Sunday, April 3, 2011

Perspective

     What a weekend it was. My wife and I got an all expense paid trip to Seattle courtesy of Nintendo to check out the new Nintendo 3DS.  Why?  Well, as I was reminded, it was simply because we lived in "the middle of nowhere".  There we were rubbing elbows with folks who have all made a name for themselves as bloggers and YouTube phenoms, and we had the distinction of being nobodies.
     After 8 hours of cramped seating in the back end of airplanes, I realized just how much I enjoy living here in the middle of nowhere.  Seeing my little Gracie tonight reminded me of just how much I love being just a Dad.
     My wife is all nerves when she boards a plane and never manages to relax until the final touchdown.  I, on the other hand am never bothered by flying, until I'm at home tucked in bed all alone with my thoughts.  You see, I don't mind the take offs or landings.  I don't worry about bombs, or holes in the fuselage, or crashing to the earth.  There is something more metaphysical that haunts me every time I fly.  It has to do with my perspective.
     I'm addicted to window seats.  I love to watch the world slip away from me when the plane takes off.  I love to see the shape of things from 30,000 feet up in the air.  I press my forehead to the window and watch the familiar things in life turn to miniatures as if hit with some magical shrink ray.  It's Google Earth in 3D.  I see rivers and try to understand the way they have carved and shaped the landscape.  I watch the colors and patterns of the earth shift from planes to mountains to deserts.  On top of it all, I see the thumbprint of mankind, webs of roads, circles of irrigated green, and thousands of towns scattered and interconnected that stretch out as far as the eye can see.
    It is the cities that do it to me every time.  The silver lines of interstate dotted with crawling specks draw me in first.  I get a sudden vertigo.  I realize that each dot contains some mother driving home from work or a family on vacation.  That silver vein is flowing with a million dreams and stories and each dreamer or story teller is unaware of the vastness of the the world around them. 
     I see the thousands of houses lined up in rows and columns. Some full of joy, some full of sadness, some barely surviving.  From a plane window it is impossible to tell which is which.  From that perspective they are all just miniscule boxes that the specks on the highway come and go from.  Neither $150,000 or $1,000,000 looks all that impressive from 6 miles up.
     I look inside the plane.  Here are some hundred odd people.  I may not know any of them, but I can understand them, because they fit a perspective my mind can grasp.  Down below me is something too far removed from my reality to understand.  To think that I too am just one of those countless specks is too much for me.  I feel small and meaningless, and so I look back inside to plane to block out the specks and choose to focus on the hundred people around me that are on my scale.  Tonight though, I know it will haunt me, this knowledge of my true position in the grand scheme of life.
     Tonight, I will wonder if this is how God sees us.  Are we just microbes on a petri dish?  Does our greatest achievement, the sum of our life's effort appear as nothing more than a microscopic box? Would He notice if I vanished?  Even if I accomplished a thousand-fold more than I am capable of, how would I stand out in such a vast world of specks?  I struggle with despair as I see myself shrunk down to the scale of the world viewed from the window of a passenger jet.  I am caught between two worlds,  the one inside the plane and the one outside.  I can't seem to find a middle ground and I can't rectify the two.  That is the dread of flying that haunts me.
     Tonight though, as I come back to my familiar place, here in the middle of nowhere, I think I have grasped something that eluded me before.  I have a role in this world that is perfectly suited for my scale.  I am not a speck, just like no one is a speck.  This universe of ours is endlessly complex on countless levels.  Galaxies, solar systems, planets, men, cells and atoms all reflect the creativity of God.  We can appreciate that complexity even if we can only experience it personally at the level in which we live and function.  God alone can experience it at all levels.  The beauty of a hundred billion swirling galaxies does not diminish in the least the wondrous joy of being a husband to my wife or a father to my five children.  I find great solace in the fact that the Creator who spins the stars and orders electrons in there shells also cares about the burdens that I and eight billion other people carry.
     This weekend, I met some amazing people.  We all came from different walks of life.  We came from all over the country.  I'm sure that there were huge differences in our beliefs and hopes and dreams.  We shared a common experience though, and that allowed us to enjoy getting to know each other.  So as I close my eyes to sleep tonight, perhaps I won't be haunted by some paradox of perspectives.  I think I am beginning to understand that while I had a glimpse of how vast this thing called humanity really is, my role is just to reach out to those around me that I am lucky enough to walk along with for a while and do my best to understand them and work with them to make a difference in the world in accordance with the gifts God has given me.  That is enough.