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Pillar and Cloud

I have to admit that there’s one thing about living in Prescott that beats where I’ve lived on the east coast hands down, and that’s the night sky. The other night I sat outside on my deck and looked up at the most amazing panorama of stars- and planets. Some of the points of light that were glowing in the darkness were so big that I knew they couldn’t be part of the milky way. A quick internet search led me to a website that listed all of the planets you could see in the Phoenix area that night, and sure enough Saturn and Neptune and a couple of others were all scheduled to be visible at one point or another. The big yellow shimmering blob that I was able to bring into view with my binoculars was Saturn for sure. Even though my hands were not steady enough to keep the object from moving around in my binocular lens, it was big, and bright, and well, Saturn-ish.

For me, looking up and seeing the wonder of the universe is a spiritual encounter with creation. My mind swirls with thoughts of the Big Bang and how things happened from there. Like snowflakes, no two galaxies are the same, and yet they all sprang from the same place at the beginning of time. My logical side feels that everything in the universe should be predictable. All you have to know is how much force hits an object and what direction it moves in to know where it going to end up. But our Milky Way galaxy and all the other galaxies we are able to see seem to be arranged at random.

And we know that subatomic particles sometimes act randomly, seemingly defying the laws of physics that we humans have to live by. Could there be a relationship between quantum physics and love? They seem to have so much in common.

Some years ago I read a book that described Einstein’s theories of relativity in layperson’s terms. For a brief period of time I got it. I really did. I understood why the speed of light is the cosmic speed limit, and how time dilation works. But then I learned that, even though there is no way anything having a positive mass can travel as fast as a beam of light, the universe is nevertheless expanding faster than the speed of light.

So one day the light from our nearest galaxy won’t go fast enough to be seen by our most powerful telescopes here on earth. So our galaxy will feel like it’s the only one there is, even though there are millions of others whose light will never reach us.

That makes me feel sad, even though our sun will likely have run out of fire by the time that that happens. I wonder whether there are other universes out there that we might once have been able to see before our own universe got too big? My wonderment gives new meaning to the word Universalist – one who affirms the existence of other universes.

Maybe we humans just aren’t meant to understand everything there is to know about the cosmos. Humanity’s quest for a unified theory of everything could well turn out to be a fool’s errand. We can theorize and theologize about whether the universe is the result of divine creation, and if so whether the creator is teasing us as each discovery opens up new questions. Or we can sit back and enjoy being swept up by the mystery of it all.

As Unitarian Universalists we affirm and promote a free and responsible search for truth and meaning. But we never claim to have all the answers.

Looking up at the night sky over Granite Dells, I would like to keep it that way. To preserve the wonder and awe I feel simply by looking up at the light that took millions of years to reach us.