LAYERS OF CLAY
Every morning, I try to thank God for making a new day. Although, to be honest, I’m not sure I would care too much about his new day if I didn’t get to live and breathe through it. So maybe I’m just thanking God to be alive. I suppose that’s a worthy thing to be thankful for.
What a strange concept, making a new day.
As if no part of my current reality existed until today. Until right now.
I look at the boring walls in my bathroom, the aging coffee mugs in my kitchen, the depreciating laptop on my desk and try to imagine these items as matter that God is placing, creating, sustaining for each new millisecond of existence. Boggles the mind.
The physical environment around me is always here, yet it is never here. The same ceiling I stare at now is always here above me, yet the ceiling I looked at yesterday is gone because yesterday is gone. The ceiling I gaze at tomorrow when I lean back in my chair and stretch my neck for relief from pounding on a keyboard all day, that ceiling does not yet exist.
I think of Stephen King.
He wrote a story called The Langoliers which I never read, but I saw the TV movie they made in the 1990s with Dean Stockwell (Quantum Leap) and Bronson Pinchot (Perfect Strangers) based on the work. In that tale, a group of airplane passengers experience an anomaly in midair and land to discover the world has literally moved on. They find nothing but a hollow planet void of life. No people, no pets. The world they land in is stale, an echo of reality somehow. Silence begets madness.
After some time they piece together what has happened. They must somehow catch up to the time and space humans are supposed to occupy because the past—even one hour ago—is a dangerous place.
Creatures, the Langoliers, come along to devour the shapes and echoes left behind. Life is not sustained here. All is devoured by black creatures with razor sharp teeth and an insatiable appetite for destruction. They eat the remnant of the world we were finished with hours ago, like Dig Dug on acid.
I think about the Langoliers and the disappearance of all our yesterdays as I consider God and the creation of all our tomorrows. Our next day, next hour, truly does not exist yet.
Sure, we will not be surprised to see the same structures we’ve lived in for some time. We expect our vehicles to be outside where we left them. We understand the timelessness of maps. But those realities of expectation exist only in our minds, just as the entire universe exists as a construct in the mind of God. In him, all things hold together, says an ancient writer.
I guess we aren’t really even here apart from a creating, sustaining deity imagining us to be.
We are something like vampires. In movies about those blood-sucking fiends, the centuries old vamps are already technically dead though they appear to be vibrant and powerful. But once the rays of the sun pierce their soulless corpse they immediately dissolve into ash and scatter on the wind like vapor rising from the pavement. And if Stephen King gets involved the Langoliers then come along and eat that pavement.
Maybe that sounds grim, but I don’t mean to be. I’m just fascinated by what it is that we actually are, and how that us-ness is sustained.
The monsters of King’s world are equaled in terror by the empty existence inhabited by the disconnected travelers. I fear a life which amounts to nothing more than a hollow echo of when times were better. The staleness of living in the past dry swallows the joy we’re meant to experience here and now.
But the past hasn’t been devoured by monsters, far as I can tell. Where does tomorrow comes from, and where did yesterday go? God must sit outside of time, able to see all of human history playing at once, like a really involved live stream of humanity. I suppose a deity like that doesn’t think in terms of past, present, and future at all?
Still, we row, row, row our boats gently down God’s live stream. If we avoid trippy thoughts about where the past went and where the future will come from we can go merrily, merrily, merrily on because life is but a dream.
But it’s the dream of a loving God, I think, so in place of knowing how existence works exactly, we’re left to decide if we have faith in this grand weaver.
How crazy is it that someone dreamed something up, and here you and I are? Sure, we may be more like his nightmare on our worst days. Yet he holds us all together, willing each fresh moment into existence, faithfully making all things new, the renewal of springtime on repeat through our ages. And tomorrow he might just do it all over again. Thank God for small mercies.