As in the human heart. Just a couple of days ago I brought the newspapers in after walking the dog. Part of my morning ritual. After feeding the pooch I open the papers on the kitchen table, get my coffee, glance at the headlines. The front page of my local paper, the Baltimore Sun, proclaimed that a sixteen year old had been shot in the city during the night. Drive by shooting. This was one in a series of shootings that have been taking place in the inner city – 35 in the last month, a little more than one per day. What a colossal failure. Of education and social services. Of culture and society. Of humanity and the human spirit. Imagine the anger, the hatred, the hopelessness, the casual disregard for life, the fear, that all come together to create an environment where people are simply being shot on the streets, every single day. That is the darkness that can grow and fester in the human heart.
Then the other headline, front page of the NY Times. About the Pluto mission, the incredible pictures being transmitted back from deep space of the planet’s surface. The flat plains and the towering mountains made, reportedly, of ice. And therein lies the mystery. How is it that the same species that can fall to a place where murders become a daily occurrence can also imagine the possibility of sending a spacecraft to the stars? Can have the intelligence, the brilliance, the curiosity, the vision, even the desire, to reach that far, to touch the stars and travel through the heavens? How could the same kind of hand that wielded the gun that shot the boy in cold blood, the same kind of hand, build the hardware, write the software, that enabled that rocket to reach the farthest edges of our solar system? The same mind that can be filled with vengeance and hate and anger could also breathlessly experience the beauty of the universe, could feel both small and sacred at the scale of it all?
And yet it was so. There were the papers, right there on my kitchen table. Side by side. Arriving the same morning, delivered together, even in a single plastic bag. Darkness and light. Despair and hope. The depths and the heights. “Out of the depths I call to you, O Lord,” wrote the Psalmist. And also this: “My soul thirsts for you, God, like watchmen for the dawn, watchmen for the dawn.”