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Monday, February 25, 2013

THOUGHTS: On Astrophysics, God, and a Beach

I recently saw an interview of Doctor Niel deGrasse Tyson in which he said one if the most beautiful things in science. To paraphrase, he said that, over billions of years, giant clouds of dust formed stars and planets, and that, of the very same atomic particles which make up everything in the universe, we are made.

Leaving absent any concept of "how" this happened, the idea that it's true is simply amazing!

The amount if personal conviction it would take for someone like me, someone moderately scientifically literate, a huge fan of science fiction, and relatively intelligent, to put that on some sort of rational proportion in my head... it's nearly impossible.

It's almost as much of a leap of faith on my part as, say, accepting that over the millennia, people around the world have been writing volumes about the same diety, the God of the Jews, Christians, Muslims, Baha'i, Mormons, and the thousands of denominations therein, and that all if these stories are, more or less and before their translations and edits, differing yet consistent enough to be an incredible epic, an easy enough concept for almost anyone to grasp.

However, I've noticed something much simpler and far more grand than either is these concepts.

Last night, I walked on a beach at sunset on a rare, clear, spring evening. The simplicity of it. Me. Another person to share the experience. And a dog. The random stranger. And all the while, across the water and above the mountains, a bright explosion of atomic energy is burning so hot that we can see and feel it from millions of miles away, through our atmosphere even!...

But I'm getting carried away. Simple. Me. Cool, damp, crisp air filling my lungs. The gentle slapping of our tiny waves on the gravelly beach. The fading light.

The color of the sky above the sun.

The warmth of other people sharing the experience, even if only for a few seconds as they walk by with their dog.

The point is that, whether it's a beach in Alaska, a mountain top in Colorado, a desert in Egypt, Mecca, some little used campground 40 minutes from anywhere, wherever, there is a place we all have been where we don't care about what or how it came to be, we're happy. Safe. Comfortable. Humble.

Some of us have more than one of these places. Some of us have a person, a mentor, a role model of sorts. Some of us have a car.

Going with the car, say you've got an old Chevy Corvette you've between meticulously restoring. You nay know who built it, and you may know exactly how they did it. But when you restore it, you put all of that work into it, time and money, and you take it on its first drive... do you think of God? Sure, I would guess some people do. But for some people, there is simply joy. Unexplainable happiness, which followed anticipation and preparation, consumes you, and you know that the work you've done had led you to that place.

You're experiencing what I would loosely call "God", but it's a horrible blanket name for the feeling that is so much greater than what one typically experiences when they think of God.

Maybe a new phrase is in order for this experience. I submit "spiritual gem". I had a high school teacher, Mr. Edward Lambert, who spoke to us about literary gems, those almost perfect phrases in literature that could tell a story and break your heart in one sentence.

Such as my sunset. I can think of the many times I've experienced "spiritual gems" of my own. Seeing Lily Lake for the first time. Standing on top of The Owl in Arches National Park. The birth of my first son. Watching Raiders of the Lost Ark at Red Rocks Amphitheater with a thunderstorm in the distance. The way my second son tells me he loves me.

The way I said goodbye to my first son.

Not all of these experiences were amazingly positive, but all were profoundly life changing. I'm fortunate to have had as many as I have, and, oddly, mostly outside of the places I feel most open to receive then. However, going to these places helps me connect to them, a sanctuary of sorts.

I encourage you, if you're someone who seeks either faith or knowledge, to find and exist in the places with the people that you feel any hint of pure joy with. Cling to the things that make you happy for no apparent reason. Don't walk away from then, and don't label them as nuisances to your "real" life. I'm a firm believer that they're more real than anything else you'll ever experience.

Find your beach, your rock, your campsite, your soul mate, your dream car, your mountain, your baby, your dog, whatever... Find them and love them. Keep them. Don't ever forget them. It may be a picture in your head if a place you saw years ago and never forgot.

The trick is that, when you think of these things, when you remember how happy you were, that you don't forget the happiness. And if that place or person is gone or forever changed, the fact that they existed at all, and out of the billions of people in the world, you got to experience that yourself... you do it a disservice when you focus on the sadness of missing it. You're burying the.happiness of the memory. You're taking away its power.

I suppose, in closing, I should apologize for following a tangent of preaching love and happiness. But I don't think I'm going to. Our time here is far to short in this universe to not find the simply joy in things. I challenge you to share this with your loved ones, to find and share your happiness with anything and anyone. The clock is always ticking. Don't let time run out.

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