If you have any different insights on these topics, please share them. Maybe some day some of these ideas will make it to the big leagues and become pro-verbs. I also have a blog for technical computery stuff - zachstechnotes.blogspot.com.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

perfect composition

The symphony of creation echos the glory of the LORD;
He has composed the story of His love with perfect skill.

[I couldn't get the large version of this picture to stay, so go here to view it]

Creation is like a huge symphony composed by the Creator. The most basic components of creation are indeed very much like musical notes. Every elementary particle has a frequency (de Broglie wavelength) related to its energy, just like each note of a symphony has a sound frequency related to its pitch. But when we listen to a symphony, we don't think about the frequencies of the notes; we hear each note as an individual object in a phrase, like a pearl on a string. We imagine the universe around us the same way. We think of particles interacting to form the things we see, but their frequencies (energy) that make them what they are are hidden from the mind.

A human composer uses chords and phrases to build his symphony. He chooses notes that have special interacting frequencies to form chords. God has designed the laws of nature such that the electrons of certain atoms with special energies (related to their frequencies) interact to make molecules and crystals. He uses these "chords" to build "phrases" that are the objects that we see and interact with. The difference is that, while a human composer uses hundreds or thousands of notes in his compositions, our creator uses 10^25 (1 with 25 zeros after it) particles. A biological system with DNA, protiens, buffers and hydrocarbons all interacting to do something amazing like turn sunflowers to follow the sun for example, are infinitely more complex than a musical phrase.

Now I know that many of you readers (if there are in fact many readers of this blog) did not revel in the beauty of what I was talking about in those last two paragraphs. That means you are a normal person. Normal people do not love music for the technicalities of individual notes or chords, they love it for the entire song. Only musical theory geeks love the notes and the key signatures, just like people who study physics love the quantum mechanics and chemistry that governs the basic elements of creation.

The real beauty that everyone can appreciate is in the music and the song as a whole. The real beauty that can be universally appreciated in creation is the personal stories that God writes. I think that God works personally in every person's life, and he uses this creation that he has composed so brilliantly to teach them about himself (Romans 1:20), so, using his already beautiful chords and phrases, he writes symphonic movements in everyone's life. Each of these movements is filled with expressions of his love.

The symphony of God's love is the whole of creation and history, and its parts come together beautifully. He wrote the story of Israel as a microcosm of the human experience (credit John Piper) to show how much humans fail at being good. He made the stars and galaxies so vast that we can barely comprehend them and can see his power, and he defined the physical laws for the universe so that physicists would be dumbfounded by their complex and simple elegance. He made the planet earth special to provide for his composition of life, and envisioned DNA to store all of the information needed for a human to spontaneously grow inside a mother's womb.

The conflict and rising action in this symphony is man's rejection of God. From Adam to Noah's contemporaries, to Israel, people have rejected him. We deserve no good and kindness from him. Yet the climax of the symphony comes as a stunning surprise. In the central act of God's love, he sent his son into creation. His son, though human, could compose parts of the symphony of nature and history. He was born impossibly from a virgin; he changed molecules of water into the alcohol of wine; and he gave life to dead bodies. And then this composer sacrificed himself to be punished by death for our transgressions, so that we, undeserving scum, can taste a relationship with him. The resolution of the symphony has yet to come, but the composer has told us that he will one day come to punish the wicked and give joy to those who know him. The timpani of the stars are rolling in anticipation of this finish. It is going to be epic, and those who are listening are excited.

This is the most beautiful song ever written. In the words of Switchfoot, it is all around us and running through us. In some ways, the meaning of life is simply to hear it.

Now that I have gone on about this for a while, I will get to the picture above. It is a picture of hurricane Earl taken from the international space station. It certainly displays an epic part of the symphony. But what I want to point out is the audacity of some common Christian beliefs. I say, and I hear other Christians often say, things like "That was a hard thing and it stressed me out, but God did it to teach me something." Does God really orchestrate entire movements in his symphony - hurricanes (figurative, and sometimes even literal) - just to teach someone a lesson? Has he really arranged the components of the universe from the beginning just to humble you? That is an extremely audacious thing to believe - that he would make all this happen for one simple human who might even reject him. If we just sit down and consider the epicness of that thought for a minute - that God created galaxies hundreds of lightyears across and atoms less than a nanometer in size all to show us his love, can we still believe it?

I do, and it makes me love my creator more every day.

An ancient king of Israel did, and he wrote this (Kevin, thanks for having it tatooed on your arm, or I probably wouldn't know of it):

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.

There is no speech or language
where their voice is not heard.

Their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.

In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun,
which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.

It rises at one end of the heavens
and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is hidden from its heat.

The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.

The precepts of the Lord are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.

The fear of the Lord is pure,
enduring forever.
The ordinances of the Lord are sure
and altogether righteous.

They are more precious than gold,
than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the comb.

By them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.

Who can discern his errors?
Forgive my hidden faults.

Keep your servant also from willful sins;
may they not rule over me.
Then will I be blameless,
innocent of great transgression.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

- Psalm 19

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