All Matter Is Part of an Unending Cycle. Really?

March 31, 2015 at 8:41 pm | Posted in Books and Movies, It's All About God | Leave a comment

“Even the smallest stone in the riverbed has the entire history of the universe inscribed upon it.”  So begins the Japanese novel The Stones Cry Out by Hikaru Okuizumi.  The author was very popular in Japan, and this was the first of his novels translated into English.  It has won some awards in Japan, including the country’s most prestigious literary award.  I picked it up because the biblical reference in the title, and I noticed the author was educated at International Christian University.  I thought a Christian (maybe) novel from an Eastern perspective would be insightful.

The first two-thirds of the book were interesting, though not an exciting page turner, but the last third was dark and often confusing.  The ending was both sudden and weird, and it was unclear what the author was doing with it.

However, the most insightful thing to me was the emptiness the book portrayed.  Life, outside of God, is vain and this book paints a picture of one man’s hollow life.  Tsuyoshi Manase suffers from nightmares and memories of World War II.  The war ended when Manase was in a cave with a commanding officer killing off his troops, and a dying corporal telling him about his fascination with stones.  Eventually Manase too falls in love with stones and becomes quite an accomplished amateur geologist.  As he shrinks further and further into his fascination with geology, he becomes more and more isolated from his wife and family.  In the end, his life and the lives of his sons prove to be meaningless.

It occurred to me after finishing the book, that most of the world’s population probably views life as this novel presents it.  It is an existential, almost nihilistic, view that there is no meaning in anything.  Manase hears the following story from the dying corporal and relates it to each of his sons later in the book.  It summarizes what my earlier studies indicated to be the Eastern view of history, a cyclical, no direction no purpose, view.

Even the most ordinary pebble has the history of this heavenly body we call earth written on it. For instance, do you know how rocks are formed? Rocks are formed when red-hot magma cools and solidifies; rock erodes under the influence of wind and weather on the surface of the earth. That’s how you get stones. Stones are eventually ground into sand, sand into soil; then stones and sand and soil are carried away by streams and settle on the bottom of lakes, fens, or the sea, where they once again harden into rock. That rock crumbles and changes back into stones and sand and soil, or it may be pushed deep beneath the surface of the earth and, under the influence of heat and tremendous pressure, reborn as rock, in all shapes and sizes; or sometimes it melts into magma and returns to its origins. The form of minerals is never static, not for a second; on the contrary, it undergoes constant change. All matter is part of an unending cycle.  (pp. 2-3)

Life goes on unendingly.  There is no ultimate goal or purpose to history.  So the main point of the story seems to be.

However, we who believe there is a sovereign God controlling the universe have to believe that he has an ultimate purpose and plan, and that all history is moving toward that goal.  We have hope and purpose because ultimately God brings about his plan.  With God in the picture, life is not an empty unending cycle of all matter, but a meaningful and significant progression with a glorious end in view.

One passage I have been pondering the past few weeks is appropriate to this discussion.  “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.  For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” Romans 8:28-30 (NASB)

King Solomon of Israel also had some thoughts related to this.  Checkout my popular post called Life Can Be Empty to see his perspective.

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