“One Man’s Ceiling Is Another Man’s Floor.” – Paul Simon
Did Jesus really walk on water? While you may think it’s a simple yes or no statement, let’s suggest three different alternatives to answer this somewhat strange question:
God Almighty – what a question! With the help of the divine intervention, the miracle of Jesus walking on water took place some two thousand years ago.
C’mon let’s be sensible here… There is probably some good scientific explanation for all this. Perhaps he was wearing special shoes, or maybe there was something under the water. Did you ever see some of Houdini’s tricks?
Let’s compare this to many other developed false rumors: It was probably good propaganda at the time. Most likely, certain people were standing too far away from the scene and, you know, exaggerated a bit.
So – which option do you think it is? Which one would you put your money on? Hey, I saw you smiling back there. If you’re more Jewish oriented, you may translate ‘Jesus’ into ‘Moses’ and “walking on water” into “extracting water from the rock”. If you’re into Islam… well… some other time perhaps. After you grant Salman Rushdie a formal and total pardon.
Actually, in the Jewish case, option 3 has an interesting variant – let’s name it ‘3a’ – which states that the very existence of Moses himself is a myth. You see, the more ancient a Biblical story is, the less historically factual it is. Don’t get me wrong here: Of-course it is possible that a person with a similar name and of some historic importance did once live, however, ancient stories evolve over time, tending to become less accurate and to produce more local variants and versions. Think of Noah’s ark and the Babylonian story of Gilgamesh. Think of the American Indian Hiawatha sent by the great spirit to guide the people. Think of Adam and Eve, and the poor snake.
But let’s get back to miracles.
Robert Green Ingersoll was born in Dresden, New York in 1833, and later became known as one of the greatest anti-religious minds of his time. He protested for freedom of ideas and against the very notion of heresy. When asked to help in the reconstruction of the blown-away Baptist Church in De Leon, Texas, Ingersoll wrote: “If the ‘Lord God of Israel’ wants a Baptist Church at De Leon, let him change the wind, and blow the old one back.”
Following the Columbia space shuttle disaster in February 2003, there were numerous messages spread over the Internet, discussing mystical aspects of the tragedy. One of them contained a picture of an American flag taken somewhere in Arizona, in which the Sun’s rays formed some cross-like image. “For those that prefer to think that God is not watching over us… go ahead and delete this,” said the attached comforting description. Actually, if the ‘Lord God of Israel’ was really watching over us, he could direct his efforts into stopping the space shuttle from breaking apart, rather than playing with flags and photos. In a way, this reminds us of Anne Graham’s observation (Billy Graham’s daughter), following the attacks on September 11: “I believe God is deeply saddened by this…”
The beginning of our new millennium was not happy for a number of us. In some parts of the world, wars and other acts of terror caused many to lose loved ones. Countless others were injured or hurt in a myriad of ways. Nevertheless, people must be optimistic in nature. The phrase ‘miracle’ has been mentioned many times in the context of such tragedies. A bomb exploded and only three people got killed? It’s a miracle that the explosion occurred just before a large group of people intended to arrive at the same place! Many more could have been killed and injured!
Of-course, the poor families of those three people who died probably have a different view of how miraculous the whole situation was. Furthermore, if some almighty super power did interfere and prevent the blast from happening at a worse time, it (he / she / whatever) did a lousy job. To begin with, it could have stopped the bomb from detonating in the first place. For an even better so-called miracle, it could have stopped the people who carried the bomb from getting to that location altogether. Not to mention some more spectacular miracles that I’m sure you can think of on your own.
Miracles are often associated with tragedies not necessarily caused by man. In August 1999, there was a terrible earthquake in Turkey. Many thousands were killed and many more were injured or lost their homes. The media spent extended time transmitting terrible pictures: Ruined buildings, many bodies, and devastated families. From all the stories, one story became pretty famous – the miracle of a young girl who was rescued alive from the remains of a building that collapsed, after being trapped there for several days.
We will not repeat the explanation above, of how ironic it is to characterize this story as a miracle, and how a truer miracle could prevent this earthquake from hurting so many people altogether. Considering the amount of rescue teams and high-tech equipment involved in the rescue efforts, perhaps it should have been titled a bad miracle if nobody was rescued alive at that time.
For a person who survives a tragedy, it is quite reasonable to feel something went too well. In fact, Judaism includes a formal prayer devoted uniquely for such occasions – in Hebrew it is named ‘Birkat Ha-Gomel’ (blessing of thanks), in which the person thanks God for rewarding him good things. Perhaps another prayer should be devised to rebuke God on behalf of those people not surviving the tragedy. Somehow it seems it would be used more often.
Statistics and luck are often mixed in our minds. We prefer to perceive events as luck because it makes us feel special. Many casino games and lotteries take advantage of this. Statistics belong to the mind, to the reality mode. Luck’s place is more in our hearts, where the religious mode is well established. For example, a religious preacher hearing this may reply with, “But in your heart you know it’s true”. That’s a direct address to feelings rather than thought – a thing that usually works, being aligned with both one’s education and desire… Hey, we already talked about that!
It should be noted, however, that the heart discussed above, actually resides in our brain as well. This internal conflict between the modes represents no more than a conflict between different areas of the brain.