National Commentary

A Light Shining In the Darkness

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In the opening of the Biblical Gospel of John, the contrast of light to darkness (“the Light” which God both was and made, “shineth in the darkness and the darkness comprehended it not” – King James translation) set the theme for the whole Gospel account.

Of this Light, also identified as the “Word,” “were all things made,” being “the true Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” The Gospel story had the Light, or the Word, “made flesh and dwelt among us full of grace and truth.”

Two articles appeared in different parts of the regional daily newspaper on Christmas Day last week that may be enlightening by their unintentional juxtaposition.

In the first, the Washington Post’s Sarah Kaplan sought to render a highly technical article in the journal Nature accessible to the lay reader. Entitled, “In a Breakthrough Experiment, Scientists Shine Light on Antimatter,” the article described efforts by scientists to “trap” particles of antimatter by a series of high-energy collisions in a lab, if even for only a few seconds before they’re obliterated by their opposite, matter. Heady stuff, and I won’t even try to do as good a job as Kaplan in explaining it.

But her concluding words were very intriguing. “The goal of all this particle zapping is to understand one of the fundamental mysteries of existence. If the Big Bang created matter and antimatter in equal amounts, the two types of particles should have canceled each other out. The universe should have become void before it even got started…Yet here we are.”

She then quoted a physicist involved in the experiments positing, “Something happened, some small asymmetry that led some of the matter to survive.” He added, “We simply have no good idea that explains that right now,” adding that “adventures in antimatter are just getting started.”

The other article, 14 pages away, was an opinion column by former George W. Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson with a holiday season title, “Where is God?” Gerson, a Republican highly troubled by the rise of Trump, provided a Book of Job-esque litany evidencing the absence of God in all sorts of tragic human circumstances (which in Job triggers an anthropomorphic God to thunder out of a whirlwind, “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?” In other words, “How dare you question me?”)

Gerson’s theology is light years ahead of those fraudulent sycophants of the evangelical right whose hypocrisy and preference for filthy lucre was exposed so dramatically in their endorsements of Trump.

Gerson countered “Where is God?” doubts with the Nativity story, which he called “an odd scenario for the entrance of divinity – to an occupied country, of disputed parentage, forced to flee as a refugee, living and working 30 years in silence, eventually betrayed by a friend, judicially tortured and dying in utter abandonment. On a small planet, near an average star.”

He said this “form of arrival…reorients our sense of low and high, weak and powerful…poverty given preference…the possibility of transcendence breaking in on any common day” providing millions down through the ages with “courage and comfort in the midst of the ordinary, the unjust and unthinkable,” and concludes that it is about “an unlikely hope – that love is somehow at the heart of all things.”

Back to the first article, let me suggest that the reality of love, to which all human beings have access in many ways and experience in their own chests, may be the substance of the “asymmetry” in the universe that has allowed matter to prevail over antimatter.

Could this love not properly be equated, then, with light, the prevalence of light over darkness, over anti-light?

In other words, common love, which draws us out to one another, is the core substance that causes the very universe to exist.

By this measure, a scientific one at that, anti-love also exists, a form of antimatter. They co-habit every single fiber of the universe. But love wins because of its binding and mutually supporting nature, something anti-love does not have.

 


Nicholas Benton may be emailed at [email protected]