Fear is a funny thing, isn’t it?
I recently commented on another blogger’s post regarding a question asked within that post. The question was about how two educated people, educated in virtually the same field of study, could have such disparate views on God. The two in question were Francis Collins and Richard Dawkins.
After listening to Collins’ answer on how he came to his faith, to me, it was easy to see why he had faith at all.
He was afraid.
Fear is the greatest motivator of all time. It is fear that divides you from the other. It is fear that urges you to build a wall. It is fear that informs you of all the reasons you should pull the trigger when confronting a person who has a higher melanin count than you. It is fear that puts you on your knees, clasping your hands, encouraging you to reach out into the void to touch the face of a God who was never there.
We’re all afraid of the dark, aren’t we? Not the actual darkness, but that great unknown.
I remember, once, when I was about fourteen years old, living in the closest place to Eden I could find myself. I remember laying out in a field just outside of my father’s house, looking up into a cloudless sky.
I remember the sudden fear that took over as I considered that blue void.
That blue sky, as we all learn in our basic grade school science classes, is an illusion, and what’s behind the veil is an eternal blackness dotted with tiny pinpricks of light that likely have planets of their own, with observers looking into their own skies and feeling the same fear I did.
I felt true insignificance for the first time in my life… What would the universe care if I disappeared right then? My parents would certainly care. My brother, my sister. My friends, maybe even my perceived enemies. They’d all care.
But time would pass. That paradise I called home would eventually be replaced by another plot of land formed out of the violent belching of a volcano and the inexorable movement of continental plates. One day, the waters about that paradise would evaporate. The world would become too hot a place for life to exist, courtesy of the Sun’s death throes. Earth would eventually be consumed by the Sun’s dying light, or else the earth would be left to float about the blackness of the universe, a child with no mother, and she would freeze to death.
Andromeda would dance with the Milky Way, all the stars would fade to black, and the black holes would finally evaporate in 10^120 years, completing the heat death of the universe.
There would be nobody left to remember me.
That’s how small we are.
Even so, it’s hard to escape the fact that, by definition, and for your part in this universe, you are the universe, expressing itself in a fleeting moment of awareness. What is there to fear? You were part of this universe before you were conceived, the atoms that make you once having made the food your parents consumed the night you became a possibility. That same food was both slaughtered and grown, and it has gone on this way for billions of years. You were water, once. Once, you were a mineral. Once, you were the molten rock of the earth, the icy dust of a comet’s tail, the hydrogen that powered the star that died just to give birth to this solar system.
In a way, you’ve always existed, and, in a way, you always will.
In the face of your own eternity, what is there ever to fear?