Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Another Reason It's Not All About Us

I'm constantly reminded that humanity has been on this earth for only a tiny percentage of the earth's history, and modern humanity for virtually no time at all. Yet, so many people have this idea that the universe is really all about us, and for us. They feel that our mission is, over time, to subdue the universe and make it ours. Well, I'm not so sure that's the case, and in the last day or two I've come across some new information that may confirm my point of view.

Apparently there is a twin star system about 8,000 light years from us. Both stars are large, and they are orbiting each other as their gravititational fields slowly pull them together. We earthlings are approximately 90 degrees offset from their orbital plane, which is kind of like being in the center of their bulls-eye. This is not so good.

It's not good because someday the twin stars are likely to fall into each other and become a supernova. At that instant a huge plume of cosmic radiation will spout out at that 90 degree angle and come roaring toward our solar system. It will take 8,000 years to get here, but it will instantly fry and sterilize our entire solar system, and us, when it arrives. So much for the universe being about us, my friends!

I'm hopeful that the supernova did not already occur, 7,999 years ago, because I'd like to live at least another year. That's a joke!

But seriously, perhaps we can live with the idea that everything is impermanent. Does it really matter whether or not humanity continues for millions of years, or even thousands? Can God not make as many worlds as God desires? Does not each life stand on its own, regardless of what may follow? My life will end, and not so many years from now, at best. And so may our species end, sooner or later. At least the supernova would be mercifully quick.


Dave said...

Nicely said.

thimscool said...

The Crab Nebula, which actually was a supernova, is 6500ly away and it did little more than inspire some mention by the Chinese and Arab astronomers.

Is your faith so weak to believe that God has no purpose for us? Why go to the trouble then?

Are you a Deist?

Lifehiker said...

Apparently the problem is that the plume of radiation from the double star explosion will shoot out of the supernova in our direction (and 180 degrees opposite). A regular one-star supernova give off its radiation in all directions. I'll find out more on this for a later post.

On the contrary, my friend, my faith is strong. God is sovereign, and God does what God does.

If humanity is so important, why would God create the universe and then wait 14 billion years for us to come along? I suspect that God has lots of things going on all over the cosmos and perhaps elsewhere, too.

I don't question God. I just trust God. I am a liberal Christian, and I don't dwell on "end times" like so many conservatives do. However, nowhere does the Bible say that humanity needs to achieve anything before the end comes. It only tells us that God cares about us and expects honor and obedience from us. That's all I need to know. The rest will take care of itself.

thimscool said...

Hmmmm. Do you suppose that God has incarnated on other planets in order to offer them salvation?

If you are not a Deist, then what denomination do you adhere to? Is it the Lake Avenue Baptist Church?

Lifehiker said...

God can do whatever God wants to do - that's the definition of God. We are presumptuous to envision God as limited in any way, or to think we can understand God's motives. Isaiah 55:8-11 seems to sum up my thoughts on this topic.

I am an elder at Christ Clarion Presbyterian Church in Pittsford, New York, where in the past year I've co-taught Confirmation Class with our pastor and solo-taught some of the adult education. I have been interested in theology for more than 50 years.

"Salvation" is not something that I spend much time thinking about. I just do my best to follow Christ's teachings and depend on God's grace for the rest. As the prayer says, "Thy will be done."

thimscool said...

I gather that you do not subscribe to the typical fundamentalist literal interpretation of the bible.

What does faith mean to you? Does it mean belief in God, or trust that God will do what He said and what is right?

Why do you believe in God?

thimscool said...

Forgive me if I have come off as tedious. I have not spoken with many liberal Christians.

I am trying to understand where you draw the line and why. Obviously you have no obligation to answer my questions.

Even an atheist can respect that Jesus taught great wisdom and compassion, or that there are beautiful and consoling psalms. But they would regard this as coincidence. What motivates you to believe positively in God, and more importantly, what does it mean to have faith in that God if you don't concern yourself in all the details of what He said?

Again, you have no obligation to me, and feel free to tell me to buzz off if I have offended you. But I am genuinely curious.

On another related topic, you might find this argument between atheists about confronting faith to be interesting.

Ron Davison said...

Astronomy professor says, "The sun will explode in about 5 billion years."
A student in the back of lecture hall sits bolt upright and says, "In how many years?"
"About 5 billion," repeats the prof.
"Oh," the student sits back. "I thought you said 5 million."

Fascinating post. I had no idea about this. It is an interesting notion to think that given the speed of events in this vast universe we might know the end of life on the planet to the day. That sounds like a fascinating but odd science fiction plot.

