Sunday, February 17, 2013

Popes, Sacks of Stardust, and Inspirations

It has been almost a week since the Pope announced his plans to step down at the end of February.  I've been wondering if I should write a response.  But frankly, I'm not Catholic, and issues that swirl around the Pope interest me less than many other ecumenical issues that I'd rather write about.

I've listened to all sorts of responses to the Pope's announcement, and I've been amazed at how hateful so many of them have been.  Yikes. 

But finally, I've found one response worth referencing here.  E. J. Dionne makes a compelling case for making a nun the next pope in this essay in The Washington Post.  This essay is a great reminder of all the great work done in the world by all sorts of Catholics, from ordinary people to nuns to even the Pope, hard as that idea is for some people to accept.

But maybe all this ugly talk about the Pope has made you long for something more lofty.  I've been listening to this episode of the NPR show, On Being, where Krista Tippett interviews Natalie Batahla, an astronomer who studies exoplanets. She has amazing insights.

She compares love to dark energy:  "This has been the surprise to me actually that my perspective on love has been so informed by science, but it has. It's been fundamentally shifted, you know. And then I read other scientists who've had the same perspective and it all kind of makes sense. I mean, Carl Sagan's quote, you know: 'For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love.' This love, this idea, is this moving force. I mean, it just permeates our history, our culture. I've equated it to, you know, this analogy of dark matter.  Ninety-five percent of the mass of the universe being something we can't even see, and yet it moves us. It draws us. It creates galaxies. We're like moving on a current of this gravitational field created by mostly stuff that we can't see. And the analogy with love just struck me, you know, that it's like this thing that we can't see, that we don't understand yet. It's everywhere and it moves us. And science has given me that perspective, but also in very logistical, tangible, practical ways, you know. I mean, when you study science, you step out of planet Earth. You look back down at this blue sphere and you see a world with no borders."

Her love for our universe permeates everything she says.  It's a beautiful interview, and it makes me wish I could be an astronomer.  But I'm a poet and a theologian, and listening to her reminds me of how close all of those interests are:  poetry, astronomy, and theology.

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