The great Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard wrote dozens of parables on the spiritual life. Thomas Oden has done a masterful job compiling them in Parables of Kierkegaard. Two of his small parables illuminate the condition of life in the 21st century. The first describes a rich man traveling first class in the Cadillac of carriages. On each of the four corners of the carriage were lanterns to light the road around and ahead. One day the rich man passed a poor peasant who had neither a carriage to carry him or lanterns to light his way. Yet while the rich man pitied the poor peasant, the poor peasant could see the stars, which the rich man missed because he was blinded by his lamps.

The second parable compared fireworks to the stars. Fireworks hold our attention by continually dazzling us with their brilliance. Each volley more brilliant than the last until one final burst of brilliance and it’s all over. Kierkegaard rightfully said that firework shows have to produce more and more artificial excitement to keep us entertained. The stars, however, are different. We can, if we will, lie on our backs and gaze into the nigh sky for hours upon hours and always there is more to see in what he called “the unchanging canopy of the stars overhead, more almost magical attraction, more sensing the mystery of the stars whose message in light was sent to us from millions of years past, more drawing of our souls to consider the vastness of eternity and the meaning of time.”

Author Leighton Ford suggests that the stars are like messengers sent by the Creator to lure us into pondering the meaning of our lives and fireworks are like the diversions we create to keep us from facing the reality of our lives. Here’s the question: What is it in us that blinds us to the stars, that chooses not to slow down and prefers fireworks displays to stargazing? Perhaps an evening of stargazing is called for. Better bundle up, it’s cold out there!