A small Olympic stage in a vast cosmic arena.
The eyes of the world will be on a stadium in East London tonight. A global audience of billions will be watching one city on the planet to see who is the biggest, strongest, fastest and best over the next two weeks. What has been built in the Olympic park is staggering. The sheer hard work and brilliance of the thousands of athletes from around the world just to get there is incredible.
As we celebrate pinnacles of human achievement in sport, architecture and a regenerative city legacy, we are in danger of our own Babel moment of hubris though. This old Greek word is ideal for our over confident, self sufficient generation. Hubris, tips us over the edge, over hyping, strutting, swimming in a pool of self congratulation at our own human effort, courage and skill.
I’ll enjoy the Olympic spectacle and fireworks tonight, but I’ve been reminded this week to get a better perspective. Reading Louie Giglio’s ‘Indescribable’, he references a photo of planet earth taken by the Voyager space craft some 3.7 billion miles from home. This famous image of the ‘pale blue dot’ pulls the rug from under all our hubris and installs a quiet humility. The fact that we are so hard to see, and that our planet barely registers in the near galaxy, even with all the fireworks tonight, reminds us where we stand in the big picture.
In his book, Giglio quotes astronomer Carl Sagan.
‘That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilisation, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every ‘superstar’, every ‘supreme leader’, every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
The earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena….our posturing, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light.’
The Psalms take the pale blue dot in the sunbeam and give us the inside track. In the Message version of the bible it goes like this: ‘I look up at your macro-skies, dark and enormous, your handmade sky-jewelry, Moon and stars mounted in their settings. Then I look at my micro-self and wonder, Why do you bother with us? Why take a second look our way?’
Leaving the vast cosmic arena and google earthing back to London - We can applaud like crazy tonight and over the next fortnight at the breathtaking displays of human energy. But we can also rest with the ancient Psalmist in true hubris free, God centred perspective, a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam, smiled on by God himself.