COSMOS AND EARTH
Obtaining a Sense of the Infinite
While walking my dog late one cold, wintery evening, I had an experience that I would like to share with you. Nothing particularly spectacular, more of a realisation -- an understanding born of contrasts.
As I stepped out of the house my eyes were draw straight above me to the inky night sky. The stars twinkled. As I moved my head slowly from east to west, I became aware of the vast expanse of the heavens. Being very cold (-20°C) the sky was particularly clear so that the constellations shone out as though they had been drawn in a text book. As I strained my eyes I could see thousands upon thousands of tiny, feint stars which, without such attentiveness, had appeared as blurry white patches. I wondered at the vastness of the Creator-God and my own tiny, practically insignificant place here amidst all the grandeur.
Are Your Eyes Up or Down?
Suddenly, there was a tug on the lead -- the dog wanted to move on, his nose buried in the snow as he hunted out familiar smells. He was not aware as I had been aware. While my head had been up, his had been down, concerned about the things of importance in his world. And I thought to myself: This is a perfect picture of our carnal nature, occupied only with that which is mundane, head down, never up. And what a contrast with that Christ-like nature which yearns for communion with the Almighty and seeks to understand the mystery of everything. These two natures -- forced, almost, upon one another, to be hostile companions in this mortal existence. Yet the dog also illuminated for me even more starkly that which I had been meditating on above.
Learning Through Contrasts
We are here, I believe, to learn through contrasts, to be given acute spiritual sight. But we have a choice -- to either focus on the greater picture or on that which is immediately around us. We should be thankful for the contrasts even if at times they are acutely painful. Yet defining that relationship between spirit and flesh -- between a cosmically-aware master and an earth-bound dog -- can sometimes be hard to do. The dog, when it realised I wanted to go home, dug his heels into the ice and had to be dragged a few meters slithering all over the ice. When he realised that his fondest wish would not be given -- to go into the forest -- he yielded and returned home obediently, if somewhat reluctantly.
The Dilemma of the Human Condition
Since taking ownership of a dog I have seen in even greater contrast the dilemma of the human condition. From time to time he has escaped. The sheer joy at being loose to run around the fields and forest all day to do whatever he wanted, chasing cats and deer, irritating neighbours, and simply just enjoying life, is so apparent each time he does it. But he always returns home tired, hungry and cold. And the last time he escaped the neighbour came with a shotgun saying that he would shoot the dog next time.
We can stand still and drink in the wonder of heaven, rejoice in the Almighty, and be elated in our souls, holding an experience that nobody can take away. Or we can run loose, thrill in the supposed freedom of no rules or responsibilties, and pay a heavy price in terms of our relationships with God, with others, and with our own consciences, supposing that that freedom is in God when it is in truth in our flesh. I don't know if my dog has learned his lesson yet -- he returns home each time with guilt written across his face, yet that has not stopped him from continuing to break loose. He is far more bounded than he ever was before, for his own safety.
As I looked at my resisting dog I thought to myself: Here am I, struggling with this animal who will not obey, getting irritated the more he rebells. And then I thought: What have I to fear? Here am I, an insignificant speck in the Cosmos; if the Almighty can order the Universe and take care of it, surely He too can take care of me? He has sent me here to struggle with fallen matter, my own tendency to rebell and go my own way, and then I worry about my relationship to Him. But why should I? With the correct perspective, all our fears melt away.
Let us focus on that which is above and let the enlightenment we derive from it permeate into our relationships below. By the by the flesh will yield to obedience. But if we have our noses to the ground, and never notice what is above, then the likelihood is that we are sooner or later going to find ourselves in trouble. Why take liberties with a life that can only be lived once and which, for many of us, may well be short? We'll never get this chance again.
So the next time you take your dog out for a walk on a cold wintery night with a clear sky, ask yourself the question: Upon what shall I fix my gaze? I pray that you, like I, will find an answer that will bring you peace and contentment.
This page was created on 15 April 1998
Last updated on 15 April 1998
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