Wednesday, May 12, 2010
One Way to Understand God
Your dog wags his tail and looks pleadingly to you. You pet him.
You feed him his kibble when you come home from work, after he's joyfully received you; after all, he's been doing doggy-things all day, digging in the yard, sleeping, watching the birds search for their worms. He barked at the mailman and the little dog that walked by with its owner. Now you're home and he can't wait to snuggle in next to you, to hear you say nice things and scratch behind his ears.
Sometimes you even take him to the park, and let him off his leash, in the area where he can frolic with his doggie friends, chasing them, sometimes running into the pond. You throw the yukky yellow tennis ball and he eagerly fetches it, happy you're willing to throw it again and again for him in different directions.
Sometimes you have guests over. Some of the guests like him and also scratch behind his ears. Others prefer not to be around dogs, and yours gets put outside or in the bedroom then. He lies in his bed, but hears your voice and wishes he were inside, too.
Some days, after you get back from the park, you sit in a chair and pick up something small and square and stare at it. Occasionally you move pieces of it; sometimes you laugh out loud while you're looking at it. Other times you look very sad. Most of the time, you just stare at it.
Other days, a little metal box makes a noise, sometimes like a few notes of music, and you grab it and hold it to your ear. You talk, not the same tone that you talk to your dog, and seldom the same words. Sometimes you get animated when you're talking into the little box. Sometimes your voice gets very quiet.
Nearly every night, you sit in front of a bright screen and move your fingers on a flat piece of metal that taps. Sometimes the screen makes music and has changing pictures on it; most of the time it has black and white marks, and boxes of color, sometimes moving boxes of color. You hold your hand on a bump and move the bump around in a small area on your desk, and it clicks.
Some nights, you sit in front of a large flat screen with moving pictures. Voices of people come out of it, and the colors change and switch and sometimes seem familiar. Sometimes you laugh so hard you nearly cry; most of the time you just sit there, looking at it. Once in a while you walk to the refrigerator and get food and then bring it to eat while you stare some more at the screen.
Once in a while you take your happy and eager dog to the vet. When you drive close to it, he starts to shake. He knows this is a place of pain, but he doesn't know why you want him to feel it.
This is your dog's life. What does he understand? When you leave in the morning, does your dog know where you go? Does he understand when you're sitting at your computer that you're reading about events on the other side of the world? Does he know there is another side to the world?
When you sit in your chair reading a book, does he understand that your mind envisions Elizabethan England, or theories of mathematics, or the punchlines of Garfield cartoons? Can he understand abstract ideas like justice, the court system, prejudice, war?
Can your dog comprehend that when he goes to the vet, the sharp puncture he receives will keep him from getting deathly ill? Can he understand when you talk on the phone that you're expressing emotions to people far away? Or the sale of a property? Or ordering a pizza you'll pick up in 20 minutes?
There's a lot a dog can't ever comprehend. But your dog has a pretty good life, on his simple, two-dimensional dog-level.
Can we ever understand God? If not, does that mean he can't exist?