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Heartbroken or Hopeful (maybe both)

I felt heartbroken after reading this excerpt from “Figuring” by Maria Popova who blogs at Brain Pickings. She is a secularist bravely trying to live (and die) in the arms of an impersonal universe. I appreciate her love of beauty and literature and the important work she does in bringing to light the work of many thoughtful writers and artists, but this quote leaves me with overwhelming sadness for her, for anyone who hopes for nothing more than surviving as “shoreless seeds and stardust.”


In four billion years, our own star will follow its fate, collapsing into a white dwarf. We exist only by chance, after all The Voyager will still be sailing into the interstellar shorelessness on the wings of the “heavenly breezes” Kepler had once imagined, carrying Beethoven on a golden disc crafted by a symphonic civilization that long ago made love and war and mathematics on a distant blue dot.

But until that day comes, nothing once created ever fully leaves us. Seeds are planted and come abloom generations, centuries, civilizations later, migrating across coteries and countries and continents. Meanwhile, people live and people die — in peace as war rages on, in poverty and disrepute as latent fame awaits, with much that never meets its more, in shipwrecked love.

 I will die.     You will die.     

The atoms that huddled for a cosmic blink around the shadow of a self will return to the seas that made us.   

What will survive of us are shoreless seeds and stardust. 

Contrast this to a poem from Linford Detweiler of Over the Rhine. He faces the sting of reality with hope, real hope. Suffering is acknowledged, but there is more. There is love behind the universe, in the form of a person. A real person—–the “Man of Sorrows” who is returning one day. Without this hope? What would our lives be during this time of isolation and adversity?

Breathe.

Go on and live your unexpected
life.
Inhale love. Exhale surrender.
Trust: all that’s in between.
“Behold, all things are become new.”
Really?
There is fear,
there is shock,
there is separation and
there is sadness.

On earth, there always have been, 
and always will be—unless, until
a man of sorrows
rides down the dawn on a white horse
with the jukebox turned way up 
blasting an unexpected song,
hopefully Satchmo himself 
in charge of
blowing the horn,
his cheeks bulging,
his eyes wide,
his lungs healthy.

But don’t hold your breath.
Breathe.
Go on and live your unexpected 
life.

Behold, we don’t know what the future
holds.
We never did. We never will. 

How much oxygen is there
in exhaled air?

All the best priests, pastors, rabbis,
and all the best friends
learn to leave elbow room for mystery.
Never trust anyone who is afraid of saying,
As far as I know.

Breathe.
Go on and live your unexpected 
life.
Does your favorite coffee mug still feel good in
your hand? Did the tree swallows return
limpid in the air? They did here.
Are people you love still near?

Breathe deep into your lungs
while you still can. Even in the best of times
the expiration date remains
unknown.

Breathe.
Go on and live your unexpected
life.
Inhale love. Exhale surrender.
Trust: all that’s in between.

Linford Detwieler, March 20, 2020 used by permission

Together we face the unknowns, believing God is our refuge and our hope. Always has been, always will be.

With love and prayers,

Margie and Denis

2 comments

  1. In honor of Flannery O’Connor’s birthday, I pulled out her prayer journal and read with a fresh aching: “My mind is in a little box, dear God, down inside other boxes inside other boxes and on and on. There is very little air in my box. Dear God, please give me as much air as it is not presumptuous to ask for. Please let some light shine out of all the things around me….”. Your posting sent a ray of light.

    1. That is so very beautiful. I hope to meet her one day.

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