Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Getty and The Griffith

A couple nights ago, I stepped outside for a moment after nightfall.  We live in a semi-rural area, I suppose, but I was still surprised by the brightness of the stars.  I stood there in awe, especially as I noted Venus, Jupiter, Mars, and the beautiful half-moon right at the pinnacle of the sky.  I am reminded of an experience my husband and I had on a beautiful April day five years ago:

We were kicking around Los Angeles together, sans children, and had two main stops on our list that day.  The first was the J. Paul Getty Museum.  It boasted a fabulous collection of art, sculpture, and furnishings spanning thousands of years and demonstrating some of the finest of man's artistic achievements.  We spent the morning perusing the halls and enjoying the artistry and ingenuity, thinking to ourselves that mankind was pretty clever and talented.

Our second stop was the Griffith Observatory.  Suddenly mankind's achievements seemed pretty insignificant.  We looked at amazing images of nebulae and galaxies and read information about the vastness of space and the innumerable quantities of stars.  We gazed at the 3,000 square foot panoramic image called "The Big Picture," which is a snapshot of just one tiny portion of the night sky (the equivalent of the area covered up by your index finger if you held it at arm's length from your eyes).  It contains "more than a million galaxies, stars, and other celestial objects."  Not only were the numbers staggering, but the beauty and perfection were breathtaking.  We were left in absolute awe.

The juxtaposition of those two visits has always intrigued me.  Whenever I start to feel like I'm pretty hot stuff, the lesson learned that day is effective in bringing me back down to earth.  Moses had been raised in the courts of Pharaoh and knew firsthand the grandeur of one of history's greatest civilizations (we had seen some Egyptian masterpieces ourselves at the Getty that morning).  But when Moses was shown all the creations of God, he was induced to declare, "Now... I know that man is nothing." (Moses 1:7)

The amazing thing is, God didn't make all that grandeur to impress us, or make us feel insignificant.  He made it as a gift.  I always think of that when I see the moon.  I'm not sure why I find it so divinely lovely, but I do, and to me it is a little love note from Father every time I see it.  When I hear theories about the universe and everything in it being created by chance, it makes me sad.  Not only is it a ludicrous notion (I would love it if my house would organize itself by chance, but I'm sure it would never happen, no matter how many billions of years I waited around), but if I had created something so sublimely beautiful as a gift for my children, and they didn't even believe I made it for them, let alone acknowledge the gift, I would be hurt.  Even believing what I do, I forget far to often to say thank you.  Seeing the moon, planets and stars like I did this week is an awfully good reminder, though.