Wednesday, June 27, 2007

What You See Is What You Get

Okay, so let's assume that we agree that the fundamental Big Question is whether or not there is a Go(o)d. What if the answer is both "yes" and "no" and the determination is made when we choose our answer? What if this question is like the poll that's been on this site for so long--is the glass half full or half empty? The answer to that one, of course, is that it is both, or either, and that you and I get to choose which it is.

This may seem to be some kind of wishy-washy cop out. How can there both be and not be a Go(o)d? Certainly the theists or the atheists must be right, one or the other. Certainly there is an answer, how else can we possibly act with any kind of assurance that the answer we've "chosen" is the right one?

I know that it's dangerous to take scientific theories and apply them to philosophies or social constructs, but religious language is essentially poetic; it doesn't deal with facts and figures but with the sense of things. So it seems perfectly appropriate to apply the language of science--as poetry--to the Big Questions we face in our living.

And one of the things we've learned from modern science is that we live in a pretty weird world. The scientist and science fiction writer Arthur C. Clark once wrote, "The universe is not only more strange than you imagine. It is more strange than you can imagine." And it does seem that we live in a fundamentally both/and universe.

Consider light. Physics tells us that there are essentially two distinct states--waves and particles. Yet quantum physics tells us that light appears to be both or, perhaps more confusingly, it can be either depending on what you're looking for. If you conduct an experiment to examine light as a wave, then it shows up as a wave; if your experiment is designed to look at light as a particle, it is there as a particle. And taking this a step further, physicists tell us that it is more accurate to say that light is either, or neither, wave or particle until you look at it as one or the other at which point it becomes precisely what you're looking for.

Hard as this is to wrap our heads around, it seems that it's not only light that can exist in two seemingly discreet and contradictory states simultaneously. Even more weird than the state of protons there is the famous thought experiment that has come to be called Schrodinger's Cat in which a cat is placed in a sealed box along with a mechanism that creates a 50/50 chance of killing the cat. According to an application of quantum law the cat can be meaningfully said to be both alive and dead until an observer opens the box. (Here's an explanation of all this . . . in verse no less!)

Alive and dead; wave and particle; half full and half empty. To paraphrase the Preacher of the Jewish book of Ecclesiastes, "Paradox, paradox! All is paradox."

What if God is the same way? (And here I'll just start using the three-letter version because I hope it's evident by now that I'm not talking that God when I use the term--whatever "that God" is for you.) What if God can be meaningfully said to be both existent and non-existent, both real and a delusion with the determinant being what it is that you're looking for? Like the scientist looking at light it's a particle if that's what the experiment is looking at and it's a wave when that's what's being studied. So God is for those who seek God, and equally is not for those who don't.

Perhaps this is what Jesus meant in the phrase he is remembered as saying so often, "for those who have eyes, let them see . . ." or where comes the certainty in the encouragement, "seek and you will find."

In Gassho,

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