I recently read a webcomic by xkcd that was a parody of The Terminator, time, and death. As an easter egg of sorts, you can hover over the comic to see a little more than meets the eye. In this particular case, it said,
“NO FATE BUT THE NARRATIVES WE IMPOSE ON LIFE’S RANDOM CHAOS TO DISTRACT OURSELVES FROM OUR EXISTENTIAL PLIGHT”
To sum it up, he’s saying the only fate we have are the stories we make up to give structure to our lives. It’s a strange reality we exist where we must be born, learn and grow, reproduce, then die ourselves. It’s as if we’re inside a giant machine churning forward through the cosmos and we’re all trying to figure out “why?!” Most of us just adopt the religious structure that we’re born into. But in this 21st century world, it’s easier than ever to be exposed to too many religions, too many views, too many beliefs.
We’re overwhelmed by the different narratives that are available to make sense of our world and lives. Which stories are true and which are not?Many turn to a form of fundamentalism—denying the legitimate claims of other traditions, whether politically, religiously, or socially.
Black and white is safe.
But reality is anything but clear. The more we know about it, the more questions we have. In the last 60 years alone, we’ve been able to see deeper into our own cells, into DNA and the building blocks of life, into the incredible complexity that has formed life. We literally have a microscopic blueprint of our entire being in every single cell of the 50 TRILLION that compose our bodies. When we look outwardly instead of inwardly, it’s even more shocking. We’re able to see 13.7 billion lightyears away and theorize at least 176 billion galaxies in our universe. (The milky way is just one!)
We live and act as if we understand reality. But what we think we understand are the little systems we need to make sense and meaning of our lives. What is really going on is a massive and mind-numbingly intricate existence that does not orbit around human civilization and life. We are only a small sliver of a fraction of what this universe is capable of.
When we even come close to really understanding the weight of this, it can be very disturbing. It doesn’t leave us feeling important. Our problems and joys are lost into the depths of time and space. And we often use God to selfishly (but not wrongly) hold onto our psychological need to be important. But if we believe a God is involved in this reality, and it doesn’t revolve around us, then shouldn’t our view of God naturally be one that is foreign, awe-inspired, and even fearful?
I dream of a day when Christians don’t merely take up their “cross” to prove their doctrines, but of a day they take up an existential “cross”—a death to comfort and importance—and instead face a resurrection life that is filled with an awe, curiosity, and wonder of the mystery of reality. I dream of a community that encourages their children to study, not for grades or success, but to peal back the mysteries of the world, to study deeper and farther than anyone before them. Revelation is a holy experience in religious thought. But it’s also available when we are willing to work toward it. Moses and Elijah climbed mountains and wandered through the wilderness to find revelation. We must do the same but with chemistry and mathematics, physics and biology. There is so much to discover, but when our narratives are focused on ourselves, we sacrifice wonder for comfort.