I woke up this morning feeling that I did not do last night’s post justice. By posting a revision, I’m revealing to you a bit of the ongoing nature of the writing process. Thankfully, a blog can be forgiving that way, whereas a newspaper column or book, once printed, endures with any imperfections. It is my hope this revision will clarify any muddled points from my earlier attempt. (If you didn’t read yesterday’s second post, you’ve not lost a thing.) Go HERE to catch the beginning of the conversion.
As before, I’m drawing on my latest read, Our Lady of the Lost and Found: A Novel of Mary, Faith and Friendship, by Canadian author Diane Schoemperlen, and will begin this time with a quote that starts the chapter called Doubt (p.242):
“When I was younger, Lucian said: and so much more confident, I was entranced by praying. I soared upwards on wings. But now I’m older, I find God through doubt as much as through belief. We search for him in the darkness. I’m full of doubts. That’s what faith means.” — Michele Roberts, Impossible Saints
An important point, I think: doubt can enhance faith. What an apparently mixed-up way of looking at it. But it’s true. Some of the biggest doubters in the history of the world (think St. Augustine, and before him, St. Paul) have ended up the most fervently faith-filled. I guess what I’m trying to say here is that just because you may doubt does not mean you are not faithful, or that you don’t have the capacity to be so. Doubts, once wrestled with, can enrich, enhance and enliven an ongoing faith process. Doubt and faith need not exclude each another; they can, indeed, complement one another.
So back to this book. The premise of the novel surrounds a visit by Mother Mary to the narrator’s home. She’s come there looking for a reprieve from her hectic life of apparitions and answering prayers. In between describing their conversations and how they spend their time together during that visit, the narrator offers a sort of history lesson of Marian apparitions, delving into some profound revelations on life and faith.
Yesterday, I came to a chapter, History, that blew me away. It, too, starts with a quote:
“Just as the divine might manifest to us in a variety of ways, so on a subatomic level, an electron can be in many places at once, as a particle and as a wave. It seems strange, but on the subatomic level, only potentialities exist for the electron’s location – that is, until one actually observes what is there. In the act of observation, the potentialities collapse into an actuality and the electron appears in one place only.” – G. Scott Sparrow, Blessed Among Women
Basically, the author is revealing the principle of indeterminism, otherwise known as “the uncertainty principle.” In layman’s terms, it might be thought of this way, according to the narrator: “…it is like trying to figure out if the refrigerator light stays on when the door is closed. If you open the door to look, the experiment is ruined.”
In other words, in obtaining an accurate measurement of a particle’s position, the scientist necessarily alters its momentum, and vice versa. “History, like science, is limited by its own methodologies,” the narrator concludes.
Yesterday, I talked about cucumber sprouts, and how, in essence, faith cannot be contained within a petri dish. While science certainly plays a part in our understanding of the world around us, it cannot, and wasn’t designed to, explain everything, most especially the complexities of faith, which involve not just strict observation (the mind), but movements of the heart and soul as well.
Later in the chapter, the narrator describes watching the television game show, Jeopardy! The question posed by the host, Alex Trebeck, is this: According to the uncertainty principle the position and this of a subatomic particle cannot be accurately measured at the same time. She knows the answer, and shouts it out loud: “Momentum!” The TV contestants don’t answer it correctly, but the winner gets the Final Jeopardy question right: 1 of 2 women to appear most often on the cover of Time magazine, they are separated by 2000 years. The correct answer turns out to be the Virgin Mary, and the other most-frequently appearing woman in Time magazine: Princess Diana.
From this, the narrator concludes the following (p. 241):
“For the whole rest of the evening, I felt inordinately pleased with myself for knowing the answers to both these questions. Obviously, whether we ever get to be on Jeopardy! or not, we can all live quite happily without knowing how many times Mary has appeared on the cover of Time and without knowing the exact measurements of the momentum and position of subatomic particles.
“Still it is worth trying to understand how the uncertainty principle applies to all areas of thought, life, longing, and faith. It all depends, I suppose, on how comfortable you are with uncertainty, how fond you are of mystery, how willing you are to make the quantum leap that faith requires.”
We’re back, now, to the cucumber sprouts, as well as the “inexactness” of faith (as well as science itself).
For those who do not believe, no explanation is possible. For those who believe, no explanation is necessary.
Well, some explanation, perhaps, but there will never, ever, ever be enough evidence to satisfy our minds, because when it comes to matters of faith, the mind is helpful but still inadequate. Faith cannot be channeled into a tidy equation. It is only when both mind and heart act in accordance that faith can exist at all, not to mention, flourish.
So when in doubt, go ahead and doubt, and then pray for God’s hand in taking that leap of faith that is completely out of the realm of science and exactness, but totally essential and eternally satisfying.