Saturday, September 04, 2010

Stephen Hawking, Dies Irae and
Lux Aeterna
A Disordered Universe

What do you, me, Stephen Hawking and Christopher Hitchens have in common with every other sentient biological being on this or other planets? We all know not for whom the bell tolls at any given moment, and that at one singular moment that bell will toll for our mortal lives.
What of the differences between Professor Hawking and Mr. Hitchens and most other humans on the planet? Is it their respective contributions to the sciences and literary arts that attest to lives fully lived despite profound encumbrances and virtually intolerable challenges? Is it their shared resolve that “G*d” can be totally dispensed with once and for all; reduced to the status of a frontal lobe or an appendix? Just incise them from the body and we’ll all be the better for it.
Rail on, Dr. Hawking! Rant on, Mr. Hitchens. And more power to both of you if power of thought is the prime mover in your self regard and existence. And when your respective bells toll (none too soon I hope), I pray you greet Carl Sagan, Mark Twain and René Descarte with salutations from the rest of us.

The highly publicized excerpt from Dr. Hawking’s forthcoming

"Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing," the excerpt says. "Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the Universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to ... set the Universe going."

I wonder if anyone (as I’m too lazy to google and find out actually) noticed that someone capitalized the word “universe” in this excerpt? I am happy to not contend whether there is some specific intent or agenda, either on Hawking’s part or whomever edited the excerpt. But it is likewise difficult to ignore that capital “U” as signifying a mere semantical substitution of one entity, the personal entity that is the invoked “God,” for the impersonal, substantial and observable entity known as the “universe.” But, whether it is mere wordplay, Hawking’s words reverences the laws of his universe in an absolute manner that is not much different than the processes of prayer and ritual. Or so I think.

To Diane Sawyer, he continued “What could define God ... as the embodiment of the laws of nature. However, this is not what most people would think of that God," Hawking told Sawyer. "They made a humanlike being with whom one can have a personal relationship. When you look at the vast size of the universe and how insignificant an accidental human life is in it, that seems most impossible."
When Sawyer asked if there was a way to reconcile religion and science, Hawking told her, "There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, [and] science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win because it works."

At first I thought Hawking was confusing the existence of God with the meaning of religion. Silly me. He linked the two by invoking human industry and authority as being the original creator of “God.” We needed a superior, nee supreme being to made in our image, for what purpose Hawking only implies: because humans have always innately realized “how insignificant an(d) accidental human life is…..impossible…” even. That is some disordered thinking there, yes?! But if religion fails because it is founded upon a human invention, institution and, to Hawking its worst failing, authority, where has science succeeded and won when it, too, is dependent upon human observation, reason, deduction, and (surprise) authority? In the accidental universe, the self created Universe, science may indeed work, but to what end? The ultimate unified theory that explains it all once and for all, amen? And what if whichever scientist, a physicist, a molecular/neurological biologist, an anthropologist, a chemist, a mathematician, whomever lays it all out for us and posterity, where in all that is the meaning of it all? Or is that disordered, flawed human longing disguised as thought and reason, and thus irrational?

As Christians, we believe and profess that our own salvation and sanctification is our sole purpose in life. On so many levels, that revealed truth has ordered human existence and conduct: throughout history, among all societies and peoples since the proto-human creature had developed the capacity to comprehend that he did stand alone among all other creatures, and that he also understood that he couldn’t have been self-created. He was not alone, or an accident. There was, for him, Another. A Greater. A Creator. And in most of human hearts throughout time, that compelled a longing within the human creature. To be united with his Creator.

But likewise, there have likely always been a few human “hearts” a lack of longing that can only be filled by that which will ever remain a mystery while those hearts beat. That mystery must be explained only by what can be observed, tested, proven to the best of the intellect’s capacity. In the good professor’s circumstances, it is surely sensible and lamentable that given the genius and brilliant intellect with which he was endowed, to overcome the ironic gaol of his human condition and share his gifts with his profession and the world, he would also feel it necessary to finally choose to travel a path to his destiny alone. If that is his comfort and succor now, finally, we should bid him God’s speed and safe journey. It has been said that Mother Teresa said that God presents to each of us daily someone who is disfigured, but remains the very image of Christ. And we are thus daily provided with a sacred time to minister to that soul and its disorder as if it were Christ. By accepting that discipline daily we prepare ourselves for our own, ultimate and real encounter with the Risen Christ. In encountering those who reject us, we are provided the opportunity to receive God’s grace by our response to them, or to likewise lose His grace if we squander or ignore that opportunity in that very moment.

We believe that creation is ordered in, among other things, time. We have recognized the sacral nature of time in the rituals God has revealed and articulated for us. But within that order remains free will and randomness. Mark those moments with small professions of humility, the saints have told and shown us over centuries. “I love You, Lord Jesus….have mercy on me a sinner, Lord Jesus…….I thank You, Lord Jesus, for my life….” Keeping our “eye on the prize” means knowing we ultimately and only desire salvation and sanctification before our Maker, our Creator, our God.

Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat eis.
Te decet hymnus Deus, in Sion,
et tibi reddetur votum in Ierusalem.
Exaudi orationem meam;
ad te omnis caro veniet.
Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat eis.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.
A hymn becomes you, O God, in Zion,
and to you shall a vow be repaid in Jerusalem.
Hear my prayer;
to you shall all flesh come.
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them

Libera Me

Libera me, Domine, de morte æterna, in die illa tremenda:
Quando cæli movendi sunt et terra.
Dum veneris iudicare sæculum per ignem.
Tremens factus sum ego, et timeo, dum discussio venerit, atque ventura ira.
Quando cæli movendi sunt et terra.
Dies illa, dies iræ, calamitatis et miseriæ, dies magna et amara valde.
Dum veneris iudicare sæculum per ignem.
Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine: et lux perpetua luceat eis.

Deliver me, O Lord, from death eternal on that fearful day,
when the heavens and the earth shall be moved,
when thou shalt come to judge the world by fire.
I am made to tremble, and I fear, till the judgment be upon us, and the coming wrath,
when the heavens and the earth shall be moved.
That day, day of wrath, calamity, and misery, day of great and exceeding bitterness,
when thou shalt come to judge the world by fire.
Rest eternal grant unto them, O Lord: and let light perpetual shine upon them.

In paradisum
In paradisum deducant te Angeli:
in tuo adventu suscipiant te Martyres,
et perducant te in civitatem sanctam Ierusalem.
Chorus Angelorum te suscipiat,
et cum Lazaro quondam paupere æternam habeas requiem

May Angels lead you into paradise;
may the Martyrs receive you at your coming
and lead you to the holy city of Jerusalem.
May a choir of Angels receive you,
and with Lazarus, who once was poor, may you have eternal rest.

To me, that is the “stuff” of stars. Amen.