Friday, July 6, 2012

The Gloriously Unnecessary: Stars

When Man deems, in his own estimation, that a thing is no longer practical, necessary, or convenient he will, at all costs, do his best to rid the world of it.

Evidence for this can be seen in the continual assault on the stars. Of course, no one is intentionally (as far as I can tell) trying to blot out the starry sky, but it is an assault nonetheless because Man has deemed that stars are no longer practical. What purpose do they serve for our ever increasing techno-industrialized society? We no longer need the stars for navigation; there are all manner of gadgets at our disposal for that (maps, GPS, etc). Stars are of no use as a source of light. Street lamps now light the way.

At one time the stars were heralds proclaiming the glory of God. At their haughtiest they were even considered gods. Legends are the stuff of stars. But science has demystified all of that hasn’t it? The ancients wrapped the stars in a cloak of mythology. Tales of epic proportions came from the sky. Now nerds in white coats drone on about “dead light” and balls of gas and in the name of discovery and advancement have achieved a greater evil than any primal pagan; they have stripped the sky of Awe. Though the pagan was wrong in worshipping the stars, he was more right than the scientist. At least when the pagan looked up his breath was taken away. Modern Man yawns, or squints, since he’s been raised in a land that attempts to wash away the starry host, night after night, with all of the practical, necessary, and convenient things like street lamps, billboards, and sky scrapers.  C.S. Lewis was on to something when he condemned modern man for rejecting the word “heavens” and replacing it with “space”.

But to say that an impractical thing is good doesn’t mean that the practical thing that replaced it is bad. In fact, our practical inventions like navigation systems have freed the stars from their ignoble task of “directions”. If stars are only viewed as “directions” then they are being enslaved to practicalism (rather than assaulted as an enemy as they are now; when the beast is no longer useful, put it out of its misery). I for one, prefer Mapquest over the stars. However, just because a practical invention negates the use of stars in a particular way, rendering it “unnecessary” does not mean Man should war against it (though he will). Stars are unnecessary to Modern Man, but they are gloriously unnecessary.

In this sense the stars have been liberated, set free from their task masters. They have been released from bondage and precisely because they are unnecessary to Modern Man, they are now in the greatest position to fulfill their God-given mission; to proclaim the glory of God. And now that the stars have regained their rightful place, Man’s assault on the stars is all the more telling. The attempt to blot out the heavenly bodies is really an attempt to blot out the Heavenly altogether. The stars are screaming out the beauty, the glory, and the wonder of God and in response Man is holding his ears firmly shut shouting, “I can’t hear you!” So the faint, seldom seen stars glimpsed above the city lights pronounce “Woe!” (which is still the glory of God).

I work in the city and live in the country. Each night after work around eleven o’clock, as I’m heading to my car I look up and see a dark hazy sky, tinged with yellow city lights. One or two stars have been crafty enough to shine through. As I make the journey home the sky gradually begins to expand and grow darker. And mile after mile the stars multiply and shine brighter. Somewhere at the tail-end of the suburbs, just a few miles past the electric madness of the car dealerships, I take a right and the sky explodes. The trek from urban to rural is a cosmic experience.

The Gloriously Unnecessary has just punched me in the gut and sucked the air from my lungs. I’m forced to look up. I have no choice. I’ve even pulled the car over just to look. The jungle of street lamps and illumined advertisements I just drove through cannot rightly be called ‘light’ anymore. They’re cheap knockoffs. They point me in the wrong direction. They point me to the glory of Man. The stars, though—the rightful light—have drawn me in. As they led the ancient ships in ages past they will not fail in pointing me in the right direction. They point me to the glory of God. It is in moments such as this when Man tastes that which is truly necessary.