When I heard the learn'd theologian

"When I heard the learn’d astronomer,

When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,

When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,

When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,

How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,

Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,

In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,

Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars."

(walt whitman, "when I heard the learn'd astronomer")

For the last four years, I've heard the learn'd theologians. The reformation histories, the Christ-in-culture intersections, the peerless God-ponderings have been ranged in columns before me. I've been shown the disciplines and thought-schools, how to study, dissect, and figure God.

How soon unaccountable, four years since declaring a Bible & theology major, I've become inoculated and confused. The chatter from the lecture-rooms muted, I've risen and glided out the AC300s, wandering off to the mystical moist night-air, looking for the God I'm soon to be certifiably excellent at thinking about.

I stumbled upon a thought the other day, and I haven't been able to wrestle it out ever since. I tried to think of the most meaningful world where there was no eternity.

I stretched my mind to construct images designed to rip tears out of me. Moments of standing up alone in big rooms feverish with oppression, moments where my knees buckled alone in awe of a great big something. Snapshots of Saturday mornings where blustery eyes spoke loud, but visions of restoration spoke louder. Poignant death bed moments where the closest ones-- the ones who have become irreversibly sewn into me-- gather their stricken voices to say goodbye to the one who's become irreversibly sewn into them.

And then I imagined an endless nothingness. Maybe imagine isn't the right word. I put the nothing alongside these images, and it was oil and water. Nothing is meaningful unless it lasts. Standing up to injustice doesn't mean anything unless your standing up could contribute to a lasting justice. Your awe-struck knees don't mean a thing unless the Beauty under which they buckle is a Beauty you will one day be caught up in. And the stricken voices who bid us goodbye don't mean anything unless there's a day where all goodbyes & other separations are put to rest.

And in a way I don't fully understand, I feel peace, because there's too many single parents, stricken voices, buckled knees, jumbled prayers, and crumpled intimacies to be empty of meaning. In the mystical moist night-air, I crane my neck high enough to see these stars. Through them, from time to time, I see a future restoration that fills me with a half-decent silence.


photo credit: it's me, snitches

photo credit line credit: swizz beatz