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Thoughts on a New Year

 
Lurking in the busy-ness of our daily life is a question, a question we all ask, a question as perplexing as it is persistent. Most bluntly, the question is this: Where is all this going? What can we ultimately hope for, for both the universe as a whole and our own individual life as part of that same whole?

Whether with a bang or a whimper, the world as we know it will end. Our planet will incinerate as our sun transforms into a red giant. Our galaxy will self-destruct as it merges with another. And before these events happen, well, who knows what may come our way? Back in the 60s, my generation lived through the 50s with a comfort of life previously unimaginable, innocently believing that the cornucopian bounty was there for all. Then came the VietNam war, our incarnation of all war, with its horror before our unbelieving eyes, followed by an explosion of optimistic rebellion. We fully believed that the times, they were a-changin’. Peace, justice, equality and freedom would be ushered in, and we were the agents of that change. For a student at Union Seminary in NY such as myself, the sense of agency was especially intense. We were doing God’s work. But the Kingdom of God did not come, at least not in the form of peace and justice for all. Then years passed, and today’s world brutally exposes the utopian vision for what it was, hopeful, but misguided if not also mistaken. Perhaps homo sapiens is advancing according to some unknown hidden metric, perhaps not. Perhaps we are looking in the wrong place.

For my own personal guidance, I keep coming back to Jesus, a process for which I offer no excuses. You are quite probably guided differently, but the paths can all lead in the same direction. For the personal perspective, Jesus reminds us of what we all already know in our hearts to be true, and that is that the fulfillment of our being is to be found as we reach out in love to one another. Too little noticed is the fact that Jesus gathered a family, women and men, living and traveling together, caring for and sharing with one another. As a human being, he no doubt needed friends himself, others to support and share what he was about, whom he loved and who loved him. Maybe we can’t change the world, but we do have our little part in it, where what we do really matters. Reaching out and embracing our fellow pilgrims fulfills our life as nothing else.

On the universal scale, the cosmic end will come, no doubt, and in the meanwhile death and destruction will remain part of our life. The question is whether there is another dimension to the universe, more prevalent and more powerful. This question faces us all, and we conclude with varying answers. We can observe the cosmos and leave unanswered the perplexity concerning its essence, origin and destiny. Or we can ask whether there is a moral arc to the universe, and, if so, how it bends. Turning once again to Jesus, he certainly convinced his family of friends that there was a loving power that superseded his crucifixion, a power that embraced the totality of all that is and in which they could place their trust. Returning to our original question concerning what we can hope for, we -all of us- are capable of surrounding ourself in loving relationship. We can care for and share with others. For some, that will suffice and be most gratifying. For others, trust that love pervades the cosmos will provide the context for that caring, mysterious and incomprehensible though it may be. In either case and in all cases, love is the power and the comfort that offers meaning to our time on this planet.

 

Dr. Carl Krieg received his BA from Dartmouth College, MDiv from Union Theological Seminary in NYC, and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago Divinity School. He is the author of What to Believe? the Questions of Christian Faith,   The Void and the Vision and  The New Matrix: How the World We Live In Impacts Our Thinking About Self and God. As professor and pastor, Dr. Krieg has taught innumerable classes and led many discussion groups. He lives with his wife Margaret in Norwich, VT.

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