Updated: Jan 20, 2021
(This is the second of a three part post wrapping up my first thoughts on (a)theism.)
Let’s pretend we’re Christians and we’re spending the day at a local park having a picnic with our family and lazily watching the world go by. Just under the large oak tree twenty yards away, there is a casual, work-related volleyball tournament going on with players of all different sizes, abilities, and ethnicities. Off to our left there’s a couple in their early 30s napping in the sun and chatting about this and that. Just behind us a man with his dog is doing laps around the park. Parks are a good place to be on a Sunday, I say to myself. No one on their cell phones, no one on Facebook. The air is fresh, the sun warm, the grass cool. It’s a perfect, Pasadena day, and presiding over all of this are the San Gabriel mountains looming in the distance, sentinels of silence that give all our little park pageantries some perspective.
I get in a pensive mood, as is my wont, and I start to think about what’s going on around me in more existential terms. I’m happy that so many people look relaxed and are having a good time, but what’s it all about? I mean, what’s it really all about, all this laughter and happiness and good cheer? Well, it is exactly what it appears to be: people having a good time together, having fun, playing and relaxing. Okay, yes, that’s true. But what does all that mean? Well, it means that people are hardwired to like each other’s company, that people enjoy playing as a way to distract themselves from the vicissitudes of life, and that exercise and good company stimulates endorphins and Serotonin production, both of which make us happy and stress-free.
It also means that God rejoices in all of this, and that something like love is all around.
So it all comes down to love, does it? Well, yeah, it does. All of life comes down to love, and we make the best of our situation and do our best to make the best of the situations of others. We’re here for a limited time on our way to who-knows-what and this short, quick burst of existence called life is, in the meantime, a journey; it’s a miracle, this thing called existence. I mean, what are the chances? Here we are, living beings, made up of mind/body/spirit, a triune being in the image of the Triune God, who produces in all living things the urge not only to survive, but to love. And to what purpose? To feel the depth and beauty of life and to see that others do the same; and to meet each other in our pain and darkness and walk toward the light together. And to live for the happiness of others, and not just our own. And to go to parks, play volleyball, lie in the sun, walk our dogs. But isn’t that all a little bit far-fetched?… that the meaning of all this points to something beyond itself? Of course it’s far-fetched, and it is so precisely because there is meaning beyond what is. It is always more than what it is.
(Something deep in my soul resonates with this ~ somewhere long ago someone once said that there is more to life than meets the eye… and then someone suddenly spikes the ball and everyone cheers, and the thought vanishes as quickly as it came.)
So anyway, we make the best of it. But “making the best of it” is not always possible, right? I mean, putting this all into perspective, we have to admit that often, love fails and that life can bring copious amounts of suffering. This is so, but we make a decision to move forward in faith, in spite of the suffering, or perhaps because of it, and that in fact, everything we do and think is the result of our efforts (or lack thereof) thrown into relationship with mysterious Divine action, which conspire together to create not only consciousness of our own existence at any particular moment, but the existence of others, of their suffering and happiness, all of which gives our lives context, purpose, and meaning beyond themselves, understanding that not only suffering, but even happiness, do not have the last word; that everything we know will somehow be burned away and redeemed. This is true. (Again, a deep impulse in my soul resonates with something like a memory, but it quickly sinks beneath the surface of my mind.)
The man with the dog walks by. Looks like he’s alone, probably a widower. Bet he loves his dog, and I bet that dog loves him. Nice-looking dog. And man, those mountains look so clear today.
I wonder what’s on TV tonight?