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How a Hammock Ended a Crisis of Faith.

“Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”– 1 Kings 19:11-13

I might have known that the biggest crisis of faith I ever encountered would end in a moment so peaceful. It was the 4th of July. (Ironic, given that the first breakthrough in this battle was realizing that I had begun to intertwine American politics and faith. It was when I began to rightly reject one long-held belief that others, sewn to it with accidental thread, also abdicated their seat.)

My wife and child were laying beside me, soaking in an archetypal summer day. We were at friends’ house, and had forgotten the pack-n-play, and thus, the collective parental unit was attempting to get the youngest Weaver to fall asleep after a long day of swimming. We needed a rocking motion, and with no forethought, I picked up my right leg, bent it at a 90° angle, and began to move it, right to left. The required rhythm wasn’t hard to pick up, even though I had no metronome. I just felt it out. Soon, the three of us were swinging back and forth, no one pushing us, on just the momentum provided by the simple movement of one leg.

I have occasionally had thoughts or explanations come to me in what I can only describe as a .zip file of thoughts. I have to sit down and “unzip” the package that came as a unit, and I begin to put words and actual thoughts to each individual piece. This was one such occasion. In one singular moment, This entire package of thought occured:

– While I do appreciate mathematics, I do not even know for certain the simple number of the combined weight of myself, my wife, and my child. I could estimate within probably 10-15 lbs, but (especially given the general tight-lipped nature of women on the subject) I had nothing precise. This number does exist, but I do not know it.

– While I do appreciate awareness of ones surroundings, I do not know the exact dimensions or material makeup of the hammock on which we are swinging. These facts do exist, but I do not know them.

– While I do appreciate physics, I do not know the equation for weight displacement that caused the one-leg-bent approach to work. These equations exist, but I have never researched them, much less committed them to memory.

– While I have built a large portion of my life on rhythm and melody, I do not know the exact speed at which I am moving my leg. I could estimate it to be about 50 beats per minute, but I am not certain. Again, it could be measured; again, I do not have an exact grasp of the facts.

But still, despite my overarching ignorance of all subjects at hand, I knew I could make the hammock rock. The fact that I could predict the outcome, even with none of the data, did not make me a fool or an easily-duped simpleton. It just meant that I had lived on this planet for awhile and had learned to function within its elegant tapestry of rules, even if I didn’t know each and every equation that provided their blueprint.

——-

It was a breakthrough to me to realize that admitting that I will not personally know every answer is not the same as claiming that those answers do not exist.

I reject the idea of an 8-bit God, playing monophonic Super Mario harp music in a two-tone Heaven, devoid of any nuance or subtlety. I believe any God must be immensely intricate and complex; how else would a system exist that for most of its prolonged history had no discernable technology within it more complicated than a catapult, but still allowed, in very quick order, for the invention of cars, rockets to space, and microchips so small that they can be embedded inside paper? (Yet we are still discovering things about the human brain, which has been around since our beginning.)

The beauty may be in the infinite complication, but the elegance is in the simplicity. I can still function inside this world without omniscience. What’s more, single cell organisms can function inside this system with no conscious thought whatsoever.

What I cannot do, at least by any sane series of thought, is claim that I choose to only operate in the things that I know for certain. (I would never be able to open the book that explained to me the physical nature of its pages to bend without folding themselves in half.) This is not an excuse for ignorance, but a simple acknowledgment of my limitations. I don’t think I’ll ever stop searching for answers to questions that puzzle me. But I can now say with conviction that “Is there a God?” is no longer one of them. I have far too often swung my leg and felt the movement of the hammock to believe otherwise. Sadly, I have far too often refused to swing my leg, and I have seen those outcomes as well. I have watched as some swing wildly and fall from the hammock, and heard the shrieks of those who scream angrily at others for moving an arm instead. I have seen some abandon the hammock altogether. I have had times when I just wanted to empty the beer cooler in hopes of escaping all thoughts of the hammock altogether. Now? I am finally able to relax a little. Enjoy the summer day. Spend my manic thoughts on something else…

Is God really all-powerful?

Is God really all-good? (and, If yes, and if yes, how do we deal with that paradox?)

I don’t know.

But I feel now that I can explore those questions with a stronger foundation, an elegant blueprint under which I can function and continue to learn. And for now, that is enough.

7 Comments

  1. Tim Tim

    Good thoughts man. Glad you were able to get a little clarity. Thanks for sharing.

  2. PontiusPython PontiusPython

    That's pretty intense stuff, Levi. It's why I shall never claim to be any more definitive in religion than "Agnostic". It's my way of saying that I have no idea and I have no intention of telling anyone that their idea is wrong.

    Kudos to you on your breakthrough (and the glorious success regarding the hammock itself – some of us would have tipped the thing over & cracked our kids' heads open in the attempt).

    Stay strong in your search, friend.

  3. Absolutely brilliant post. Thanks to Sarah Sandys to recommending it to me. I love your thoughts on living in and leaning into the mystery of God. I think that part of being an intellectual Christian is the ability to let go of one's academic pursuits of understanding God. Beautifully, thoughtful writ.

  4. xyzpdq xyzpdq

    I don't see the existence of an omnipotent, omnibenevolent god as contradicting the existence of evil.

    As a parent you sometimes have to sit back and let your children make their own mistakes, even if you know they're going to get hurt, you love them, and you have the ability to prevent them (e.g. letting your kid ride a bike even though you know they're going to wreck a few times). Learning from mistakes and getting hurt is part of growing up, it's part of life. If you fall off your bike and break your arm it's going to hurt like hell at the time, but on the large scale of your entire life, it's not that big of a deal.

    Similarly, all the horrendously bad shit that happens in this life is a pretty small dot in the grand scheme of things. Eternity is, after all, a very long time.

    I'm saying all of this hypothetically though. I myself am a "radical atheist" as Douglas Adams would say. If I did believe in god I wouldn't have a problem with believing what I said above, but since I don't I worry a little that people who do believe can trivialize human suffering.

  5. darby darby

    good metaphor, and well-written as always.
    i am pleased that you found an answer that gives you peace-
    this is sometimes the best one can hope for

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