Dad was sitting watching television, when his little boy came running over. “Daddy, can you play with me?”
Dad enjoys playing with his son, and plans to give him plenty of time, but not just yet. “Soon, son, soon” says Dad. “When this program finishes.”
Five minutes later the little boy returns. “Daddy, can we play now?”
“Soon, son, soon. When this program finishes.”
Two minutes later the little boy returns again. “Daddy, is it time to play yet?”
Dad realises he’s not going to get any peace, so he decides to set his son a task that will take some time. He notices a picture of the world on the front page of the newspaper lying in front of him. He tears the picture out then rips it into small pieces. “Now son, I’ve got a game for you. Take the pieces of this picture of the world and put them back together again and then we’ll play together.”
The little boy eagerly takes the pieces away with him and sets to work. Dad’s relieved he’ll get to see the last half hour of his TV program. But to his amazement his little boy is back in less than five minutes. “I’ve finished daddy. Can we play now?”
The father is stunned when he turns around to see his son holding up the picture of the world, each piece sticky taped into the right position. Dad begins wondering whether he has a child prodigy on his hands. “How did you get it done so quickly?” he asks. “That would’ve taken me a good 20 minutes and I’m an adult.”
“Oh, it was easy daddy. On the back of the world was a picture of a person, so I put the person together and that’s when the world came together.”
How do you put the world together? How do you make sense of your world and find your way through it? Christians find that Jesus is the face on the other side of the puzzle. He enables us to make sens eof life and our world and to find a path through it.
German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once told the following parable to discuss the possibility of belief in God. His madman echoes the tragedy of a world in which we have lost belief in God but are unable to find something more worthy to take God’s place, leaving us orphaned in the universe
Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market place, and cried incessantly: “I seek God! I seek God!” As many of those who did not believe in God were standing around just then, he provoked much laughter. “Has God got lost?” asked one. “Did he lose his way like a child?” asked another. “Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? emigrated?” Thus they yelled and laughed
The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his eyes. “Where is God?” he cried; “I will tell you. We have killed him, you and I. All of us are his murderers. But how did we do this? How could we drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Where is it moving now? Where are we moving? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying, as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night continually closing in on us? Do we not need to light lanterns in the morning? Do we hear nothing as yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we smell nothing as yet of the divine decomposition? Gods, too, decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.
“How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whoever is born after us, for the sake of this deed he will belong to a higher history than all history before.”
Here the madman fell silent and looked again at his listeners; and they, too, were silent and stared at him in astonishment. At last he threw his lantern on the ground, and it broke into pieces and went out. “I have come too early,” he said then; “my time is not yet. This tremendous event is still on its way, still wandering; it has not yet reached the ears of men. Lightning and thunder require time; the light of the stars requires time; deeds, though done, still require time to be seen and heard. This deed is still more distant from them than most distant stars and yet they have done it themselves.
It has been related further that on the same day the madman forced his way into several churches and there struck up his requiem aeternam deo. Led out and called to account, he is said always to have replied nothing but: “What after all are these churches now if they are not the tombs and monuments of God?”
Source: Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science (1882, 1887) para. 125
Map making goes by the name of cartography. It may not sound terribly interesting, but in 1815 a cartographer by the name of William Smith produced a map that changed the world. William Smith was an English orphan who grew up in poverty. He became a surveyor and during his time surveying the countryside he came to realise something very important about the earth beneath his feet. First he discovered that rocks could be dated by the fossils found in them. Find the same type of fossils in two rocks separated by distance and it’s probably they come from the same era. Second, he learned that the rock layers tend to be arranged in a consistent pattern. Armed with that knowledge Smith produced a geological map of England, Scotland and Wales. And that map changed the world.
How you might ask? Well for the first time Smith’s map allowed people to predict what lay beneath the ground. Prior to Smith’s map if you wanted to find gold or coal or gas or any other natural resource you had to scout the surface for some sign of them – a glint of gold or an outcropping of coal. But with Smith’s map you could look for particular rock types and know what likely lay beneath them and within them. His map allowed us to see below the surface and to uncover the depths. And so the electricity we gain from coal, the gas that fires our stoves, the gold we wear on chains around our necks, and much much more are possible because William Smith mad a map in 1815.
Smith’s story reminds us of the need to be cartographers of life. Before Smith we barely scratched the surface of the earth, but after Smith we could plumb the depths. Similarly, we could all do with a life map, a mental map that enables us to do more than scratch the surface of life, but to experience the depths of human possibility. For Christians Jesus is the Cartographer of Life, the one who provides us with a map of realities that we can barely see – of God, truth and love.
Alternate Application: The Scriptures are a life-map God has provided for us. They point us to realities about God and life that we would otherwise not be able to see, and enable us to live life to its fullest.
Source: William Smith’s story is reported in Simon Wichester, The Map That Changed the World (HarperCollins, 2001)