Thursday, October 14, 2010

Touching Eternity

I bought my daughter an old pendant this week. I am not talking antique; I am talking ancient – 450 million years old! It is an ammonite fossil embedded in rock, shaped as a pendant. I bought it at the fair at a “gems & minerals” booth for $8.

When I think of ammonites, I am used to thinking of the Biblical people, the descendants of Lot and his daughters. But these ancient denizens of the deep are much more inspiring. When I hold a fossil like this, it fills me with a sense of awe.

It is the same feeling I get when gazing into the heavens on a starry night or when standing on a mountaintop. The time spans of natural history prompt in me a feeling of vastness and spaciousness that I can only describe as spiritual.

I learned from biologist Richard Dawkins (in his book “The God Delusion”) that atheists feel the same thing, which means it is not a religious experience. But it is definitely an awe-inspiring experience.

For me it is like touching eternity. I cannot conceive of eternity with my crude mammalian mind, but I can approach it through natural objects like this fossil. It is my bridge to the infinite.

It is one way I approach God. When I hold a fossil in my hand, I reach back across the eons to the infancy of life on earth. Terrestrial life is young by cosmic standards. This fossil is barely a tenth of the age of the earth, which is only a third of the age of the universe.

Who knows how many universes there were before this universe? One theory of our universe holds that the Big Bang that started it all is just the latest in a string of bangs that may have been pulsating forever.

When I hold a 450 million year mollusk in my hand, my body feels how short my life is. My lifespan is no more than a blink of an angel’s eyelash. Yet God cares for me.

As the psalmist says, “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain!”

I bought my daughter a chunk of eternity today. I hope it inspires the same awe in her does in me. It is not expensive, but it is priceless.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i want my chunk of eternity now!!!!!!
i love you dad and so glad you're home =)