Wednesday, September 17, 2008


When I read about scientific discoveries and the wonders of space and time, I am filled with awe at the people who can understand what the writers are saying. I struggle to understand the intricacies of Hadron's Collider and I still don't really know what it is they are trying to do and why it is necessary to find it out. It is fascinating stuff, but it is far beyond my capabilities to imagine unlimited space, a new concept of time, the possibility of alternate universes and all of the ideas I have read about. They are wondering about Black Holes and I seem to live in one.

Perhaps my limited ability in this field is connected to my failure to locate myself in this universe, thus making it difficult to imagine any other. I simply have no sense of direction. I can get lost in Walmart, wandering through the aisles trying to figure out just where the exit might be located. If I drive into a parking lot, there is a 90 percent chance I will turn the wrong way when I pull out. I blindly blunder through life, admiring those people who blithely talk about North and South and know which way the sun must be shining, even on a cloudy day. I can't tell North from South and am doomed to wander until I see something recognizable that will point me in the direction I want to go.

So while scientists are smashing atoms, I am trying to wend my way through the aisles of some Walmart, clueless as to where I have been or where I am going. On a dark night not long ago, I was struck by the beauty of the full moon shimmering in the night sky. It seemed to float in the darkness, this glowing orb, so beautiful it took one's breath away just to stare up at it. It is hard to believe that men have walked on this moon, that an American flag is planted there. Perhaps in centuries to come, it will be the jumping off place for trips to Mars and, from there, more exploration of our universe and other universes.

It is all so intricate, so mysterious, so mind-boggling that one cannot help but wonder if it is a part of a grand design, or is just the result of some magnificent accident. My mind cannot comprehend too much space without miring down. How can there be infinite space? What about the beginning and the end? As my sister-in-law, Connie, used to say, "I can believe in God, but when I think about where God came from, I could go crazy!" Where DID God come from, if he exists at all? Did he appear in a roll of thunder and a blinding lightening strike, forming from the collision of atoms in the sky? If he is in man's image, does he have trouble with his weight, lose his hair, get cavities in his teeth?

These kinds of thoughts this early in the morning lead to more cups of coffee and speculation about the world we live in. Our earth must have been beautiful before humans cluttered it up with housing developments, including gated communities where some little man sits in a booth and checks your license number. We have made our earth ugly, simply because we are ignorant. We don't have enough sense to pick up our garbage and tidy up after ourselves. There is even a huge, mountainous island of plastic garbage floating in the ocean, with no efforts being made to clear it up.

Yesterday, I talked to a married couple who had spent the last several years as missionaries. They went to Africa and tried to bring the Light to the minds of the native people there. As I thought about the island of plastic garbage and the gated communities, I wondered if we are doing them any favors by sending missionaries to their lands. Of course, we want them to know about God, our concept of God. If they have a concept of God that differs from our own, we want to teach them that they are wrong and we are right. We want to convert them to our beliefs.

This couple believed in a literal translation of the Bible. If the Bible says something is wrong, then it is wrong. If the Bible says the earth is just a few thousand years old, it is true, and no scientific discovery can disprove it. But, I asked them, but, but, but..... What about selling your daughter into slavery, as is described in Exodus? What about "Thou Shalt Not Suffer a Witch to Live"? Who did Cain marry? What about these random statements that pepper the Bible, should we literally believe what it says? Of course, their answer was a shrug. They literally believed in the words of the Bible, except when it becomes uncomfortable to think about it. That's how we tidy up our beliefs. We don't build a Hadron's Collider in our minds and smash mental atoms to come to conclusions. There are no facts, no scientific or mathematical answers. Faith is blind and deaf, with very little foundation in fact. It is much like getting disoriented in a Walmart store, trying to find the elusive exit.

My grandson, the physicist, tells me that all matter is made of the dust and debris from exploding stars. This gives me a mental picture of God creating the universe. The stars have exploded, the dust...when mixed with water...creates a marvelous modeling clay, and God goes about forming the earth and the heavens, as well as the bounties of Mother Nature and the ooze that produced the first creatures that moved and finally crawled up out of the mud, sprouting hands, feet, lungs and all of the necessary appendages as millions of years pass by.

Take the horse, for instance. The horse used to be a tiny animal. I saw a drawing once of a miniature horse, before this creature has evolved into the animal we have today. What a wonderful thing to happen! What earthly good would a miniature horse do for humans? One could not ride on its back. One couldn't bet on it at a racetrack. The most one could do is give a set of them to the kids and allow them to play miniature horses instead of those little plastic soldiers. So the horse evolved, but we had to invent our own bicycle, and we had to fashion our own cars. Can you imagine God looking down from his perch in oblivion, shaking his head, and saying.."Look at those idiots whizzing around in those contraptions! I gave them the horse, but no! It wasn't fast enough! They have to get out and kill each other, speeding around!"

More coffee! More wisdom! Three banks failed and the stock market plunged, tried to get up again, fell back down, and threatens to collapse. The government, which is of, by and for the people, is rescuing the banks. The world is so topsy-turvy that one doesn't know whether to trust the local bank or the stock market or take out every penny you may have stored and stash it in your cookie jar or under your pillow. It is reminiscent of the great run on banks that took place before or during the Great Depression, when Roosevelt declared a bank holiday and frightened people envisioned a time of starvation.

This is where faith steps in, I guess. This is where one falls back on the instruction that faith must endure. God feeds the sparrow, he will feed you, but what about those flattened sparrows one finds on the ground? We can't even help ourselves. Where can we put a Victory Garden? How can we grow corn in a shoebox-sized lot? Besides, there's an ordinance against gardens! That sparrow didn't have to contend with ordinances. It could flit around freely in a search for food.

When one approaches death, all thought of poetry, prose, philosophy, religion and other clutter disappears and one sinks into death, leaving all behind. According to the Bible, all thought dies with you, which is why I am trying to think of all this in the early morning, as much as my limited capacity allows. Hubert, my brother, used to say to me, when he was musing..."I am trying to figure out how to get out of this without dying!" I understand and I also try to select the easiest method of getting to the point of death. Would I prefer to die by fire or ice, or sink into death after drifting off to sleep? How does that happen? Are you dreaming and some silly dream state is interrupted as you sink into death, or does a sign come on.."To Be Continued."? We would all like to avoid an agonizing death, if possible. Hubert died a slow, miserable, horrible death from Alzheimer's, with loss of memory, disorientation, unstable moods, wandering, probing, suffering! Bud, too, with Parkinson's, starting with the tremors, the shaking, the frozen expression, the bedridden days and nights and, finally, even the joys of eating food taken from him as tubes and contraptions kept death from knocking at his door. It worked for a while, but death always wins eventually.

There are five of us left now, five out of twelve, all of us aging, graying, wrinkling, shrinking, tottering, enduring all the discomforts that age brings along. We have lived long lives but, to me, it is as though I have only been given a few minutes. There is so much I want to think about, to enjoy, to study, to understand. I want all this, but I can't even figure out this pesky crossword puzzle that lays on my desk! How can I understand the world I live in and the universe I contemplate when I can't even figure out a four letter word for an English gun?

It is very difficult to be a philosopher at 8 a.m., clutching a cup of coffee, trying to avoid that sugared doughnut. Philosophical thoughts should only take place in the late afternoon. My brother, Bud, who was prone to silent contemplation, always replied to any question in a philosophical way. "You can't question some things," he said. "You just have to accept them!" That's the truth of it. There are things we can question, like why are they smashing atoms and trying to form matter, why does a moth flutter around a flame, but we cannot question the entire setup. It's as Bill Clinton all depends upon what "is" is!