Sometimes i wish it all wouldn’t matter. Everybody would just live their lives as they see fit, applying various ethical systems, or not, but if this is all a big random coincidence that mankind formed on this planet, then nothing matters. If i waste away my life and never fulfil my potential and never manage to live a meaningful, purposeful life, it’s irrelevant because everybody just returns to dust, the atoms disperse and become part of everything, and the earth spins on and flies around the sun and the sun around the milky way and the galaxy whizzes through our cluster, and we’re just specs of dust on an infinite canvas. My sin and failures wouldn’t matter, but neither would any achievements.
But though it would be easier, i simply can never ever get myself to believe this.
If there is a creator and S/He made this all intentionally and with a sense of proportion, symmetry and beauty, as nature clearly shows, then my thoughts and actions count, and this makes my life all the more precarious, as all the knowledge i’ve accumulated starts calling out against me, asking why my actions lack so far behind my understanding. Only then anything matters really. It’s easier to hide behind thoughts like “maybe all these struggles of faith are just a delusion” or “maybe i’m just imagining a Creator in order to pull myself up on this rope of religion, to make myself feel better and imbue my life with a meaning it otherwise lacks” – but this is also a degree of sitting on the fence.
But then, radical action is somehow incredibly difficult, as i’m bound up in making a living and caring for a family that does not share my beliefs, and i’m already bad enough succeeding at the day job, how would i even become a useful tool in my Maker’s hands?
What gets you out of bed in the morning? A sense of purpose, or at least duty, or just routine, daily grind? Live can be exciting, every day. Just imagine an all-powerful and loving being was guiding you, and you could awake every day with a readiness for the extraordinary to happen. It would become normal to discover new territory, new ideas, new people, and progress on a journey towards eternity. You can totally have that. In fact I believe this is the greatest wish of the creator for each life.
Faith should start with awe, with a realisation that this G•d is the only truly magnificent being worthy of praise. Scientists are beginning to realise that this space between the subatomic particles isn’t really just a void, it is a field of quantum possibilities; Stephen Hawking calls it “the mind of G•d”, Max Planck in called it a “matrix” in 1944:
Gentlemen, as physicist who dedicated his whole life to strict science, researching the essence of matter, I surely should not be thought of as an infatuated spirit. And thus I tell you now this, after my study of the atom: There is no matter as such. All matter comes into being only through a force, which brings the atomic particles into resonance and holds this tiniest solar system of the universe together. Because there is no intelligent or eternal force in the entire universe – mankind did not succeed in creating the much yearned-for perpetuum mobile – we must presume a conscious, intelligent spirit behind this force. This spirit is the source of all matter. Not the visible, but transient matter is real, true, manifest – for matter would not exist without the spirit –, but the invisible, immortal spirit is the real thing! Since spirit cannot exist as such, but every spirit belongs to a being, we are compelled to presume spirit beings. Now since even spirit beings cannot exist out of themselves but have to be created, I do not shy away from calling this mysterious creator the same as all cultures of the earth have called him in previous millennia: G•d! With this the physicist who has to deal with matter gets from the realm of substance into the matter of spirit. And with this, our task is finished and we have to pass on our studies into the hands of philosophy.
[own translation of Das Wesen der Materie [The Nature of Matter], speech at Florence, Italy (1944) from Archiv zur Geschichte der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, Abt. Va, Rep. 11 Planck, Nr. 1797]
In this light it makes perfect sense that G•d is totally in control, that He is dwelling in unapproachable light, yet is not far from any of us, in fact He is infinitely close, permeating everything. Isn’t that exciting, that we cannot just talk to him, but every breath we take is a gift from Him, He suffuses our every conscious moment with meaning. Based on that awareness we can seek purpose and life itself.
It is then no longer a chore to help others, but I’m driven to do so because the homeless drug addict in the street is my brother, fellow lovingly created being filled with G•d’s potential love and energy, maybe unaware, like me, and stricken with unhealthy habits and deceptions and sin, like me. Maybe we could help one another, or at least I could share G•d’s love, as much as I’ve tapped into it. It is eternal and infinite, and the more conductive I become and less selfish and egocentric, the more this love will channel through me.
“Flatland cover”. Licensed under Public domain
via Wikimedia Commons.
The thought experiment is a bit worn, but it’s useful to imaging a two-dimensional world with two-dimensional beings. If there was a three-dimensional being traversing their plane of existence, they would perceive this movement as a sequence of time - if it was say a pencil, they’d first see the tip, then the shaft with the engraved letters, then the ferrule and finally the rubber eraser. They would not realise that this object had a completely different dimension of existence and could appear and disappear from the two-dimensional plane at will.
We know now scientifically that this world has more than three spatial dimensions. We know that quantum states (particles) change in the past and into the future, i.e. past, present and future are only illusions, like the pencil through the two-dimensional plane is just a perception.
Maybe faith is the irrational conviction that despite being inaccessible to us, we can still stretch out into those spheres of the unknown. Whichever way to stretch, it will be, in some sense, upwards, toward greater refinement, greater purpose.