If it would still be meaningful to say, There are an infinite number of universes – if their profound otherness did not embarrass even the language of Being itself…if something we could discern and recognise as intelligent life were to occur in certain of these other realities, might we not learn that our notions of intelligence were, so to speak, parochial?
(Marilynne Robinson, Absence of Mind)
You might think it would humble us to know
at the end of all our knowing that, for all
this knowing, we are immeasurably small.
You might think the sheer expanse, the sheer scope
of all that we name Universe might blow
our very sense of union. That we call
"known" what keeps evading scientific thrall
(after all our knowing) only goes to show
that, while we think we can admire stars,
they do not give a damn. We are in truth
the dots beneath their microscope.
What are we
that we are mindful of ourselves? By far
better than knowing is to be known,
beneath an ancient love we cannot see.
We could not see the top of this wall –
but now that we’ve scaled it, what lies before?
A dream of tomorrow? A promise of now?
The moment is furrowed on destiny’s brow.
No sureness of footing, yet held for the fall;
the wall is beneath us – what now?
I slept, but my heart was awake. A sound! My beloved is knocking…
(Song of Solomon 5:2a)
The world sleeps, but still some wise men gaze out
unto the beckoning sky, and some
still wake to hear the door pounding, night humm-
ing in active grace of years. No doubt,
the gentleness of the stars will not shout,
yet the song of the angels ever thrums,
always beauty, until mortals must come
to the end of ourselves, our hearts, our mouths…
Lie awake, lie empty. You long because
that which you long for cannot be grasped:
not now, not while this perishable stuff
can only defer your hopes, caught in chaff.
Lie awake, lie longing. Dwell in the pause
between the now and not yet. Never lapse.
…Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.
I hold You; I bore You. Yet You cannot
be held by me. The story told from first
honours me but exalts You more: a dot
at the start, impossibly small, yet burst-
ing with life. How could this all be? I did
not make it so. I held You, I hold You,
yet Glory made You. I grew You inside,
yet You grew me. Your breath shows it is true:
so dependent, so in need of me.
Can I hold my saviour so? Can I birth
the world’s one hope, like fruit from ungrown tree?
Can my maker grow from this virgin earth?
All things out of nothing He grows, and so
my nothing He has given mother-glow.
Delight the Spirit feels in constant burst:
Delight in Three, delight in all that’s good.
And as the Son descends, is born, is God,
Delight the Spirit feels at last, at first.
Joy of Spirit fractures Earth’s rehearsed
Ways of being happy. Earth gives a nod
To God, then walks the path that Adam trod.
Spirit breaks the world’s disguising curse:
Where fair is foul and foul is fair, it sounds
Like clanging noise, but hear the rhythmic joy
That dances in between the plaintive theme.
The theme of joy is shrouded, yet abounds;
It sleeps within the heart of infant boy
And whispers in the truest child dreams.
All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
First birdsong and flight; new heavens groaning;
These things we cannot see. They precede
Sight, consciousness. All we know, he exceeds:
The Face behind the flame and the foaming.
Nothing made without Him: He moves across
Astronomy and microscope, photon
And planet, from star-studded sky to cross.
Is all this beyond us? Yet He is known;
Takes first steps, like Adam; like Adam, bleeds;
Descends to the stable, ascends the Tree;
Comes to His creation; it knows Him not,
Despised, rejected, a thing forgot.
No fanfare: behold the silent babe
In whom all things were made that were made.