Farmers Market




Lewis & Quark


The Bigger Picture

     Look at the stars. None of them are very near you. Relatively, at least. The nearest star to the Earth, excepting the sun, is Alpha Centauri. At a maximum speed of 34,796.787 miles per hour, it would take over 81,000 years to traverse the 4.24 light years between Earth and Alpha Centauri. To put that time-scale into perspective, that would be over 2,700 human generations--or approximately 81,000 years again. All this distance only to reach that star which is nearest. There are literally millions of other stars in the universe, much much farther away. And this is all well and good, but what's the point? Great, a star is super far away.
     When, or if, you study astronomy at all, you start to have the sinking feeling that you are very, very insignificant. You are just a small speck of dust compared to the giant red dwarfs with mega-Jupiters orbiting them, as supernovas explode into being in the background. A more fathomable example lays in simple observation of people. The next time you drive in a car, look out the window. How many people do you see? Young? Old? Short? Tall? And all manner of other differences in those people. Formulate two questions about them:
  1. Will you ever truly know much about them?
  2. What opinions of their own will you never know of?
     These questions are, obviously, rhetorical. I am not suggesting that you hunt down every person that you see and grill them on their respective philosophies and experiences. But the questions can be very helpful for you. Marcus Aurelius said in his Meditations that to think of others' thoughts was helpful for empathy - and he wasn't wrong. Both questions are formulated for a precise purpose: to know your place. The question "what is my place in the universe," typically formulated off the lips of metaphysicists, and astrophysicists, or some other brand of physicists, is actually a very important one, and not just for all the genres of physicists and their philosophical counterparts, the "thinkers."
     If my place in the universe is, as Lord John Roxton puts it in Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World, to be the "flail of the Lord," we will end up with a very different life than if we view our purpose through the lens of the standard of objective truth, the Bible. "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose" (Rom. 8:28). His purpose? Suddenly, the evolutionary viewpoint of "survival of the fittest" is null and void. God has a purpose. God has a plan.
     In Romans 8, Paul is obviously speaking of the believer. But as the situation does not call specifically for a discussion of salvation, for our purposes, salvation is the favor of God being turned towards someone for their good. That salvation propels someone to their true purpose. The oft-repeated Reformed answer of man's purpose to "glorify God and enjoy Him forever" is not without foundation or basis in truth. The glorification and enjoyment of God requires knowledge of God. How can you praise something if you do not know what it is? By no means can we divide praise and pleasure from knowledge.
     And so we need to know how we fit into the universe. Into the stars. Yes, astronomy can do that for you in a very physical sense. Relative to points in our galaxy, and other galaxies, you can derive the logical conclusion that you are tiny. But there's more. How many people know your name? 50? 100? Maybe 1000? Out of that number, whatever it may be, what percentage, how many of them, know you? Your hopes and dreams. Your desires and wishes. You preferences and distastes. Maybe your parents? Siblings? Close friends? Definitely much less than the small number that even know your name.
     But maybe that doesn't matter. So what if legions of people do not acknowledge your existence! Would their lives be benefited by that information? Would it make your life better? Thousands of people know celebrities' names, and they are a testament to the misery it is. Paparazzi, scrutiny, a loss of privacy. Fame is a distraction. Suppose that you were famous for your exemplary study of physics. (At it again with the physics.) After your fame, the legions of people clamoring to see you, the time you'd have to spend, the effort to find solitude--what would you have time for? Would your work be easier? Would it be conducive to building up better relationships? Go take a look at some musician's Twitter, or a movie star's Instagram. They are posting for the masses. They have ceased to interact person to person. They simply don't have time for that.
     It doesn't matter if people know your name. It can actually be harmful to have a large portion of people in the world aware of your existence. So should we seek to be famous? Only as a means to an end. Because on the grand scale of things, what is better: The fangirls knowing your name (I'm a fanboy, so no hard feelings), or God saying "Well done, good and faithful servant"? It's not bad to be famous. It's not wrong to seek to doubt that you are important. The proper view of your importance, though, lies in knowing that it has limits. But the Person who we should want to be important to, the Person whose opinion matters, is God. And when you can say that God thinks well of you, when you are beyond reproach, that's when the world is changed. That's where we should really be aiming. Love God--and great things, even if they don't always seem great, will follow.
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