Saturday, April 12, 2008

Professor Hawking, and a Ride in the Car

This is my youngest daughter. This photo is now about 12 years old. Often, children teach us so much about ourselves and life, if we are but willing to listen. Jesus knew this too, and spoke of it.

Perhaps 6 or 7 years ago, my youngest girl and I were driving someplace, to accomplish some long forgotten chore or trip to the store. We had a conversation on that drive that I will never forget, and often remember. I will take this memory with me to the very last day I am here on this planet. But first, something about Dr. Hawking.

Dr. Hawking
Just the other day, I watched a video of
Dr. Stephen Hawking speaking at the TED conference earlier this year in Monterey. Dr. Hawking, crippled by ALS, is, to me, a remarkable reflection of the sometimes elusive economy of God. I do not, for a moment understand why this great thinker, with such an amazing mind (and whimsical sense of humor), is confined to a wheelchair and only can communicate in an unbelievably arduous way. I am fascinated by this man.

At the TED conference, Dr. Hawking addressed the issue of whether we are alone in the Universe. Dr. Hawking estimates that there are no other alien life forms within a range of a few hundred million light years of earth. Remember, a light year is the distance it takes for light to travel in a year, and light travels at a speed of approximately 186,282 miles per second, in a vacuum, which is about 5,874,589,152,000 miles. Frankly, this is beyond the limits of my tiny brain.

The Ride
And so, the ride in the car with my daughter. It was just us two, on the way someplace in the family van. We had been discussing how long it takes to travel by plane to Grammie and Grandad's house in Toronto, Canada.
"Dad, how long does it take to fly to Grammie and Grandad's house?"

"Oh, about 4 hours, usually"

"And how long does it take to fly to New York City?"

"A little longer, maybe 5 hours"

"So what is the longest flight you can take in an airplane?"

"Well, that would probably be to Australia. It takes about 18 hours, I think."

"So, if you got on a plane, how long would it take to fly to Heaven?"
I was speechless. And for some reason, my eyes suddenly filled with tears, perhaps in the knowledge that I was experiencing, for just a moment, the impossible task of explaining the unexplainable. Maybe then, in that moment, I was faced with the task of defining the undefinable. I was overwhelmed.

I forget what I said in response. I still feel overwhelmed, a lot. Being a parent is like that. This is not business for the faint of heart, or of spirit.

"Orthodoxy", GK Chesterton make the assertion that we should live our lives as if astonished by the world, each day. This resonates deeply with me.

I remain astonished by this world, and by the gifts he has given me in my children. They help me to see God, and how far it might be to travel to Heaven. Maybe not as far as I think.
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