Thursday, December 02, 2010

On Stars and Beauty

Call me lame, but I enjoy looking at beautiful things.  A green Kentucky field of ripe crops with a clear blue sky above, maybe a few wisps of cirrus clouds.  A mountainous roadway, winding up and down the valleys through orange and brown colored trees, splashed with the autumnal glow of harvest time.  Or a pure white blanket of snow, untouched and undisturbed, lying in its natural state apart from man.  Or, truly, looking into the infinitely deep blacks and browns of my wife's eyes.  These things, and many more, are all beautiful sights to see.

But there's one sight that always sucks me in, and that's when my gaze falls upon the night sky.  Ever since I was a young lad, back in elementary school when we were allowed to look at a solar eclipse using a paper plate or something, I've been fascinated with the heavens.  Couple the awesomeness of constellations with my young love of Greek mythology and I was a kid who spent time looking at stars.

I'm still that kid who spends time looking at stars.  I'll take the dogs out at night and inevitably my face is turned towards the heavens.  Orion shines down on me, his sword and shield drawn up in a fighting stance.  And there's the Big Dipper, the Great Ladle in the Sky.  These same stars were seen thousands of years ago, and there's something about that that I find amazing.  And then I look to the dim glimmers of stars, the ones that disappear completely when I focus on them but reemerge when I flick my eyes away.  How far away are they?  How old is the light that I'm looking at now?

At times I contemplate the emptiness of space.  While we often focus on the heavenly bodies- the stars, planets, nebulae, comets, asteroids, and all other things- most of space is void and empty.  Some may find this daunting.  Depressing.  But I see it as a thing of beauty.  It's a contrast that's needed to distinguish the awesomeness of the stars that I so love.  Without the void there would be no reason to notice the stars.

Now that winter is looming, the cold night air provides an often clear sky that almost always captivates me whenever I'm out at night.  I find myself staring at the moon, wishing beyond wish that I could be there and see what Earth looks like from afar.  See how much larger Mars or what the Sun looks like from the Moon.  Different perspectives give different insights.  It's not from visions of grandeur or ego but a true desire to see the planet we call home.  See how small and insubstantial it is in the big picture, as well as how small and insubstantial we are, too.

And yet, despite being a tiny speck in the eyes of the universe, we are nevertheless significant.  The ability to think and reason, to love and hate, to discover joy and endure suffering.  We are all unique creations, made in the image of the One who made the beauty of the heavens, and if there is beauty in all of God's creatures, then we, too, are beautiful.  We have purpose.  Meaning.  Why else would we have been made?

It's hard to fathom why God chose to make us.  I mean, I know we were created to glorify and worship Him, but why us?  Isn't the pure glow of stars a more glorious song to God than a prayer from a fallen and dirty man?  Is what makes us beautiful the fact that we were made by God and in His image or the fact that we're individuals with unique properties?  Or is it the beating heart within us and the longing spirit we have that seeks to find some sort of meaning in this life?

Earth is so screwed up.  We have people starving to death because they can't find food to eat.  Freezing for lack of somewhere to shelter.  Dying because of someone's rage and anger.  It's death that taints the beauty of our world, and we only have death because of the first sin.  And because of that, we're all marred by the ugly stain of sin, and I feel that that makes us ugly to God, so much so that He can't stand to even look at us.

The stars, they're not plagued with this problem.  The celestial bodies all floating around in the universe are not rendered ugly by man's sin.  Maybe this is why I find them so beautiful, why I'm inexplicably drawn to looking at them and seeing their beauty anew each and every night.  Pure and untainted, the views in the heavens are nearly the most beautiful thing in the universe.

The only thing they fall short of is the beauty of a person who's come under the blood of Christ.  Because even though the stars and planets are unblemished, a person saved by the grace of God has been re-made in the likeness of His Son, Jesus, who is part of God Himself.  It's this act, the act of salvation, of being justified in God's eyes, that puts us above the beauty of the stars.  And this love is even more unfathomable than the question earlier.  Why would God choose to save us?  His love is beyond reason, but I'm thankful nonetheless.

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Surely I'm not the only one captivated by stars and astronomical beauty.  Heck, I know I'm not.  David Crowder Band has a great song, aptly titled "Stars," that I've embedded below.  I'd recommend watching it and looking at the wonderful imagery put together and listening to the words Crowder sings.