“When I consider the brief duration of my life absorbed in the eternity that lies before and after. . . the small space I occupy and can even see, engulfed in the infinite immensity of spaces I do not know and that do not know me, I am frightened. . .” Blaise Pascal, 1658
I have always loved looking up at the stars. It is so easy to lose yourself when you look and ponder how vast, open, and enormous is this universe, populated by billions of “balls of gas, burning billions of miles away” (Pumba, from The Lion King). There is almost a sense of comfort when you realize your smallness.
“I am not the center of the universe.”
In fact, just yesterday I looked at the New York Times from my birthday in 1990, and I found no mention of the birth of Alex Wright. There was something about George Bush, and Saddam Hussein, but no mention of the red-headed child born in Kissimmee, Florida. Who knew? The world did not stop on my account, and it will continue long after I’m gone.
I said earlier that there is a sense of comfort in realizing your smallness. But there is also discomfort, right? This is a tremendously vast universe, and you and I are very, very, very, small and seemingly insignificant. David himself recognized such a fact while he said to God “When I look at 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, and the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8). What has modern science and technology done but confirm and even exaggerate David’s point, that compared to the size and scope of the natural world, mankind seems insignificant.
This is what Pascal experienced almost four-hundred years ago. When he examined himself in comparison to the size of the cosmos, he became frightened. The thought that such a person as Blaise Pascal, with his intellect and insight (he invented one of the first calculators, after all!) comforts me, because I have felt very similar.
If we are so infinitesimally small, what business do we have criticizing its creator? Could we ever imagine the immensity of this universe, let alone its originator? Louie Giglio, a pastor/touring speaker, loves to use astronomy to illustrate how vast the cosmos is and how tiny we are within it. After going through countless examples of how incredibly tremendous the universe is in scope and beauty, he notes, very rightly, that sin has an incredible tendency to “shrink” God in our minds, to a more “manageable” size, and then puff ourselves up. WE somehow become the experts in how our lives/society/government/traffic/etc. should go. We are so forgetful of the power and wisdom of a God who can “breathe out stars” (Psalm 33)!