November 20, 2007

€œOur Spangle of Existence
by Pastor George Van Alstine

Omar the Tentmaker (Khayyam) was a twelfth century Persian poet. He would probably be unknown to us, except for an eloquent English translation done by Edward Fitzgerald in about 1855. Fitzgerald’s poetry itself was beautiful, and the “Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyamâ€? became an English classic over the next fifty years.

Omar became a respected scholar in astronomy, mathematics and philosophy. He wrote some pioneering studies in algebra, established proof that the earth revolved around the sun, and developed a more accurate calendar. Raised in Islam, he found that his scientific studies led him to question many traditional beliefs. Ultimately, he became an agnostic who seemed to delight in posing unanswerable questions for orthodox believers. Many of these are included in “The Rubayyat,â€? where Omar gives his prescription for these doubts:

“Drink! For you know not whence you came, nor why:
Drink! For you know not why you go, nor where.�

Or, as the ancient Egyptians put it:

“Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you dieâ€?(cf. Isaiah 22:13)

It was his looming mortality that seemed to obsess this great thinker. He mentions it repeatedly in “The Rubayyatâ€?:

“One thing at least is certain—this Life flies;
One thing is certain and the rest is Lies.�
. . . .
“The Wine of Life keeps oozing drop by drop,
The Leaves of Life keep falling one by one.�

Perhaps his most graphic way of expressing this sense of mortality is his reference to a person’s life as “that spangle of Existence.â€? Just a little dot that for a nano-second flashes feebly in the immense darkness of eternity.

Well, as much as we may deny it or resent it, Omar was right. One person’s life is only a spangle of existence, a tiny point of consciousness in the awesome history of the universe. That’s how much each of us amounts to. That’s all.

Omar couldn’t accept the truth he discovered. By studying astronomy, mathematics and philosophy, he struggled valiantly to become more than a spangle. But in the end he was still just a spangle—maybe a little bigger spangle than most, but only a brief flicker. His only answer was to spend what was left of his spangle on the pleasures of the flesh.

OK, here’s the way I see it, Omar. If all life gives me is this one little moment in time and space, I’ll treat it like a gem! I’ll choose to see it as the most precious gift God could give me. I’ll also try to reflect some of my faint spangle-light onto others, so that they’ll be able to flash a little brighter during their own momentary spangle of existence.

Maybe that’s what God wants us to do with our spangle. If we all flash a little reflected light around—toward each other and toward God—maybe that looks beautiful to him. Maybe together, we fill his creation with a colorful light-show that gives him great pleasure. Maybe that’s why he created us in the first place.

Omar, don’t waste your spangle on your own pleasure when you can actually bring pleasure to God. Since God is eternal, your little spangle may participate in eternity with him, just because he enjoys you.