Do you hear what I hear?

Paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould wrote:
“We are here because one odd group of fishes had a peculiar fin anatomy that could transform into legs for terrestrial creatures; because the earth never froze entirely during an ice age; because a small and tenuous species, arising in Africa a quarter of a million years ago, has managed, so far, to survive by hook and by crook. We may yearn for a 'higher answer'--but none exists." - Stephen J. Gould, interview, Life (December 1988)

I happened to come across this reference tonight after my fourth presentation for our Faith Festivals. In my remarks on the elements of moral decision making, I spoke of our being made in the image of God (for Gould, the "higher answer"). I remarked that there are realities of human existence that image God, chiefly our intelligence, our capacity to reason and our imagination.

Personally, I believe our imagination is the greatest way in which our human lives image the divine. I could sit in a darkened, sound proofed room, blindfolded and with ears plugged, and in that setting imagine a universe which has never existed and which will never come to pass. That my human mind and spirit can imagine what is not, what has never been and what may never be is, in my estimation, the greatest way in which you and I most fully image the creator.

Wasn't it the human imagination which dreamed that it might replicate the sounds of nature's music? Didn't that same imagination learn to stretch the small intestines of sheep across a wooden box for "strings" and to ply it with a bow made of wood strung with horse hair? Was it not the human imagination that toyed with this arrangement until pleasant sounds came forth?

Didn't that same human imagination hear and compose a melody within it's own spirit and come to write that tune in curious markings on a piece of paper?

With such an instrument in the hands of Itzhak Perlman reading and playing John Williams' theme music for Schindler's List, can the human imagination fail to enter into this musical account of the pain and the mercy of the story of humankind at its worst? Can that same imagination fail to be plunged into sorrow and lifted up out of it at the same time?

fins, legs, and ice may well be part of this story. But "by hook and by crook?" No. Even our capacity to recognize, know and experience beauty is evidence that no random process is at work here. If there is no "higher answer" for all this then, indeed, I may be sitting blindfolded and ear plugged in a darkened sound proof room, imagining a universe that has never been - created.

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