Monday, January 13, 2014
The Hand of God
Gerard Vander Leun has written a wonderful essay about this, and the universe that God made along with you and me. And about the difference between "facts" and "truth."
Here's how he ends: (Excerpt:)
Do I, an exemplar of the most advanced culture in history, actually believe that this is the image, the manifestation, the fading photograph of the hand of God, the Supreme Being? Of course not. Not for a moment do I think that what I see in this image is that. I believe... no... I know for a fact that what I am seeing is merely gas and stars in a seemingly random arrangement shining in a narrow, very narrow, part of the spectrum so that, to my deeper mind and imagination, I pull together some vague shapes in the play of color on the void and relate it to what I have seen elsewhere, felt elsewhen -- and out of that produce a feeling, thought, in my mind that makes my eyes see what appears to be an impossible hand reaching across space long ago in exactly nowhere. It's a cosmic Rorschach image, a glowing gasblot somewhere in limitless space. That it is a 'hand' is impossible. It is even more impossible that it is even an image of a hand.But that is not the most impossible thing about this image.What is even more impossible than this utter impossibility is the fact that you see it too.I know, from all the facts that I have learned, that if the Earth itself were positioned in relative space a few degrees this way or that, moving at a slightly different relative speed towards a slightly different point in the sky, with its local group of stars slightly tilted a bit this way or a bit that way, that the purely imaginary impression of this being a hand would disappear utterly. It might look like a dagger. It might look like a flower. It might look like nothing other than the random assortment of gas clouds that it most assuredly is. What it would not look like, given just a few minor (on the cosmic scale) variations is 'The Hand of God.'And that's a stone cold fact. Note it. File it. Toss it to the top of the always rising mountain range of facts that we love to build as bulwarks against the dark.But is it the truth?Well, it is a true fact. But here's another.After all the facts are filed, here I am and there you are. We're spinning about an immense ball of thermonuclear fire on the third stone out from the Sun. We're the end product, as of today, of a great chain of being stretching backwards in time for billions of years to a primordial spark that we do not know or understand. That spark created life here and began the long process to us. It began life that is -- as far as we know today for a fact -- the only life anywhere in the billions of light years we can see. (Yes, I know it is unlikely we are alone, but until we know differently for a fact, that's the fact.) We do not know the why of it all even though the persistence of the miracle whispers there must be a why. At the same time, it is highly likely that beings as limited as we obviously are will never know the why. The why is pretty much outside of science, barely within metaphysics, and above our evolution grade.What we do know is that, because of how we are made and what we have become, through suffering, striving, effort and, yes, grace, that there are some six billion of us that can look at this strange image of gas and stars and somehow understand it as a hand. And that, at will, we can move our hands to write words such as these to reach across space and time and make others like us understand that although it looks like a hand it cannot possibly be one; that such a thing is utterly impossible.If you don't think that's a miracle that surpasses all understanding, you simply don't have all the facts.