Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Math and The City

The New York Times ran an article today, about certain mathematical laws which seem to govern everything from the rate at which a cell produces energy, to the distribution of populations in cities. On one level, I just found this article to be really, really cool. But, with my "Rabbi" glasses on, it seems a bit more than that.

First of all, it is, in the purest sense of the word, "Awesome." The intricacies, the interconnection, the subtlety of our world are truly astounding, and awe-inspiring. Anyone who knows my theology knows that I do not believe in a literal Creator God, and I have little time for Intelligent Design*. But, there are times when the world does reveal itself as so remarkable, so fundamentally, radically amazing, that it does give me the sense of something greater than myself. A sense of being in Awe of the One greater than anything else.

*which is different from intelligent design (not capitalized), but that's for another time

And, at the same time, this governing mathematical reality reveals the converse - not just the greatness of God, but the smallness of me, and of you. We all like to think that we're in control of our own destinies, and we certainly know that's true on some level. I was the one who decided to get Dunkin' Donuts for breakfast this morning**. But, we also have to be aware that we aren't really in control. And, I'm not just talking about the "I only went to DD for breakfast because Ben took so long getting ready that I had no time to eat at home" sense. I'm also talking about the fact that we often make decisions for reasons that we don't even know about.

** can anyone tell me why coffee and a corn muffin is such a good combination, especially on a rainy day?

I'd like to think that I moved to Tampa for my own reasons - to be part of a small, dynamic congregation, to be close to family, to get away from freezing cold. But, according to that article, on some level, I moved here as part of some larger plan. This city is going to be a certain size, and I'm a part of that flow of population. Like an ant in the anthill, I may think I'm doing my own thing, but I'm really just a cell in a larger organism.

I know I've said this before, and I'll say it many, many times in the future, but religion is about, in large part, understanding that we are each of infinite worth, but at the same time, we're really insignificant. We are partners with God here on earth, each created in God's image, but we're also insects, serving a larger vision of which we aren't usually even aware.

It's a good morning when some decent coffee, a muffin and the New York times come together to remind me of all of that.

1 comment:

Mike Morgulis said...

So.... is God the watchmaker? The puppeteer? I hear ya about the Dunkin Donuts and decisions like "why did I just do THIS" as opposed to something else. The movie Sliding Doors is a great one for exploring miniscule events and their impact upon our lives, but is a bit fatalistic for my liking...

Why do geese fly in large formations? That's my "there MUST be something larger at play here than mere evolution" thought for the day.

Rabbi Lionel Blue always carries change in his pocket just in case he meets a needy person because his mother told him that he'd never know what form one of God's messengers was using. This is also right up there with Honey From the Rock and Rabbi Lawrence Kushner's story about his tefillin. We're all on a journey, either about to meet one of God's messengers or about to deliver a message ourself. We're just not privvy to the writer of said message ourself and are unaware of our role in the greater scheme of things. It's conceit when we say afterwards "Now I know why X and Y happened... so that it would enable Z to arrive." (of course my conceited prooftext here is that I met Thuy only after my first marriage ended!!)

Moving to Florida was a good thing for you methinks. Sometimes downsizing into a smaller community means that you have a more intimate role and can spend more quality time with fewer people and impact them better, especially your family. It's rarely one thing that initiates a move like yours but rather the culmination of external and internal influences and somehow a logical decision is made and acted upon.

The mere fact that one can make that decision as a sentient being is something noteworthy on its own accord. After saying that, the drive to Dunkin Donuts is pure gravy!!!! :-)