significant? Or, what is a human that the subatomic building blocks that make us should continue to do so with such reliability?
Yes, that is where my thoughts were going this morning. Even the reading from the Gospel of Luke conspired to challenge me regarding space. "If you had faith the size of a mustard seed...," said Jesus. The kind of plant that Jesus used produces pods, inside which are seeds, each of which is no larger than a grain of standard table service pepper. That's pretty small. But, we are told that our capacity to trust something as vast as Divine Love starts at the level of something smaller than a grain of sand.
As Charles Kiblinger began is class this morning, he made an almost off-handed remark about his goal for the parishioners gathered in this session. He said, "It is not the priest who does ministry. The priest simply creates and holds the space where folks can experience God's Love and be equipped to accomplish what they have been ultimately created to do."
The profundity of that statement almost stunned me. My work has been to make sacred space possible and to "hold" that space for others to engage a Love of immeasurable breadth. What I experienced, as I entered the parish church this fine, fall, Florida morning, was a single "platform level" cellular community functioning in a manner for which it has been uniquely designed...as such spaces have been created since we first appeared as uniquely human. I don't know about you, but the shear scope of that is daunting for me...and I have lived and moved in it for a fairly long time.
Perhaps because I am retired, I can step back from the intimacy of sacred space and see it on a more "macro" level. Perhaps, also, because I am not fussing with the details of operation so much, I can catch glimpses of the more "micro" aspects of such space.
Perhaps, because of my background in, and love of, science, I have very little problem engaging both science and spirituality as a single experience...without the boxes that have been called things like "evolution vs. creation." Perhaps, because I came to experience the great expanse of Divine Love by going deep within, it has become more comfortable for me to expect to find vastness in very small spaces...and vice-versa.
So, we move at incredible speeds. We rotate around an axis at about 1040 mph (at the equator). We move around the sun at a mean velocity of 66,600 mph. I will not even quote the speeds with which the solar system moves through the galaxy or that the galaxy hurls through space in universal expansion. I won't even begin to describe how quantum physicists and cosmologists are beginning to understand our universe as something like a single cell. My mind gets a bit achy when I do that kind of math.
All this continually draws me back to the space I currently occupy and the time I am given to be in this space. One of the great, but often overlooked lessons of biblical revelation is that I am but one very small part of a single cell called the human community. My holding this space makes it possible for the cellular community to function at its most viable. That is true for each of us. Don't sell yourself short. At the same time, don't try to expand your importance to override the essential function of others. See the vastness of God's Love that rests in the deep interior core of your being. Yet, see the smallest exterior space as an essential part of the universe. Function in ways that enhance the capacity of others to function at their best. Allow Divine Love to do the work...seeing yourself as the space through whom that love will work...if we simply invite our ego to step aside.
Science and Spirituality? It occupies the same space and created with the same breath that brooded over the chaos in the beginning.
Love and Blessings,