Cogitations on Dark Matter(s)
By Cantor Shoshana Brown
Published in the Herald News on April 4, 2014
Does God care for us? Does God intervene to foil the plans of the wicked? In our adult education class at Temple Beth El, we have been discussing such issues: Is there “proof” of God’s existence? Can we know anything about God’s nature? Did God “speak” to Moses or the prophets? Is there life after death?, etc.
In just the past two weeks we have been confronted with the following: the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 with 239 people onboard; the freak explosion of a building in Harlem, killing eight people; a landslide in Washington State with the likelihood of over 100 dead; two firefighters perishing while on duty in Boston…and this is just the “breaking news.” Add the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Egypt, and multiple countries in Africa: each person caught up in these parts of the world surely has a heartbreaking story to tell.
The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? (Psalm 27)
How might a modern person answer the Psalmist? “Are you kidding? I fear terrorists; I fear crazy, disgruntled people with automatic weapons; I fear natural disasters; I fear losing my job, my home, my family; I fear cancer; I fear Alzheimer’s….” And yet people in antiquity must have feared plenty-including things that we (for the most part) no longer need to fear--like darkness and wild beasts. When you think about it, what is amazing is that anyone could have written the kinds of things that we find in the Psalms at all. What, for example, was the Psalmist thinking when writing:
The Lord protects all who love Him, but all the wicked He destroys (Ps. 145)?
Were there no muggings, no murders, no landslides in antiquity that harmed or even took the lives of the faithful? Surely the nature of life in this sometimes dangerous world was not so different back then. As Job cries out:
There are those who snatch the fatherless child from the breast, and take in pledge the infant of the poor…From out of the city the dying groan, and the soul of the wounded cries for help; yet God pays no attention to their prayer. (Job 24)
Job’s words may seem true if we expect a landslide to reverse itself, or a gunman’s plan to be foiled. Horrible things happen to the good and bad alike, and too often the unjust succeed in amassing riches, and even living a long life. Why does God, seemingly, pay no attention?
Although I cannot “prove” it, I believe that we all have a conduit to God’s presence within us, waiting to be accessed-not to physically save us or fix all our problems, but to bring us hope, joy, inspiration; to be our soul’s companion through dark times-even if this means unto death itself. The Buddhists say “I come alone; I go alone.” But Jews, Muslims, and Christians say that no, God is our shepherd, our soul’s companion-even in calamity, even in death itself, God will be with us.
I also believe that we are God’s saving hands in this world: rescuers, firefighters, emergency caregivers, fighters for justice, teachers, pastors, all of us who extend our hands to help those less fortunate, every person who listens to a friend in trouble, or wipes a child’s tears…I know that these “hands” are not always able to reach all those in need in time; sometimes the would-be rescuers themselves perish in the attempt. Ultimately, we cannot know how to make sense of this “ride” we call life-which is at times heartbreakingly cruel and at other times breathtakingly beautiful. But we have a choice as to whether to make ourselves available to God or not-both for our own soul’s enrichment, and to act as a “saving” force for others, even for the Planet itself.
Many of us have been watching the new Cosmos series on TV, having our minds stretched to the breaking point in imagining the beginning of our universe, and wondering about its end as well…what is the purpose of it all, and what is the “dark matter” (or is it dark energy?) that keeps everything from falling apart? Whichever it may be, I hold with the biblical author who uttered the following:
…for love is as strong as death,
…its flashes are flashes of fire, a most vehement flame.
Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. (Song of Songs 8)
I choose to live with the companionship of God, rather than to be “ultimately alone” in this universe. I believe God’s love is the force that brought us into being, the glue that holds us all together, and the power that will be with us in the end. I cannot know that this is true, but what gives meaning to our lives is not knowing so much as letting ourselves know love, and loving.
Cantor Shoshana Brown is the musical director and co-spiritual leader of Temple Beth El in Fall River.