Centers of the Universe

Grand Central

The city orbits around eight million

centers of the universe

and turns around the golden clock

at the still point of this place.

Lift up your eyes from the moving hive

and you will see time circling

under a vault of stars and know

just when and where you are.

-Billy Collins, 1941

I found this poem on the subway today on my way in to work. The opening line caught my attention. It seems to sum up the predicament we find ourselves in here on earth. Eight million centers of the universe here in NY. Eight billion centers of the universe on the planet.

It’s this mindset, the one where each one of the eight billion of us acts as though we are the center of the universe, that creates the chaos and disharmony we see in the world. We are all trying to pull others to our center, to get the rest of creation into our orbit, to align the universe around us to meet our image of how things ought to be. The pulling and tugging to align others, each of us with a different vision of how it ought to be, creates the tension we experience. It’s an absurd picture – eight billion centers – when simple logic tells us there can only be one center around which all else orbits.

The picture functions much better when there is only one center. To me this is one of the main goals of the life of a Christian, to live as though God were truly the center of the universe.¬†Too often, I admit, I find myself functioning as one of eight billion centers trying to get others and God to align according to my plan. If you are reading this, then chances are good that I’ve tried to align you to my plan. But before you get too upset at me, chances are also good that you’ve tried to get me to align to your plan. Hence our struggle.

The goal of Jesus, from what I can understand, is to recenter the universe. He came to reveal to us that he is truly the center of all things. Our lives are designed to orbit around him, not the other way around. You and I are in greater harmony when we are centered on Jesus and he aligns us according to his plan. Our world operates more like the way it should when there is only one center, not eight billion of them.