When I was a child, one of my father’s hobbies was making telescopes. He would work for hours grinding mirrors, carefully calculating and recalculating his work, often consulting with other amateur and even professional astronomers along the way.
When he’d achieved his goals, he’d affix the mirrors to a telescope tube, add other instruments and an eyepiece and put the finished work on a tripod.
On clear summer nights, our family would gather in the backyard and take turns peering through the telescope’s eyepiece, seeing planets (Saturn’s rings were a treat), comets and other objects far, far away.
To build a telescope from scratch was no small feat, and my father, a scientist by profession, was usually justifiably happy with his work. But the real star (pardon the pun) of those nightly viewings was God.
With such experiences, it was easy to be in awe of God’s universe. Inspired, I would go to Mass with more attention to and curiosity about the One who made everything and everyone, including me. The One who saw it was all “good” and who loves me surely and forever.
My early creative work sprang from such inspiration, not hindered, but sparked by a basis in faith.
The recent release of photographs from deep space by the NASA James Webb Space Telescope
(stlreview.com/3QvwOyG) has reminded me of these childhood experiences.
And the ensuing public discussion about the “intelligent design” of the universe (some turning to God, others puzzled or skeptical of a creator’s hand in it all) reminds me, too, of my own early musings about God’s work, our place within it and the way creativity thrives on a good foundation.
True, any creative endeavor can begin with a bright spark (a Big Bang?) of an idea or image that captivates the mind and begs to be communicated.
But that brilliant moment is not all there is to creativity. From the spark comes the work — order from that seeming chaos. As a writer, I call it “structure.”
Without it, no matter how bright the initial idea, the work will not translate for the reader or the audience.
Structure is why we are moved by Michelangelo’s “Pieta,” but don’t feel the same way when viewing a simple marble slab. It is how we hear melody instead of dissonance. It gives a foundation from which beauty can spring, a sure foundation for all that comes forth from good, lasting artistry.
Watching my father make and remake his mirrors, getting the calculations just right, showed me the importance of structure that underpins the scientific process and finally allows for the wonder of seeing planets and stars.
A near-lifetime of writing has translated this lesson to my own creative work; without structure, it’s only words on a page.
And structure is especially evident in our journey of faith.
Theology, the Mass, prayer practices, these have a certain basis from which we learn, grow and thrive. The grace-filled structure supporting belief helps guide our steps, especially when we feel at sea during a crisis.
It steadies us when all around us seems to be falling apart. It invites a lifetime of sparks from the Holy Spirit and the love we give and receive with others.
There are more dazzling images to come; NASA plans to release almost daily photographs from space (see the NASA website for “Images of the Day” www.nasa.gov/multimedia/imagegallery/iotd.html).
Looking on them with eyes of faith, marveling at the creator’s work, deeper than color and form, we can be amazed at God who made everything and everyone, who sees it is “good.”
God who loves us surely and forever.
Pratt’s website is www.maureenpratt.com