06 October 2011

Light

from http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/chandra/multimedia/photos07-052.html
John 9:39-41: Jesus then said, "I came into the world to bring everything into the clear light of day, making all the distinctions clear, so that those who have never seen will see, and those who have made a great pretense of seeing will be exposed as blind." Some Pharisees overheard him and said, "Does that mean you're calling us blind?" Jesus said, "If you were really blind, you would be blameless, but since you claim to see everything so well, you're accountable for every fault and failure." [context]

John 12:35-36: Jesus said, "For a brief time still, the light is among you. Walk by the light you have so darkness doesn't destroy you. If you walk in darkness, you don't know where you're going. As you have the light, believe in the light. Then the light will be within you, and shining through your lives. You'll be children of light." [context]
I was captivated by news of the Nobel prize in physics, announced this week. (See this Nobel press release; and more links at this Science Daily link, provided by Joel Sax via Google+.) These three scientists and their colleagues have been studying the nature of the universe's increasingly rapid expansion on the basis of observations of distant supernovae. The Swedish academy's press release aptly cites a poem by Robert Frost in citing an implication in these scientists' work that eventually the universe will freeze completely. (Long before the monkeys can finish typing Shakespeare?)

Meditating about these scientists' work, as well as about Syria, Occupy Wall Street, and other current news, I had a sudden experience of new hope and perspective. Human beings are meant to attend to light. These scientists are doing essential human work--gathering light and learning more about God's creation--and passing their insights to the rest of us. Compared to their work, and to our participation in their work through appreciative attention, all the sniping and conniving around us shrinks back to the level of triviality. We can't ignore that static and pollution--it hurts our children! ... it takes prisoners! ... it even seems to succeed sometimes in blocking the light!--but we can put it in perspective. Most importantly, we can remember what we believe, and draw on that Light to continue, together, to shine.

Light has so many associations for us Friends, and for me. I'll never forget the underground monastery in Buzuluk where the monks lived in tiny, dark cells in their efforts to live closer to the Light. The inward Light that enlightens everyone is the very basis of Friends missiology. (Every person entering Life he brings into Light. John 1:9.) And I always love reading about Abba Joseph:
We are told in The Sayings of the Desert Fathers how a brother once came to talk with Abba Joseph of Panepho. "Abba," said the visitor, "according to my strength I observe a modest rule of prayer and fasting, of reading and silence, and so far as I can I keep myself pure in my thoughts. What more can I do?" In answer, Abba Joseph rose to his feet and held up his hands towards the sky; and his fingers became as ten blazing torches. And the old man said to the brother: "If you wish, you can become completely as a flame."
I can't read that story without (timidly, I admit) starting to reach up with my hands....




  Valery Aushev

  Yuri Chistyakov

  documentary; download
  sampler here
This might be a good point to mention that next month Russia celebrates the 300th birthday of one of humanity's greatest scientists and most versatile thinkers, Mikhail Lomonosov, cofounder of the university (Moscow State) that bears his name. Last weekend I went to Elektrostal's Paustovsky Central Library and heard a fascinating talk about Lomonosov. The talk was given by Valery Aushev, screenwriter for a recent television documentary series on Lomonosov's life. We also heard from scientist and poet Yuri Chistyakov and saw two of the first five episodes of the documentary series, including a program devoted to his years at Marburg University in Germany--also associated with Boris Pasternak.

Aushev put to rest the Soviet-era myth that Lomonosov was a dirt-poor peasant who more or less crawled from his fishing village to Moscow on his hands and knees for an education. Not that his youth was trouble-free; he left home partly to escape his stepmother. The end of his life remains shrouded in mystery--was he poisoned at a state dinner?--and even his final burial place is somewhat under question. In between, however, there is no doubt about his achievements in chemistry, physics, ceramics, geography, linguistics, poetry, and education.



"It's the theater of the absurd." Russian Baptist leader Yuri Sipko on recent events. (Original.)

"So real it hurts." Race, privilege, and caring enough to confront--at Occupy Wall Street. This essay has something of the costly intensity of a conversion experience. (Thanks to the Facebook group "Quakers Talk About Racism" for the reference.)

Susanne Kromberg on "The hard topic of forgiveness."

"The myth of innocence": Four principles for experiencing grace.



Studebaker John in Montreal:


Studebaker John oscarkapac

2 comments:

Faith said...

Light has been on my mind a lot lately. I think because I see so much darkness right now. The passage that has been coming to me over and over again in worship is John 1:4-5 "In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." (John seems to really like the light imagery.)

I know that some translations have "understood" instead of "overcome" but this translation speaks more to my condition right now. If you light a candle in a dark room it will produce light. Even if you could squeeze more and more darkness into that space, the candle would still give off light. Darkness can not overcome light. That is my source of hope.

Johan said...

Thank you for your words. May you be blessed--may God's face SHINE upon you. Your comment reminded me of David Niyonzima's demonstration of light when he spoke at Northwest Yearly Meeting a few years ago.