Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A scientist's Christmas

Last night I was walking through Harvard Square and noticed these awesome Christmas lights hanging above the street:

Here is a spiral galaxy, complete with blue "star-forming regions"

Here, a neutron star with its "cometary knots"

Ok, so maybe the cometary knots take a bit of imagination. But actually I see a lot more than that.

In those twinkling lights I see purely rational, purely natural reasons to love thy enemy, to do onto others, cherish life, teach peace, and practice compassion - you know, all those Christmassy ideas.

When I look up and see these lights I get a warm, fuzzy feeling... Because to me, these secular decorations are the expression of a community with something grander and more beautiful to celebrate than bronze-age myths. They recognize and respect our origins as tied to cosmic events much longer ago and further away than some immaculate conception of any single human here on earth. Most people walk through the square totally unaware that these decorations celebrate the whole of humanity's emergence as an evolving cosmos. We are all divine here and now.

I wonder if this what the so-called culture warriors are worried about? That people like me will see these non-religious displays and...well and what? Are these lights, these cosmic ideas, the "War on Christmas too?"

I see them as an acknowledgment that our natural heritage extends the story and values of Christmas with an additional 14 billion years of meaning. Christmas and all that, is embedded within this cosmos too. This gives Christmas meaning that even its namesake could appreciate given the knowledge of today.

These decorations tell a story that still allows a sacred covenant - a covenant with mystery. A scientist's Christmas has humility and dignity both. It is humble enough to admit that our knowledge of the sacred will always be incomplete, without the need to declare "war" on anything but ignorance. There is plenty of mystery to celebrate and plenty of ignorance to fear - Merry Christmas.

Reposted for Christmas


Anonymous said...

I think you would also like this traditional Spanish saying:
"No es suficiente poner el huevo, es necesario cacarearlo."

Anonymous said...

Spring is at the square.. Greetings from afar.

Anonymous said...

I’d remember the people of to ascertain that too!

Anonymous said...

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