Emergence, Aspiration, and Ashes ©
by Rev. Jim Ryan, firstname.lastname@example.org
Cosmology offers much excitement these days. Think cosmos, the great “out there” of galaxies, universes, dark things – matter and energy and maybe you will know what I mean. Syfy is all the rage, isn’t it? Not so very long ago cosmology, with its effort of exploring the meaning, the origin, and/or the infinity of reality, had gotten fairly boring into its 2 camps of theists and atheists.
Turns out, though, in the cosmic and astrophysical world much is stirring anew. The astrophysicist, Neil de Grasse Tyson, resurrected the television series, “Cosmos.” Some may remember the original series of the same name made memorable by Carl Sagan. Just as Sagan did, Tyson invites us into the exploration of the universe, only now it’s universes, yes, that’s plural. The mind expanding sense of time and space we experience under the guidance of the scientists opens us to questions of infinity, of dark matter and dark energy, and, yes, even of God.
As I said, too often this mind expansion has resulted in self-justifying explorations of theism and atheism. For those who believe in God this exercise only solidifies recognition of a Creator who set all this in motion. For the non-believers it concretizes theories of self-creation and a limitless and material-based evolution.
Never the twain shall meet — or, so we thought.
I recently came across two books that address this chasm that separates the believers from the non-believers, books written from the orientation of science. The titles are “A God That Could Be Real” by Nancy Abrams and “Reinventing the Sacred” by John Holland. I have read the first and have read reviews of the second.
Here I only want to raise for consideration this praiseworthy focus from within science to reexamine what place the notion of divine being may have in the search for explanation and wonder in the cosmos. Explanation, by itself, produces theories that are posited with the expectation they will be disproved in the interest of advancing knowledge. Wonder, by itself, leaves itself open to free floating, disconnected visions of wider realms of beauty. In combination, though, explanation and wonder elicited from within science offers a renewed appreciation for cosmological connections of the divine sort.
In her exploration Abrams writes of emergence and aspiration. I think of this openness to theory that renews itself – when dark matter and energy explain the movement of the galaxies, but it’s dark so we have no light to shed on it, in order for this explanation to be revealed. This experience of emergence of knowing some now and knowing more later – I think I see how emergence may present itself as evidence of the divine. Also, I think of such knowledge as the base for anticipating wholeness, integrity, peace from chaos, and good order from disorder. When simple organisms evolve into complex organisms that do not explode as a result of their complexity but rather contain an internal integrity serving the whole of the cosmos, it is in this that one sees aspiration at work that requires the full involvement of the aspirer.
We often say we aspire to many things. In saying this, we acknowledge that we, each as individuals, are required to completely involve ourselves in the effort. As with emergence, I see that aspiration is evidence of the divine.
The accomplishment of science to explain and to appropriate wonder to its cause is a great testament to humanity’s curiosity and diligence. It is also evidence of open exploration on the part of scientists and those of a scientific bent. When emergence is seen as God among us and aspiration is understood as connection with the cosmos how enlivening it is for the relationship of science and religion to read such books.
Alas, this believer must speak, as it were, from the edge of such glorying of humanity in the cosmos. In particular as we enter Lent on our way to Easter I want to pick up on aspiration. As humanity’s aspiration for cosmic wholeness may have a divine timber about it, it also occurs to me that such aspiring is about simplicity, about returning to the oneness of the whole. My image of taking this journey reveals the One who cares, the One who is cosmic because this One loves both the something and the nothing. I aspire to evolve into and to return to this divine One who is named God. Keeping in mind that to aspire is to wholly include oneself then my aspiration is to connect with the One whose unconditional love emerges from love itself, as they say, this One is Being itself.
So, why not begin one’s aspiration with ashes. It’s a very good place to start. The journey from ashes to new life happens in time and space. Yet, the one who journeys aspires to a destination that is limitless and without end, in short, cosmic.
How blessed are we who journey together:
Who recognize God as the Emergent One,
Who connect with God as the goal of our aspirations,
Who celebrate God as the One who loves us,
Who receive ashes so that we may take up the light.
We explore the spark of life that guides us to you, O God.
Stars and life emerge in our consciousness as signs of your presence.
Cosmic wholeness and peace is our aspiration through darkness and struggle.
The season of renewal and transformation is once again our journey.
The ashes we receive are a sign of our separation from each other and from you.
The light we aspire to is the transformation made possible by the Good News
of Jesus, your Beloved One.
You are God of all, the repairer of the breach, and the source of love.
Make your love present in our celebrations of hope, reconciliation, and peace.