Reading through the first 40 pages last week, I was surprised simultaneously by how much I did and didn't remember about Mexico's pre-Columbian civilizations. Then I got to page 46, and noticed the corner was turned down. There was a book mark further on in, so I knew this wasn't where I'd stopped reading four years ago when I last put it down. Rather, there was something on the page that had stood out to me, and I was just now, four years later, getting back to it. It was a piece of poetry, written sometime around 1430 by the Náhuatl (Aztec) philosopher-king Nezahualcóyotl. No, I don't remember exactly how that's pronounced, but I do remember why it stood out to me:
The obscurity of the nightReveals the brilliancy of the stars
No one has power
To alter these heavenly lights,
For they serve to display
The greatness of their Creator
And as our eyes see them now,
So saw them our earliest ancestors,
And so will see them
Our latest posterity.
Does that sound familiar? If you've ever read the book of Psalms in the Hebrew scriptures it probably does.
In King David's Psalm 19, he writes:
The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
In Psalm 8, he writes:
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
Isn't it just a little bit amazing that separated by a few millennia and the Atlantic Ocean, two kings, David and Nezahualcóyotl looked up at the night sky, and were inspired to write poetry with such similar thought streams? There's more though. In the next stanza, Nezahualcóyotl writes:
The grandeurs of life
Are like the flowers in color and in fate;
The beauty of these remain
So long as their chaste buds gather and store
The rich pearls of the dawn,
And saving it, drop it in liquid dew;
But scarcely has the Cause of All
directed upon them the full rays of the sun,
When their beauty and glory fail,
and the brilliant gay colors
Which decked forth their pride
Wither and fade.
Now from the Israelite prophet Isaiah:
A voice says, “Cry!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All flesh is grass,
and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades
when the breath of the LORD blows on it;
surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever.
Fascinating, no? People who could not be further separated by history and geography look at the seemingly eternal beauty of the cosmos, and then look at the fleeting, impermanent beauty of life on Earth, and their response is to write songs acknowledging the sovereignty of the Creator they believe in.
This is probably the part of the post where I'm expected to a) Start raving conspiracy theories about pre-Columbia contact, aliens and a precise date of the apocalypse––somehow leading to your need to purchase precious metals through my affiliate program, or b) Start banging you over the head with: "You must believe in God because of this, that and the other thing."
I'm not going to do either of those. Instead, I just wanted to share something I found that struck a chord with me the other day. It's something that struck a chord with some very different people many years ago when they looked up at the stars.
And maybe it strikes a chord with you too.
Photo Credit: NASA and STScI. Public domain under contract NAS5-26555