Our perspective can sometimes become limited. Sure, we ought to focus on those closest to us—family, friends, neighbors—but it gets dangerous when we develop tunnel vision. Recently, I was reminded of the value of a larger perspective from a somewhat unexpected source—astrophysics.
Losing sight of Earth
Looking for something to read, I came across Neil de Grasse Tyson’s Astrophysics for People in a Hurry. Learning about the planets, dark matter, gravity, the periodic table, and more, was fun and a bit challenging.
Then, at the end of the book, Tyson confesses that his study of astrophysics can keep his head in the clouds. He writes, “[S]ometimes I lose sight of Earth” (location 1465).
As a person who spends a good part of my life thinking theologically, I can relate. You probably know the old saying about being so heavenly-minded that we’re no earthly good.
Tyson’s remedy is instructive. Although he spends his life on earth studying the stars, sometimes he turns around to look at earth from what he calls “cosmic perspective.”
One might expect an astrophysicist to talk about just how tiny each of us is individually. Or you might think he would talk about how the span of our lives are but the blink of an eye in the history of the universe. Instead, he goes someplace else.
“The cosmic perspective not only embraces our genetic kinship with all life on Earth but also values our chemical kinship with any yet-to-be discovered life in the universe, as well as our atomic kinship with the universe itself.”Neil de Grasse Tyson, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, Kindle location 1562
Interestingly, the next book I grabbed is The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh. He similarly writes about that kinship which he calls interdependence. “[I]t is not just our own lives that are recognized as precious,” he writes, “but the lives of every other person, … every other being, every other reality” (80).
The Bible talks about this also. “If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it,” Paul writes to the church in Corinth, “if one part gets the glory, all the parts celebrate with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26). A few verses later, Paul talks about this unifying principle as love.
As people of faith, a cosmic perspective is helpful, but a heavenly one is more so. We know that “God so loved the world that he gave his only son” (John 3:16). We’ve read how “God was reconciling the world to himself through Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:19). We’ve been taught, “There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
Standing on earth and studying heaven, we can sometimes lose sight of earth, so heavenly minded we’re of no earthly good. Or we can turn around and view our everyday, ordinary life with a heavenly perspective.