March 04, 2007

Sapling, Redwood, Galaxy

At the foot of a huge redwood, a sapling grows. It will never reach maturity. Its parent blocks its sunlight; its parent's roots steal its water and minerals.

The huge old redwood has survived lightning and flood, drought and loggers, pests and disease, and it wears its scars as signs of righteousness. It is home to many species of bird and mammal, insect and reptile. It will live hundreds more years.

The frail sapling will not last many more seasons. Soon a rodent will chew its bark to shreds, or a colony of ants will infest its roots, or a running deer will step on it, or a hard rain, delightful to big trees, will drown it. It will be food for something, but never a home to anything.

I ask myself, Which tree does God love more? The answer is obvious to me: they are the same within eternal tenderness. God doesn't care about magnitude, only we fools do.

We have photographs of the Elephant Trunk Nebula, and of the red and white pinwheel of the Whirlpool Galaxy. Of the shock waves of gas pouring from the newborn star HH 46, and of the perfect rings of Saturn honed smooth on the potter's wheel of gravity. We send probes and aim telescopes and get back pictures. It is all dead. There is nothing anywhere like us. It is cold black vacuum or screaming radioactive fire, and there is not a thought, not an eye, not a memory, not a love, within lightyears.

I think that every one among us is worth more than all that deadness. Or am I just being sentimental?

But sometimes I look at all that deadness and think, If it is pointless, how can it be so beautiful?

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