We were in London recently, and we took the children to the Science Museum.
It’s an amazing experience, the Science Museum. Even for someone like me, who is pretty much technologically challenged, it’s fascinating. It’s fascinating in a different way for my husband, who is a scientist, so he understands the inner workings of everything from steam engines and space rockets and MRI machines and aeroplanes and transistors and computers and all things technical. I, on the other hand, tend to marvel at the cleverness of such things and then stroll on to the next exhibit. And when I get to the coffee shop, I’m quite interested in the things there too.
Each to their own. I love the floor devoted to the human body. Everything physical, developmental, emotional, intellectual.
Spiritual? Not so much.
I love what we know about ourselves and I love reading between the lines; what we don’t know. What we can’t know; we’ll never find out, because we’re not meant to. I like to look at the exhibits and read the explanations with you in mind; your creativity, your power, your sense of humour.
In 1953 Crick and Watson worked out that the DNA took the form of a double helix, and we started talking about the building blocks of life. The plaque on the floor said ‘DNA Double Helix: changed the future in 1953′. We can scan brains. We can play with stem cells. We can cure diseases that killed millions a generation ago, but the building blocks of life? Can we stay alive indefinitely? Can we somehow bring life back when it’s gone? Only you can do that.
Only you did exactly that.
We are so proud of what we know. There are so many incredibly clever people out there who have worked hard and investigated more thoroughly and to whom you’ve given moments of insight. I like that you reveal bits and pieces here and there so that our eyes open wide with the marvellousness of it all. I just wished that now and again, attention could be drawn to the Author of it all.
Nowhere that I could see in that monumental museum were you mentioned. There was a gallery of great scientists: Newton, Einstein, Galileo, Faraday, good old Darwin; they were pictured next to their invention, or discovery, or theory. The bookshop was full of volumes detailing their thoughts and ideas. We are in awe of such thinkers. There was an impressive array of volumes by Richard Dawkins with his particular brand of aggressive atheism and the ideas he promotes that this is all there is; I couldn’t see anything about Creation. Nothing that might acknowledge that everything we have and everything we have found out is because you have allowed it. The museum is an impressive shrine to the power of the human mind.
It’s widely thought that science and faith are mutually exclusive but I don’t see why that should be.
Einstein didn’t think that science had disproved you, and yet so many people these days think that you can subscribe to either one or the other, but not both. I wonder why, when there are so many unanswered questions. We all believe in something. If you were to go for a wander in the Science Museum, you’d think we only believe in ourselves.
We had a nice time. We looked around, we had tea and a cake and we sprinted through the shop as fast as we could before the children demanded expensive souvenirs. And then we emerged, blinking, into the sunshine.
Music. Something lovely.
Coming from a balcony of the Victoria and Albert museum opposite, a brass quartet was playing music. The strains of something familiar.
‘Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I’m found,
Was blind, but now I see.’
Oh my goodness.
It was beautiful. The musicians had jazzed it up a bit so it took a moment or two to work out the central tune, but once I had it, it was unmistakeable.
Another Newton (1725-1807) but a man who saw things as they were. A former slave trader, he saw his great sin, his great need, his great salvation.
He saw beyond himself to what really matters.
The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.
We invented the television and the computer and we broke codes at Bletchley Park and we sent rockets into space and put satellites in orbit, and all those things are good, admirable achievements, but you alone are God. You’re the only One who sees beyond our myopic vision. We celebrate our insights and intellect, and I don’t for one minute think that it’s wrong to do that, as long as we remember who we are; who you are.
You must smile a wry smile at our spectacular limitations. We reach for the sky, but you made it. I saw an exhibit about the sun: we know that its surface temperature is about 6000deg C and we know that it’s 150,000,000km from earth, and we know that it’s necessary for life … but you made it shine.
When we’ve been here ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun.
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’ve first begun.
Oh, Lord God. We are so pleased with ourselves, but our achievements are nothing in comparison to you. Yes, we’ve done amazing things. Yes, we’ve found out so much. Yes, there have been (and still are) some very clever, gifted people. Have we scratched the surface of what there is to know?
It made me smile to see the crowd stop and listen, some singing along, and to hear the applause for the musicians when they finished and took a bow. They played beautifully and the tune was one that it amongst the most special hymns that we have, but the words?
Inspired by you. The subject matter? You.
Everybody clapped as the music finished. The stream of people exiting the Science Museum into the sunshine cheered and offered their approval to the musicians. It was indeed a lovely moment. To me it felt like the ridiculous to the sublime.
A warm Saturday afternoon in central London with a street market and entertainers and a brass quartet on the balcony of a historic building.
I clapped too, but my praise was for you. It always will be.
Lord God, Creator of the heavens and the earth and everything in them, when I’ve been here ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, I’ll have no less days to sing your praise than when I’ve first begun.