Random Notes

Last posted here 8/10/07. And already it's spring, or what's passing for spring in these parts: the weather is either cold and cloudy or cold and sunny or cold and snowing. My tomato seedlings froze in my greenhouse when a power failure cut off the tiny heater which keeps them above freezing. Spring --- real spring --- seems an eon away. On the other hand, the geese are laying eggs in odd corners of the farmyard and the dogs are feasting on them. Kingston, the eldest, can ferret them out like no other dog, and now he sleeps beside me as I write, belly bloated, contentedly farting goose egg farts, which (pardon the pun) are foul beyond belief.

My lack of posting had less to do with lack of time than lack of anything to say. Or rather, I've read what must be the equivilent of a graduate course in Quaker studies over the past winter and I'm still digesting what I've read: as they say, the more I read, the less I know.

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Last night, despite being cold was stunning for stargazing. I'm a bit of an astronomy geek, albeit a fairweather one: I don't like the cold, and my telescope stays firmly parked inside during the winter. Nevertheless, when I walked the dogs last night the sky was gorgeous, and I took a few minutes to look. The constellation Orion, the brightest in the sky, was just setting; it was ornamented on one side by Venus passing just above the Pleiades and other the other by Sirius: altogether a memorable sight.

I reflected that when George Fox was alive cosmology was an entirely different animal: Copernicus and his revolution were scarcely a hundred years past when Fox took up preaching. The universe, according to Copernicus, was heliocentric, limited in size and certainly comprehensible. Imagine the universe as a sphere or even a plane extending to the orbit of Saturn: until the early 19th century, that was all there was. It's easy to imagine God in this small universe being centrally concerned with the fate of humanity, with doctrines, and vicarious substitution of sin and all the rest: a small God concerned with small matters. Now we perceive the universe as nearly infinite in dimension, so vast in space and time it can only be expressed in terms of nearly esoteric mathematics. We are indeed very small, our concerns trivial.

But, as Carl Sagan said, that makes God very big.

There are some troubling questions about this, too large for me to answer. For example, why would God in an infinity of stars and planets, trouble about us in particular? If the end purpose of Creation is humanity, why would God bother to create this immense universe over such time?

Fundementalists have one answer, which reduces God to tinkering in something in size and time like the Copernican universe. Personally I prefer the wonder of an infinite God working in a nearly infinite universe in time scales beyond comprehension. And if you believe Fox's central insight, that God can be experienced directly by anyone, we should be flat with humility and awe.

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The spring peepers (before the freeze-up) appeared this year on 27/03/07. ( I heard a few brave frogs again last night.) Last year, they were first heard on 1/04/06. Generally they aren't heard in this part of Ontario before the second week of the Fourth Month.

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