Beauty Never Seen

Hubble telescope image of galaxies. (NASA)

Hubble telescope image of distant galaxies. (NASA)

I am convinced that there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. We are not alone. Statistically speaking, the chances of other intelligent life in the universe are quite high. The Drake Equation considers factors like the number of solar systems with planets with climates that could support life, star formation rate, as well as average lifetimes of civilizations. Estimates put the likelihood at a minimum of 1,000 intelligent and communication-capable civilisations in the Milky Way. Not much considering there are 200-400 billion planets in our galaxy. And the universe contains, by one estimate, 176 billion galaxies. Multiply it out and then consider the time horizon of the universe: 13.8 billion years. Given all the factors, there are pretty high chances intelligent life—beings like you and me—exist now or have existed at one time in the universe.

There is great beauty that exists outside our inch of the creation. It’s humbling to consider that God took as much creative care with those billions of other stars and planets and civilisations as with us. But this is beauty we’ll never see. It’s unlikely we would ever encounter another civilization given our limited technology and the distance of such a planet. But this doesn’t mean we cannot lift up our fellow universe citizens as part of God’s beauty.

I once saw an episode of the BBC series Planet Earth where submarines with cameras discovered the most beautiful and colourful rock formations deep in the recesses of the ocean, a place no human had ever seen before. I wondered why God created something so beautiful if human eyes might never see it. Perhaps that doesn’t matter so much to God. Perhaps God finds delight in beauty though there be no observer. The old translation of the Nicene Creed speaks of the God who creates both the “seen and unseen”. Those civilisations and galaxies and life-supporting planets may never be seen by us but they are as divine a creation as the sunset you will see this evening. They are as real as your heartbeat or the invisible energy that brings a smile. And all these things make up the fabric of God.

God finds joy in sharing Creation with us, even if it’s just our little corner of the universe. “What use is a universe with no one to give it to?” sings God in the Stephen Schwartz musical Children of Eden. Yet there is so much beyond the scope of our comprehension or vantage point! I think all we have to know is that the Creator created in love. The hidden rock formations beneath the ocean were crafted by a God of creative love. Each civilization, ours and the thousands we don’t know about, were formed in love. Seen and unseen, past and present, this galaxy or that, all creation, all evolution is an incarnation of God’s love. You and I are incarnations of God’s love. As Pierre Teilhard de Chardin once said, “The most telling and profound way of describing the evolution of the universe would undoubtedly be to trace the evolution of love.”

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Music by Kevin MacLeod

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