The world was made by God, and the signs are everywhere: under bridges, under rocks, within equations, in the tendons of the hands of those we hold dear, in the clouds and exploding stars above our daily lives. William Blake wrote in Auguries of Innocence about “a world in a grain of sand and a heaven in a wild flower.” We live in God’s world and like playing children we “hold infinity in the palms of our hands” and “eternity in an hour.”
Recently, I read in The New Yorker about the chemical reaction in a plant’s genetic material to a sound recording of a feeding caterpillar. There is ongoing scientific debate over the nature of plant intelligence. Some experiments have shown that plants can learn – and they don’t need brains. Plant roots will grow towards a buried pipe with water in it over one without. And sagebrush leaves produce over a hundred different compounds at any given moment in response to any stimulus – a cut, an insect bite, another plant.
A University of Florence scientist compares the plant situation to a Star Trek episode in which an alien race living in a dramatically sped-up time dimension arrives on Earth and, unable to perceive any movement in humans, “come to the logical conclusion that we are ‘inert material’ with which they may do as they please.”
The more I learn, the more I’m stunned. I learned about quantum entanglement in high school; two “entangled” subatomic particles retain a mysterious connection even when separated by galaxies. If an action is performed on one particle, its entangled counterpart will instantaneously respond, even if it is millions of light years away. Einstein’s theory of relativity seems irrelevant.
This vast, spinning kaleidoscope of a world was clear to Emily Dickinson:
Tell all the Truth but tell it slant—
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind—
We are all children, staring with big eyes at God’s dazzling world. Who can explain it? Plants, quantum entanglement – as lightning to children. What else? One of Isaac Newton’s most famous quotes is that he has only been like a small boy, with an occasional fascination in a seashell or rock, while all around the great ocean of truth lay unknowable.
This is the big picture that only God can see and that we sometimes catch a tantalizing glimpse of. Sometimes, when faced with a difficult assignment or a dining hall nuisance or a Boston driver, I lose focus on the big picture.
I hope we can find more encouragement in the physical world God made. I hope we can see God in the trees and in the refraction of light. I hope we can see God in the toothiness of the smile of a loved one and in the invisible tears that wet the eyes of all on Earth. I hope we can see God everywhere. After all, we are standing under a vast waterfall of God’s blessings and love that sustains us, that provides every second’s breath; every second we are pounded, drenched to the bone.
I pray we would be encouraged in all respects to do the work God has for us. Amen!