Lifehiker said...

I haven't forgotten about you, Mr. Thimscool. It's just that it's hard to put words to how one feels about things like the meaning of life...which is basically the question you asked. But, I'll do my best.

When I look at the universe, from the super big things to the super small things, I see an intelligence and a power beyond all comprehension. One might well ask, "Why in hell would any such being care about me?"

Well, God certainly has the capability to keep track of me and everything else that's going on, everywhere. But why should God care about me?

My answer is based on how I feel about my children, my grandchildren, my pets, and everyone I come in contact with. I want to be recognized and appreciated. I want to have as many meaningful relationships as I can. So, since God knows I have perceived God, I believe God wants the same from me - recognition and appreciation, even love. And like my now deceased dogs, Tojo and Woody, I try I do my best to please my master.

The goal of my adoration is not to get special favors from God. The gift of life and perception is gift enough, and God's laws of nature are what makes all this possible in the first place. So I accept what life brings, hoping that when it's over I'll have the privilege to perceive God in a different and more complete way, to say "Thank you" for every breath and every experience, and especially, for the love and care I've received from others along the way.

As far as Christian scripture is concerned, I continue to study it carefully. I see the Bible as recording the efforts of many people to understand their own history with God (Old Testament), and to understand one of God's primary messengers (Jesus)in the New Testament. So much of what is said comes from the perspective of the writers, and is therefore imperfect. But, they did their best to write what they understood, and I do my best to both learn from it and test it against my own experience.

I don't view Jesus as the sacrificial lamb of God, covering my sin with his blood. But I do believe in Jesus's divinity and his incredible sacrifice to show us what following God is all about. If God ultimately allows me to experience the divine spirit, it will be purely out of grace that it happens, since my devotion to God is sadly lacking.

As I said before, I strongly resist the idea that man can define God or limit God in any way. God is just too much "other" from us. At the same time, who else can we trust? God is the alpha and omega, and whatever God has in mind is, by definition, "good".

It would be wonderful to have a sense of what God has had in mind since the beginning, and of what God has done in every place. My hope is to join all those who have hungered to praise his name forever. And that's that, Mr. Thimscool.

Anonymous said...

On the cross, Jesus said "My God, why have you forsaken me?" That indicates to me that not even Jesus knew what The Plan was. All he could do was truck on as best he could, and have faith that it would all work out in the end.

I try to follow that example, and do the very best I can; here, now.

thimscool said...

Thanks for the answer, Mr. Lifehiker. :)

I don't know what to make of this religion thing.

I was an atheist until I was a young man, and then I reasoned my way to agnosticism. I guess my thinking is still dominated by an agnostic approach, especially when it comes to the details...

However, I have come to believe in God, and I do think that He cares about us on a personal level (because I had a conversation with Him). I have noted many times life's synchronicity and almost didactic flavor. It is as if we are being prepared for some task...

I find religion to be very disturbing. It would be nice to be able to embrace a community of faith, without endorsing some of the nasty claptrap that repulses me. That is why I am interested in your perspective.

But what concerns me is how can there be any cohesion to such a murky world view? I know more than a few Presbyterians that would insist you are hell bound, and in fact are dominionists. Does it disturb you to be associated with these people, like it disturbs them to have a liberal influence in your church?

Lifehiker said...

You know, Mr. Thimscool, that only one person in the world shares your theology, and that is you. Same goes for me. No matter who you talk to, even the most mainline "believers", it only takes a minute to find they have personalized their official religion. That's just the way it is, so we live with this "murky-ness". In fact, I'm glad to be an individual rather than an unthinking cog in a large wheel.

In my local Presbyterian church, the parishioners range from pretty conservative to pretty liberal, and some wouldn't even know what those terms mean. What has allowed us to co-exist for many years is a consensus that we should live in a loving way, as Jesus did. The finer points get lost in that generality.

If you study a bit, you'll find that every religion has this problem of many different perspectives. Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Christians, and the rest all have many factions inside their big tent. Apparently God has not been successful in communicating exactly what any of them need to believe! (Joke!)

Can we look around and respond with gratitude for the majesty of God's creation? Can we try to practice the justice of the "Golden Rule". Can we honor the memory of those who lived and died for love of God and man? Can we attempt Philipians 4:8? If so, I'm betting God will overlook the mistakes we regret making.

I wish you all the best in your search for God, who is hiding in plain sight, everywhere. Peace!

Ron Davison said...

Only one person shares your theology and that is you. I like this. And it took me a long time to realize that fellowship is not the same as total agreeement.
Well said.