The Universal Symphony
In my previous post, I said that we lived in a triune world: physical, mental, spiritual. Let me try to explain just what that means, because I think a lot of people are willing to go along with that, but never realize the full range of its implications.
Recall my explanation of the symphony. The collection of physical matter and energy in the world is like the collection of sounds. It is entirely true to say that the universe is a great collection of matter and energy. You would just be missing a good bit of the point if you stopped there.
The universe is not just matter and energy; it has an order; it has equations and laws and symmetry. Science is all about figuring out the order of the universe, exploring it, understanding it, learning how to add our own melodies to its greater song. It is, indeed, a high calling to study the order of the universe’s symphony.
But even scientists cannot get along with just science, with just the physical and mental dimensions. Scientists are people, too. Many study science because their spirits perceived the beauty of the order of the universe, and they fell in love with it. But even if science reached a point where it could tell us everything about the order of this symphony, it could not tell us the meaning of the music.
And there is a music. This is not an order and a significance and a beauty that we impose on the random collection of matter and energy we happen to be stuck in the middle of. The waterfall does not cease to be beautiful, the stars do not cease to be glorious, because there is no one to look at them. A stallion is a magnificent creature, whether we choose to recognize that or not. We did not give it its magnificence; we simply acknowledge and appreciate it.
The universe, the whole universe, is a symphony of sorts – not a physical symphony with notes that vibrate at different frequencies, but a deeper kind of composition. All its dimensions come together in a whole that is greater than its parts, and make the parts greater by taking them into itself. This universal symphony is present in every electromagnetic wave and every nucleus; it is sung by every rock and tree on this earth.
And that is why I think most people today are wrong to think of rocks and clouds and streams and the rest as merely inanimate objects, chunks of matter lying around. They are part of the symphony; they have their place in its melody and its dance, and they have taken its life and personality into themselves, so that they become more than objects; they are participants in a song so full of life that it almost brings them to life.
Thus, we hear of the heavens declaring the glory of God, or the rocks crying out his praise. I don’t think these are merely metaphorical pictures of what we can deduce from the sky or the rocks. They are not, of course, a description of the clouds suddenly developing vocal chords, but they are describing the participation of nature in this music that fills them with a life greater than themselves and connects them to a story that spans all of history.
This is not a new idea; many of us have heard of the “music of the spheres,” and while the idea of an unheard song sung by the planets in their orbit has died with the realization that space, as a vacuum, cannot carry sound, I think the core idea is still true. The spheres in their orbits do take part in a larger order, and that order bears a spiritual significance. We do not live in an indifferent universe; we live in a universe brimming with personality. And if that personality is enough to make a rock nearly alive, imagine what the rest of the world must be meant to be like.
Of course, the world does not seem quite as wondrous when we look around; like the trees in Prince Caspian, much of the magic of the world seems to have fallen asleep. The world, no doubt, is broken; its order has been disrupted. We can no longer clearly understand its now-jumbled song of life, riddled as it is with death and destruction.
But because the world is a symphony, it will not be this way forever. A symphony is also, in a sense, a story; it has patterns and cycles, but these take place within a greater structure of progression and climax and resolution. Because we do not live in a static or cyclical world, because we live in a world with what you might call “plot,” we may hope that, while things may get worse before they get better, the themes of life and harmony may once again emerge victorious.
I think one of the reasons we are so confused as to the story of the world is that we have the setting wrong. And so before we can ever see the story rightly, we have to orient ourselves to the larger setting, the scope, of this story. And its scope is the entire universe, and the song it sings throughout the ages.