Wednesday, May 19, 2010


The Gift of Tongues and Fire

There are people who sift the sediments of the earth seeking tell-tale clues to shed light on the origins of mostly everything. Fossils, DNA codes, ancient seeds, fibers, bone fragments – these and more yield their secrets about what things once were and what they can tell us about who we were, where we came from. A small spade can unearth a fragment of bone and the information gleaned from something so tiny can shift tables of understanding by millions of years or thousands of miles. For archaeologists, paleontologists, biologists and their scientific kin, reading the past can be a long, painstaking process. If discoveries constantly alter the present understanding of things, those who probe the secrets of the stars of the heavens and the sands of earth realize that understanding is always partial, a piece of a living puzzle that has a fleeting life, a life that always gives way to further and at times deeply unsettling discoveries.
In a sense, we are all amateur sleuths when it comes to understanding ourselves by means of unearthing our pasts. A very popular activity these days involves the researching of family roots through the tools offered by Internet search engines and sites. Something as simple as an old photograph can fill in a lot of blanks as to where an individual comes from. And old diaries are treasure troves in their offering windows to the long gone past.
These days, physicists are watching the tiniest pieces of matter as these are forced through long tunnels at incredibly high rates of speed. It is hoped that when these tiny fragments of matter collide, the resultant collision will mimic the earliest seconds of the birth of the universe. Millions of dollars are being spent to reach back many more millions of years – and, to my way of thinking, the most telling discovery will elude the efforts of wealth, speed, high technology and the best interests of science. Science seeks factual data. Origins are sought through the refined glass of a lens, or a careful turn of a spade. These offer the possibilities of mute discoveries. There will be no voice. There will be no meaning. There will be no narrative, no deeply satisfying response to our yearning and gnawing ache to ask the heavens above – and the earth beneath our feet – where we come from, why are we here, and what are we to do with this strange and wondrous gift of life?
When people hunger for meaning in life – when they seek words to express what they feel – and overwhelmingly feel – when they fall in love; when one’s heart is broken by the death of a spouse, parent, child; when seeking the needed words to get through a painfully trying time. These are experiences which move one to seek the comfort – might I say truth – of the poet, of the wise man or woman, of the deeply spiritual, of the quiet soul who can speak words that seem to penetrate the heavens and the earth by their eternal wisdom. Words can see much farther than a galactic telescope. A gaze of love sees more truth than can be revealed by every genetic coding that might ever be discovered. Going out of your way to help someone in need hints at the seemingly elusive meaning of the universe. It is a meaning we live by giving. It cannot be discovered – it can only be lived in the doing, the gift of selfless, disinterested love.
It is Pentecost. It is, seemingly, a long ago feast when tongues of fire came down from heaven and enabled a people to understand each other, to love each other, in spite of differences, separations, prejudices and biases. A startling event, for sure – the first flames of meaning that ignited a fire among men and women – and then seemingly soothed through time to a slow, steady flame.
There is a heat to the ordinariness of things. God is in time and he is a slow burner. It is a feast to take to heart the warmth of things, the embers of God given us in all who live. God cannot be discovered. God is the fire of love that burns in us even before we know the word God. It seems that God gives the best he can, the best he is. Then we seek a name for what we are. Everybody knows what love is, what it can do. It arrived as flame among us and it will always burn. It is alive, it is fire, it is eternal, and it has a Voice.

1 comment:

Laura said...

I just kind of randomly ran across this as I was reading your blog just now. This last paragraph is just so beautiful.Thank you for writing this.