I can’t start this post without beginning with a giant THANK YOU to my big brother for having given the last week to me. I’m at his condo in Panama City Beach, 19th floor of the most beautiful resort setting EVER. The only thing that is between me and the Gulf is the beautiful pool and patio.
I’ve gotten some fabulous studying done, eaten great food, played with the dogs on the beach, and seen some breathtaking sunsets.
x seven nights.
We’ve all seen them. We’ve all stood there, in awe, trying to memorize the sight, the smell, the feel, the sounds, having a moment in the middle of a day where you want to not just stop time, but put 4 walls, a ceiling, and a floor around to sneak away to when you’re, well, not in that delicious bubble.
This experience I’m trying to relate has happened over and over and over in the past 5 years, and while I hope it doesn’t pass, I want to get it down in words in case it does. It doesn’t show any signs of fading, and conversely seems to occur more and more often, with more and more vigor.
So many of these posts I write start with: “When I was a believer…”, and this one will too. It’s one of the most crucial turning point of my life, one of those milestones that divides your life into Before and After.
Before discarding Christianity as my worldview, I would see something as magnificent as a sunset, or a newborn, or a majestic mountain, and I would stop for a moment in gratitude and humility that God would have made that sunset/baby/mountain just exactly that way. How wonderful that God would have put that sunset/baby/mountain together, in that fashion, in that place, to serve that purpose, and that I could see it and enjoy it and have my moment. I remember it being emotional and moving and profound. This was based on both my gratitude for getting to see this thing, but mostly it was the awe that God could have so easily have created it – in the blink of an eye, the sweep of his hand, a nod of his head.
Let me express what those moments are like as a non-theist.
I’ve been watching the sunset against the crashing of the waves of the Gulf on the white sands of the panhandle of Florida. A storm system came through just as I arrived here, so there have been clouds across the sky at sunset. As I watch the colors build, and the sun sink lower, and the blues of the ocean turn gray, and swimsuited children become dark silhouettes of joy and laughter, I am astonished into speechless and motionless wonder.
The probability of my tiny self of carbon in this place and time to be able to see what I’m seeing and hear what I’m hearing is beyond any mathematical comprehension. To have had the life I’ve had to bring me to this place to see this sunset at this time stretches even the most vivid imagination. My gratitude and humility to be here in the face of those odds are indescribable.
Dreamboat Neil deGrasse Tyson said this in his book Death by Black Hole
“While the Copernican principle comes with no guarantees that it will forever guide us to cosmic truths, it’s worked quite well so far: not only is Earth not in the center of the solar system, but the solar system is not in the center of the Milky Way galaxy, the Milky Way galaxy is not in the center of the universe, and it may come to pass that our universe is just one of many that comprise a multiverse. And in case you’re one of those people who thinks that the edge may be a special place, we are not at the edge of anything either.”
This universe was not designed with me in mind. It wasn’t designed at all. There is more beauty and magnificence in that truth than in any intent of any design. That mountain is just that majestic, that infant is truly that perfect, and the sunset is simply that stunning (and if my geeky science friends bring to my attention that the pollutants in our atmosphere make for more beautiful sunsets, I’m gonna end you).
So when you join me at my Tennessee cottage for sunset and cocktails, and I stop in the middle of my sentence because of the glory of the vision of the setting sun, you will know why.
Thanks for reading!