Finlandia, composed in 1899, possessed the original title Finland Awakes. Sibelius’ brilliant masterpiece was part of the cultural resistance of Finland’s aggressive neighbor to the east. The symphonic poem begins ominously as brass and percussion swell to a raucous din. But sixty seconds into the clamor, the music softens to an elegant, peaceful beauty—harbinger of a better future for the nation. Finland would indeed awaken.
Hieronymus Bosch’s painting Ascent of the Blessed depicts souls being escorted from a place of darkness through a tunnel leading to dazzling light. At the end of the tunnel awaits a radiant being. The painting portrays a phenomenon often described by those who have had a near-death experience—a “tunnel of light” leading to what seems to be heaven.
Once while on a trip visiting some friends in a village in China, we trekked deeper and deeper into the forest, venturing farther and farther away from the village. After an hour or so, we heard the deafening roar of a waterfall. Quickening our steps, we soon reached a clearing and were greeted by the beautiful vision of a rushing curtain of white water flowing over gray rocks. Spectacular!
The diving bell spider lives the majority of its life in a bubble of air at the bottom of freshwater ponds and streams in northern and central Europe and northern Asia. To create the bubble, it somersaults on the surface of the water, catches a bubble of air, holds it over the breathing holes in the middle of its body, and then dives down and spins a silk web between underwater plants. This arachnid then swims back up to the surface, bringing down bubble after bubble until a big balloon of air is formed. It then eats and lives in the big bubble.
The movie Self/less tells the fictional story of a wealthy, dying man trying to attain immortality by transferring his consciousness to a younger man’s “host” body. While things go well at first, it eventually becomes clear that all is not as it should be, as the memories of the younger man begin surfacing in the wealthy man’s mind, resulting in some dire complications.
When I glimpse a palette of vivid colors painted across the sky or take in the delicate design of a daffodil, I love to ponder God as Creator. Beauty can draw us to experience awe when we see His imprint in nature. Even if we’re surrounded by concrete with no green in sight, we may hear some melodious birdsong and remember that God is our Maker.
An amazing phenomenon has recently been discovered: As a sperm meets an egg at human conception, a flash of light is emitted! Researchers have actually captured these mini-fireworks on film.
In a 2016 Washington Post article, Harvard-Smithsonian Center astrophysicist Howard A. Smith wrote that “the universe, far from being a collection of random accidents, appears to be stupendously perfect and fine-tuned for life.” Smith went on to describe the unique ways Earth is designed—that it doesn’t seem to be simply a random little planet as some would believe.
In the 1940s, George de Mestral faced an issue only too familiar to dog owners: After a walk in the woods, his dog’s fur was riddled with cockleburs—thorny seeds which are nearly impossible to remove. But de Mestral realized that more than simply an inconvenience, perhaps the design of the cockleburs could inspire something useful. In time, he invented VELCRO® brand fasteners which are widely used for fabric and more. This is just one example among many of inventors who used the wonders of the natural world to provide inspiration for their creations.
What makes grass grow thick and green? Would you believe that part of the answer is lightning? The main ingredient in most fertilizers is nitrogen, and the air is full of it. But grass can’t access the nitrogen in the air until lightning moves through it. Lightning heats the air and splits nitrogen into separate molecules. The molecules of nitrogen then join with oxygen and hydrogen and fall as rain—nourishing the vegetation. Who knew that lightning is one of God’s messengers to make the world green?
My son and I constructed a model of the solar system in which each planet is aligned near the next. Looking at this contraption, one might think that real planets aren’t very far from each other. But that’s not the case: if the Sun was the size of a basketball, the bb-sized Earth would be located 31 yards away, and the small planetoid Pluto would be 1,232 yards away! The distances between planets are vast, almost beyond our ability to comprehend.
We recently moved to my husband’s hometown, a city that features a beautiful metro park system. Every day, prior to work and after dropping off two of our three young daughters at school, we take a brief hike together. My husband straps our baby onto his back in a backpack-like contraption, and off we go!
As you read this, the moon is circling the earth at 2,300 miles per hour. Even at that speed, it will take it nearly a month to make a full rotation. Meanwhile, despite circling the sun at 66,000 miles per hour, the earth will take a whole year to make one orbit. And our sun is just one of 200 million other suns spinning around the Milky Way at 483,000 miles per hour—a speed which necessitates 225 million years to circle around once. And the Milky Way is but one of 100 billion other galaxies shooting through space at over 1 million miles an hour. The universe is immense!
When asked which author he would choose to write his life’s story, author and activist Wendell Berry answered: “A horrible thought. Nobody. As the only person who ever has lived my life, I know that most of it can never be documented, is beyond writing and beyond words.”