"Because of the noise and activity of the struggle and the work, we often do not hear the hidden gentle sound and movement of the life that is coming into being. But here and there, at hours that are blessed, God lets us feel how he is everywhere at work and how his cause is growing and moving forward." -- Eberhard Arnold *
"You see but you don't observe." -- Sherlock Holmes **
A couple of weeks ago, I was talking to a friend about God. My friend and I think differently about God, so it was a thought-provoking conversation. My friend doesn't think of God as a real entity, or as a being who intervenes in
the world or answers prayers, and I do. For her, God is love and love is God.
God is the love that people have for one another when they are helping,
forgiving, healing. For the world to become a better place, she would
say that we must rely upon our own resources of love, not a supernatural being. I believe God is love, yet so much
more. For me, there is an external, supernatural being or force that not only fills
us with love, but that also guides us to help make the world a better
Since talking to my friend, I've continued to think about our
conversation, along with a few related matters. And though I'm still in the midst of my musings, I thought I better stop and write some down, or you might begin to think I've gone missing for good.
First of all, I know that my friend and I see God differently because we experience God differently. I experience God's guidance almost daily, so I can't help but think of God in the way I do. My friend does not have the same experience. She wanted to know how I experience God so often. I explained, briefly, as I have often done in this blog, that I see such surprising connections between my private thoughts and what comes into my life that I can't help but believe these connections come from God.
But I'm beginning to notice that whenever I get really busy with going and doing, and
with keeping in mind all the places I need to go or things I need to do,
I don't see God in my life, at all. It's only when I take the time to
stop and tune into what's going on right now, in my life, that I begin to see God's presence around
me. I know I'm not unique in this regard. Eberhard Arnold and many other spiritual writers attest to the same thing. Which makes me wonder about the many people who do not slow down enough to see the connections all around them. Or seeing them, they dismiss them and do not take the time to really think about their importance. I'm sure these people would not so readily see God's presence in their lives. And thus, would be hard-pressed to believe in an intervening God.
I began to wonder if it is possible to train yourself to become more aware of God in the midst of a busy life. So I sought out books on mindfulness, meditation, and training your brain. Then I was sidetracked by a television show. Actually two television shows. Coincidentally, both shows have been out for awhile, though my kids and I had never heard of either one -- which either tells you how oblivious we can be, or how little television we watch, maybe both. Yet, we discovered both of them at the same time. Just when my son asked if he could stream old episodes of a show called "Psych," that he had seen at a friend's house, onto our television, I was downloading old episodes of a show I had been hearing a lot about, called "Sherlock," onto my computer. Coincidentally, as well, both are about a man who solves crimes that no one else can solve because he is so much more observant of the world around him than anyone else.
Coincidences like these always teach me something valuable, if I take the time to think about them. So, while I realize that both of these shows are completely made up, I couldn't help but wonder, especially in light of my recent musings... Is there something I need to learn here?
The similarities between these two shows are obvious but there are some differences worth noting. Sean in "Psych" is a goofball who was
trained by his father, a policeman, to be hyper-vigilant at every
moment, while Sherlock seems to have just been born different from the
rest of us, with an overload of sensory and logic genes, and far fewer
inter-personal ones. So, I wondered... Which way is it? Can you be trained to see God's presence in the world (like a Sean), or are you born with special genes that allow you to see more than other people (like a Sherlock)?
I'm not the first person to wonder this. Some scientists point to a "God gene" that is hereditary in some families. It is thought to have been favored through natural selection because the hope that comes with faith enhances one's chances of survival. Others have discovered places in the brain that are activated during spiritual exercises, such as when a Buddhist monk meditates. Artificially activating these areas in people causes them to have spiritual visions. Yet, neuro-anatomists tell us that brain cells are formed from birth based on our learning environment, and can continue to be created as long as we live. I can attest that my experience of God's presence has certainly grown over the years, as has my understanding of God.
Yet, all of these scientists are coming at faith from different angles, finding explanations for the evidence they see. There isn't a lot of pooling together of all the evidence. It reminded me of one of the "Sherlock" episodes we
watched recently. The Detective Inspector concludes that the recent
death of a young banker is suicide. Dr. Watson says, "That does seem the only explanation of all the facts." And Sherlock says, "Wrong.
It's one possible explanation of some of the facts. You've got a
solution that you like, but you're choosing to ignore anything you see
that doesn't comply with it." (from "The Blind Banker", episode 2, series 1). No one person, except Sherlock, can see all of the evidence, so we must listen to many different people.
Thankfully, some scientists are also beginning to realize that their explanations are limited by the narrowness of their expertise. At least that is what I heard this week at a lecture hosted by the College of Science on "The Evolutionary Brain" when the lecturing professor praised a concurrent lecture series being offered by the College of Social Sciences. He suggested that by attending both series we would get a better understanding of the bigger picture of humanity -- to the cheers of many in the audience.
What if we could do the same thing with our understanding of God and bring all the various scientists and humanists and faithful people together to hash over the evidence? Maybe I'll even offer my own life up for examination.
May the peace
which passes understanding
be with you
* from the essay "When the Time Was Fulfilled," by Eberhard Arnold, found in "Watch For the Light," pg. 285
** from the BBC production of "Sherlock," Season 1 & 2, written by Steven Moffat, Stephen Thompson, and Mark Gatiss, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock and Martin Freeman as Dr. Watson