Monday, October 31, 2005
It's popular to think that beliefs don't matter. You can, like the queen in "Alice in Wonderland," believe ten impossible things before breakfast. It's just belief, right?
I just finished reading "Life of Pi," by Yann Martel. This was recommended by a friend, and is very interesting. Well written, too. Pi Patel is on a ship with his family and their zoo animals when the ship sinks. Only Pi is left, with some animals, on a lifeboat. As a child, Pi had become interested in God so he did the logical thing: comparison shopping. He went to the mosque regularly, had a prayer rug and did the obeisances. He went to a temple, too, and a Christian church. He even got baptized. The book is full of good scenes, but one of the best is the meeting between Pi and his family, and the three leaders of the local religions. Each of them tries to force a choice, but Pi's unflappable logic brings them to silence.
It's a nice thought, and a really wonderful alternative to today's rigid divisions. I believe God is flexible and gives us the benefit of the doubt, but at some point you come to the core belief. We're corrupt, living beyond our means and incapable of change, and only belief in Jesus can change that.
Belief seems such a flimsy foundation for life. A thought can change, as my brother pointed out years ago, by simple application of chemicals or a blow to the head. But thoughts can also change the world. If Edison had given up on test #199, we wouldn't have electric lights. Well, we would, but someone else would have done it. Somebody says "Lord, I believe, help my unbelief," and God enters that name into a special book, and opens the door for him. What happens? A neuron takes a slightly different shape? The pre-belief person looks just like the post-belief one, but everything has changed from God's point of view. There's now an invisible white robe to clothe and protect the naked sinner.
Pi Patel, at the end of the book, tells his story to some men from the shipping company. They want to know what happened to the ship. Pi can't tell them that, but he does tell them about living with a tiger in a lifeboat. They don't believe him, so he recasts the story such that the animals become people. At the end, the men agree that the version of the story with animals is better than the other. And Pi says "And so it goes with God." I'm left wondering what that means, but it implies a lot of things having to do with the world being much more complex than we believe.
Our God is bigger than our beliefs, fortunately. He can't be contained in a human mind.