A professor working on the effects of sunspots on Earth’s soil said something like this to me this week: “You know the sun is about halfway through its life [I didn’t], so in five billion years….” When I heard “halfway through its life” I thought, this whole end of the solar system thing is closer than I realized. Then came the five billion years.
Also this week a friend sent a prayer written by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the first line of which I’d heard before: “Above all, trust in the slow work of God.” Fourteen billion years-ish so far—slow indeed. I worry about the way weeks and months speed up, seeming to contain less time every year. As they age, the stars say to each other, wow, a million years is just nothing anymore.
Teilhard’s advice is not surprising coming from a paleontologist and priest, nor is the end of the prayer:
Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.
“A new spirit gradually forming within you”—something that is not there now and has not been there before. That’s remarkable. The sun may apparently stop having sun spots right about now—give or take a few thousand or maybe million years—as this is something that can happen to stars halfway through their lives. Something new after five billion years, something gradually forming.
“Accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.” Whatever this new spirit is, it will never be complete, will never come to a point of stasis. I don’t know whether the sun feels anxious, but its formation—its birth—involved an epic, fifty-million-year struggle between gravity and fusion energy. And now it exists by burning itself up. It will die, but it will never be complete.
We are not somehow separate from this existence we find ourselves in. We are part of a grand becoming that has little or nothing to do with the way we want things to be or think they should work.
Over the next billion years, the sun will heat up and Earth will become inhospitable to life as we know it long before the sun engulfs the planet. “Give Our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you.”