Monday, May 19, 2014

Yes, this atheist believes in miracles

"It's a beautiful afternoon" the friend noted in the email that popped up as I was getting into grading papers.

All the writing that I assign means that I am on a grading treadmill throughout the term.  It becomes an huge pile if I look away for even a couple of days.  Whenever I remark about this to students, they, of course, have a simple Occam's Razor-style solution.  As you can guess, the solution is that I can stop assigning them the work.  Oh well, if only I knew how to do that!

The email had a recommendation as well: that I go for my favorite five-mile walk by the river.

I weighed the alternatives--I could continue grading, or I could enjoy the sun and the river and the geese and ... I was off.

I am a huge fan of Richard Feynman's acute observation that the Big Bang and Darwin's insights and every inquiry into how things came to be do not make life dull and boring.  Not by any means.  Instead, "the purpose of knowledge is to appreciate wonders even more."  That wonder of it all was what my later afternoon experience turned out to be.

The late afternoon sun into downward journey across the horizon, with nothing but a blue sky and puffy white clouds.
The river sparkling diamonds as it reflects the sunlight.
The trees and the bushes and the grass gleaming in various shades of green.  
Mothers jogging with their tiny ones carefully tucked into the stroller's bed.
Young lovers lying next to each other, soaking up the rays while whispering sweet nothings.

Miracles.
Every one of them.
The miracles are there for me to enjoy.
For them to enjoy.
For all of us to enjoy.

What a miracle that we are here. That I am blogging this. And you are reading this.

And to think that all of these came from the cosmic dust!   It is simply amazing a life.

I returned home. A few minutes later, the doorbell rang.

It was my neighbor. Delivering a slice of rich chocolate cake.


One miraculous afternoon.  Thanks to the miracle email.

Miracles
Walt Whitman
Why, who makes much of a miracle?
As to me I know of nothing else but miracles, 
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan, 
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky, 
Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of
   the water, 
Or stand under trees in the woods, 
Or talk by day with any one I love, or sleep in the bed at night
   with any one I love, 
Or sit at table at dinner with the rest, 
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car, 
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive of a summer
   forenoon, 
Or animals feeding in the fields, 
Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air, 
Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining so
   quiet and bright, 
Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring; 
These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles, 
The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place.

To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with
   the same,
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same.

To me the sea is a continual miracle,
The fishes that swim—the rocks—the motion of the waves—
   the ships with men in them,
What stranger miracles are there?

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