"Tyger, Tyger Burning Bright..."
By Chet Raymo
"Divinity is not playful. The universe was not made in jest but in solemn incomprehensible earnest. By a power that is unfathomably secret, and holy, and fleet." You may recall these words from Annie Dillard's "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek." There is nothing intrinsically cheerful about the world, she says. To live is to die; it's all part of the bargain. Stars destroy themselves to make the atoms of our bodies. Every creature lives to eat and be eaten. And into this incomprehensible, unfathomable, apparently stochastic melee stumbles...
You and I.
With qualities that we have - so far - seen nowhere else. Hope. Humor. A sense of justice. A sense of beauty. Gratitude. But also: Anger. Hurt. Despair.
Strangers in a strange land.
Galaxies by the billions turn like St. Catherine Wheels, throwing off sparks of exploding stars. Atoms eddy and flow, blowing hot and cold, groping and promiscuous. A wind of neutrinos gusts through our bodies, Energy billows and swells. A myriad of microorganisms nibble at our flesh. We have a sense that something purposeful is going on, something that involves us. Something secret, holy and fleet. But we haven't a clue what it is. We make up stories. Stories in which we are the point of it all. We tell the stories over and over. To our children. To ourselves. And the stories fill up the space of our ignorance. Until they don't.
And then the great yawning spaces open again. And time clangs down on our heads like a pummeling rain, like the collapsing ceiling of the sky. Dazed, stunned, we stagger like giddy topers towards our own swift dissolution. Inexplicably praising. Admiring. Wondering. Giving thanks.”