Saturday, February 1, 2014

"Someone very much wanted us here"

I am getting ready for Lent, not because I am so eager for it to begin, though I do look forward to the season as a time of renewal each year, but because this morning I had time to do some preliminary planning. I don't mind divulging that I am using Hilary Brand's book The Power of Small Choices: A Creative Approach to Your Lenten Journey as my spiritual aid this year. A big reason for this is because I love movies and she takes two films, The Shawshank Redemption and Babette's Feast, as her starting points.

The more honest reason is that I tripped over a box of books as I walked into my den not long ago, books I was going to give away, books that were given to me in passing by someone who was moving a few years ago, and re-discovered her book. I'm not sure what caused me to pick up The Power of Small Choices and look inside. Call me superstitious, but I tend to take such things as signs.

Reading the introductory parts of Brand's book, I came across this, which she, in turn, found in Keith Ward's book God, Chance and Necessity: "Mathematician Roger Penrose has calculated the probability of a universe ending up exactly like ours as one in ten to the power of 123." Brand goes on to show the significance of this: "I'm told that even if every proton in the entire universe was used to write a single digit on (and protons are so small that the dot on this 'i' could hold around 500,000,000,000 of them), it couldn't express the number of variant universes possible. Out of all those variations, the universe as it actually turned out is the only possible variant able to sustain to life as we know it" (13).

Based on this, Brand is correct to assert that, whether you believe in God or not, "the fact that we are here at all is pretty amazing." Despite these calculations, which nobody really disputes, some still insist that it all likely occurred "by blind chance." As for me, I agree with Brand and others that "a far more reasonable explanation" is "that Someone very much wanted us here." It further occurs to me that if Someone very much wants us here there is a reason for our being here. If this is so, then the relevant question is not, "Does life have purpose and meaning," but, "What is the purpose meaning of my life in the context of the overarching meaning of human life on earth?"

I don't do this every year, but only every so often, but I am following a program of reading through the whole Bible in year. One could compare the pros and cons of this exercise, but I think one of the best reasons for so doing is to become aware of the story that seeks to answer the relevant question as posed above.

Of course, stories, at least well-told ones, unfold. As Aristotle long ago outlined the dramatic structure [of Tragedy, no less) in Part VII of his Poetics: "A whole is that which has a beginning, a middle, and an end. A beginning is that which does not itself follow anything by causal necessity, but after which something naturally is or comes to be. An end, on the contrary, is that which itself naturally follows some other thing, either by necessity, or as a rule, but has nothing following it. A middle is that which follows something as some other thing follows it. A well constructed plot, therefore, must neither begin nor end at haphazard, but conform to these principles."

All of this can't help but put me in mind of the second part of Balthasar's magnificent trilogy, his five-volume Theo-drama:
God's revelation is not an object to be looked at: it is his action in and upon the world, and the world can only respond and hence "understand", through action on its part

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