What You Can’t Imagine

I found a fascinating article this morning while I was reading the news: a telescope in Australia has shown what the universe would look like if the human eye could see radio waves.  Here’s the quote explaining why, precisely, this is so cool:

“The human eye sees by comparing brightness in three different primary colours – red, green and blue,” Dr Hurley-Walker said.

“GLEAM does rather better than that, viewing the sky in 20 primary colours.

“That’s much better than we humans can manage, and it even beats the very best in the animal kingdom, the mantis shrimp, which can see 12 different primary colours,” she said.

If you scroll down to the bottom of the article, you can see the wide array of images taken.  But I’ll include one here so that you can grasp how cool this is:

gleam-data-1024x576

Credit: Natasha Hurley-Walker (Curtin / ICRAR) and the GLEAM Team.

Colors we can’t see.  A universe the entirety of which, and the enormity of which, we can’t grasp even with all of the senses at our disposal.  Beauty that is literally unimaginable until we use enhanced equipment to grab a glimpse of it.  And even then – what else is it we’re missing?   What about all the wonder that we simply don’t know?

Reading the article made me think about a photographic process I’ve been involved with lately.  When I am editing photographs and making greeting cards, I sometimes use a technique called selective colorization.  You essentially render the picture black and white, then with a brush “erase” part of the black and white to reveal the original color beneath.  The result creates one bright, colorful object against a background of grays and blacks and whites.

But it’s the process of the re-coloring that always startles me.  Even though I’m the one who took the photos, I’m still startled by the vividness of the colors when I bring them back into view.  A snail that originally looked “white” in a full color photo is in fact revealed to be a delicate pink with a strange, iridescent shimmer.  The black beak of a bird gleams, when repainted, with subtle blues.  Raindrops on the edge of a white mushroom look like liquid gold in sunlight.

What I’m trying to say is that realizing these things makes me feel both delighted and small.  And it’s not a bad smallness: it’s a welcome one.  I literally can’t fathom half the beauty around me, or the creative potential that went into it.  I can’t imagine what other lovelinesses exist in the world that I don’t have the potential to grasp or understand.  There are endless, endless beauties, even in this sad and fallen world.  So we can’t even begin to imagine what lies beyond, and the realization truly brings into perspective the promise that no eye has seen, nor ear has heard, what God has prepared for those who love Him (1 Cor. 2:9).

And it reminds me, as a Christian, that I believe in a God who is among many, many other things endlessly creative, playful, inventive. I forget that, a lot, between the pillar of fire and the thundering-at-Job and the great sacrifice on the cross.  But it’s true.  Even the most beautiful things I have seen, the very most beautiful places I’ve been, are only a hint forward at something bigger, better, and still more beautiful.

I’ll close with a quote from C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity – one of my favorites, and one which has been rattling through my mind all morning:

“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.  If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud.  Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.  If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or to be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage.  I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that country and to help others to do the same.”

I hope you are able to glimpse something really beautiful or wonder-making today.  And I pray it inspires you to dream about what is waiting.

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3 responses to “What You Can’t Imagine

  1. In Job, God gives us the tiniest glimpse into how little we actually grasp of His marvelous creation. This post is a lovely reminder of God’s many-layered Creation and Manifold wisdom.

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    • Yep. And that’s a fascinating part of Job to read, because it really demands the limits of the imagination to even *see* or comprehend everything that God is telling Job He can do/is responsible for!

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