Catholic monk, writer, mystic, and activist Thomas Merton plays with the concept that we become a “member of the human race” over the course of a life time. A concept that has great resonance for me.
It reminds me of John’s gospel (1:12-13): We are given authority to become children of God. (See Wes Howard-Brook’s great treatise on John titled Becoming Children of God: John’s Gospel and Radical Discipleship).
Coming to the monastery has been, for me, exactly the right kind of withdrawal. It has given me perspective. It has taught me how to live. And now I owe everyone else in the world a share of that life. My first duty is to start, for the first time, to live as a member of the human race which is no more (and no less) ridiculous that I am myself. And my first human act is the recognition of how much I owe everybody else.–Thomas Merton
From Entering the Silence ( Journals, Volume 2) edited by Jonathan Montaldo (HarperSanFrancisco, 1997, p. 451).
Two decades ago, Mary Doria Russell, a paleoanthropologist turned novelist, was decoding the stories in ancient bones. Then she wrote two beautiful, theologically evocative books of science fiction, The Sparrow and Children of God. (You can read the preface to The Sparrow here.
I love these books and have read them over and over. Also, I interviewed Doria Russell for Sojourners last year. She’s very funny and is currently working on a novel about Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday.
The premise of The Sparrow and Children of God is that life is discovered on another planet by way of transmissions of hauntingly beautiful music. And Jesuits explorers and scientists make first contact, just as Jesuit priests were often in the vanguard of Europe’s age of discovery. Mary Doria Russell grappled with large moral and religious questions on and off the page—as she imagined the conversations and relationships between these Jesuits, the other scientists who travel with them, and the species they encounter.
Mary Doria Russell will be interviewed in a Speaking of Faith radio segment titled “The Novelist as God.” Listeners will discover what she discerned—in the act of creating a new universe—about God and about dilemmas of evil, doubt, and free will. The ultimate moral of any life and any event, Doria Russell believes, only shows itself across generations. And so the novelist, like God, she says, paints with the brush of time.
“The Novelist as God” will air on public radio stations nationwide from Thursday, January 29 through Wednesday, February 4. You’ll also be able to hear and download the program online at www.speakingoffaith.org, where you’ll find broadcast locations and times.