We are all walking on water. We just don’t know it.
This thought occurred to me while I was watching a lady bug scurry up and down and around a long blade of grass.
A tiny dark spider a few inches away was poking around near a gossamer seed pod that looked like a fairy wing. An ant crawled busily down one side and up the other of a clearly imprinted deer track. And there was the lake water lapping against the shoreline with musical little glips and gloops and glollops. All the activity underfoot, to which I am normally oblivious, prompted me to climb up to sit on top of the green picnic table, so my feet resting on the seat would no longer interfere with the bustling life beneath me. I had an omniscient view of the proceedings from there.
It was while I was watching the panoply below that a train of thought began:
It seems that life is essentially an interpretive endeavor. Every day, at every moment of every day, beings and their connected actions spread before us in a near infinity of flashes of existence, like thousands of simultaneous flash bulbs going off at the Super Bowl. And as these being/events unfold before us, like a living tapestry, we interpret what we can for our own amusement, our own admonishment or our own uses and purposes. We aren’t conscious of these interpretive nano-seconds that precede and accompany thought and action, but they are there nonetheless. Our interpretations lead us to believe that we understand the world and how it works.
I don’t want to get into the problems this presents to the whole nature of reality and our personal intersections with it, though that would be an interesting and intriguing tack to take. Perhaps another time.
What amazed me about this interpretive work we do is that we all start with essentially the same quality of information. Of course none of us shares the exact same data, even those who live closely together. We are a bit like the ladybug and the ant.
Some of us have radically different data sets–the rich man’s information differs from that of the man in squalor; the corporate CEO’s differs from the custodian’s; the Western woman’s differs from that of the Asian. The spider pokes around the seed pod. The ant explores the deer track.
But the quality of the information is the same. These earthly synaptic connections fire away in all our lives in the same way, no matter what our circumstances or where we live. The difference comes in the interpretation.
When it comes to ultimate questions, then, questions regarding God and Truth and the Creation and the Afterlife, for example, we all have about as much to go on as the next person. The pool of data on which to reflect does not nearly serve for this monumental task. We have only what is right in front of us, and that is not so easy to discern. Does the ant know that it is crawling in a deer track? Does the spider reflect on the symbolic potential of the empty seed pod? Does the lady bug have any idea where she is going?
The analogy is forced along Chestertonian lines, I know. But you see where I’m headed.
What this means–and here is the thing that took me by surprise–is that faith and doubt share the same inadequate data pool. Neither the believer nor the infidel has recourse to any more information than the other–even if you count “Divine Revelation,” because even that is not special information unavailable to the rest of us and is open to as much interpretation as the cloud formations in the sky.We all start from scratch, with the hard existence that is a given. And my blade of grass is in no wise superior to your seed pod for answering those great big ultimate questions.
So–faith doesn’t “know” and doubt doesn’t “know.” Both interpret. And they interpret with incomplete information. As a believer, my data is not any better than that of Asimov, Sagan or Dawkins. But neither is theirs any better than mine. They are playing at the same game I am. The only claim they can accurately make is that their antlike interpretation of the origin and nature of the deer track is somehow more accurate than mine. Good luck.
If I may engage in some free-wheeling interpretation of my own, it seems that one hard-to-deny fact, a fact even more crucial to these questions than the datum of my own existence, is that all things operate in relation. They are connected, linked in ways they cannot possibly be completely aware of.
The irony is that these connections are even possible between beings made up of 90% empty space. Yes. You have as much empty space in you as the rest of the universe. Our atoms are as far apart relative to one another as are the stars from each another. Solids, liquids and gases are all illusory from that standpoint–they merely express infinitesimal components that are in a different relation to one another.
If we are relational beings, of both origin and necessity, then it seems to be the height of absurdity, if logic means anything at all, that say that some sort of Relation is not the origin of relational existence. The grand interpretive error made by deniers is that they assume they can clip that off somewhere, denying it even in themselves, perhaps.
Relation assumes a being with which to connect. And if we, the permutations of that original relational equation, are intensely conscious, personal beings, what on earth gives us the divine right to assume that the Origin of this chain is somehow less than we are?
I do not offer this as a proof of God’s existence. I offer it merely as a reading of the text of the ground in front of me. In this reading, the fact that we relate is a miracle, a daily miracle of life on the order of traveling to another galaxy.
Or walking on water.