Like my fellow blogger Ian Lynch, I’m finding the current Darkwood Brew series “Evolving Science, Evolving Faith” more than a bit overwhelming. The latest episode with astronomer Grace Wolf Chase dealt with such incomprehensible numbers of stars and planets and possibilities for intelligent life that I felt as if I were wrapped inside the stellar veil of the Milky Way. Billions upon billions …
Yet one seemingly small moment in particular took my breath away. When astronomer Grace Wolf Chase described three photos showing different views of a proto-star, I was transfixed by the initial black cloud that was impenetrable to the naked eye or standard full-spectrum telescope. In a photograph on my computer screen came to life one of the great poetic lines from a mystical Jewish text called The Zohar (The Book of Radiance, or Splendor):
“A spark of impenetrable darkness…”
The Zohar’s authenticity as a sacred text has been disputed since it was first published in the 12th century by a Spanish Jew, Moses de Leon, who claimed it was the written version of oral tradition handed down from a second-century Jewish sage, Shimon bar Yochai. Whether or not it truly dates to biblical times, like the Psalms it has an ancient poetry and a wisdom that penetrates deep into one’s soul. In my limited understanding of this line from The Zohar, the “spark of impenetrable darkness” refers to that moment before God spoke the Word of Creation that ignited the universe.
It’s highly unlikely that a 12th century Jewish mystic could have observed the phenomena that astronomers captured in those 21st century photos. Yet somehow, just as with the Nebula Theory, that “spark of darkness” imagined by a human has been shown to cradle new suns that warm new planets and bring forth life. A coincidence, or a mystical convergence?
Since we are indeed made of stardust, is it so far-fetched to think that our souls remember the distant birthplace of stars? Or that in our imaginations, our synapses sparkle with the same radiant darkness from which our very atoms sprang?
It takes a leap of faith to contemplate such limitless glory, yet that which can be imagined can later prove en to be gifted insight. My favorite example: When I was a girl watching the original “Star Trek” series, flip-top “communicators” were the stuff of science fiction. Now we use them every day and call them smart phones.
So what if it’s both, like the idea that one can believe God created a cosmos of infinite possibilities that not merely allows, but actually depends, upon evolution and adaptation? What if we really are co-creators with God of our universe? We may not be able to make stars, but in our own spheres we can make babies and be responsible for the kind of people they turn into. We may not be able to create entire star systems, but we make families and communities, and those relationships determine the health and welfare of the world around us. We are indeed stardust, as the poet told us this week, even as Crosby, Stills and Nash once sang.
And if we are stars, then we should shine.