“Even if there is only one possible unified theory, it is just a set of rules and equations. What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe? The usual approach of science of constructing a mathematical model cannot answer the questions of why there should be a universe for the model to describe. Why does the universe go to all the bother of existing?”
- Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time
My answer: God.
I know not everyone believes in God, including most of the people who have devoted their lives to studying the ways of the universe, so I’m certainly not asking everyone to agree with me on this! But to me, God is as real as light and gravity. I experience the presence of God time and again in unique and personal ways through studying nature and the laws that govern the cosmos, and I feel there is more to His palm print on existence than scripture alone. Naturalist John Muir described nature as the “manuscripts of God”. Why should science and spirituality be at odds, when they are so intricately intertwined?
At least they are for me. The mystical, tender, experiential presence of God is most perceptible when I consider His embrace of creation and study the physical characteristics of our world and other worlds in the vast expanse of spacetime. The universe is observable and finite; there is bound to be more to existence beyond what we can fathom, and God is much greater still. I feel allured on a spiritual level to gather knowledge about outer space, because it stirs my affection for the almighty Creator.
I got into astrophysics and cosmology before my last year of college, because of an article I read about American physicists Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson. What they had stumbled upon in 1964 led to one of the most intimate realizations about the universe we’ve had in the history of time: the discovery of cosmic microwave background radiation--the echo of the origin of existence. Ironically, their findings were by accident, but they illuminated the profound beginning of the universe. To me, it was a discovery that pointed to God as an un-caused cause for the genesis of the cosmos. I started to read more articles and books about cosmology, and took summer courses in astronomy and electromagnetism. My curiosity grew into a heartfelt fascination that is increasing still.
As a kid, I thought I might become a doctor or scientist when I grew up, but I was terrible at math, and math and science tend to go hand in hand. I didn’t know my times tables, but I could draw a table, so I decided to be an artist. Thankfully, art was my first and truest love--it’s what I've always felt called to do in life. Painting is one of my favorite ways to connect with my surroundings on a spiritual level and worship my Father in Heaven, and being able to share my greatest passion with my profession is a precious gift. I wouldn’t want to do anything else for a living!
So, why paint outer space? A wonderful artist I met in New York City told me that the most important thing to do while working is to make studio time creative and focused, and not to worry about what anyone else thinks. That’s what I’m trying to do. By focusing on my interest in the natural universe and the ways in which it draws me nearer to God, I am moving beyond the horizon of my home planet, where I was comfortable to paint what I thought would sell at a gallery or look nice above someone’s toilet. Maybe getting there will be a gradual process, or perhaps I might stumble upon it by accident, like Penzias and Wilson. No matter what the journey holds, it will be a chance to explore new territory and cultivate a meaningful series of works, prompted by the union of art, science, and faith.