Before I get into this post let me remind my Bay Area readers that the chocolate tasting/book signing will be this Saturday at 2:00 at Cocoabella Chocolates' San Francisco Union Street store. Bring all your Sophie books for me to sign and come get your free taste of chocolate decadence. Check my website for details.
Okay, enough of the marketing stuff. This has been a turbulent time for me and when things get bumpy in my life I tend to turn to my comfort food: books. Specifically books that I have read before and loved. Rereading old favorites is like wrapping myself up in a security blanket and eating Ben & Jerry's from the carton. Before I sit down to write my own novel I read a chapter from NickHornby's A Long Way Down or Anne Rice's The Vampire Lestat. When I wake up in the morning and lie down to sleep at night I read from Simon Singh's Big Bang: The Origin Of The Universe. While Hornby and Rice provide me with literary inspiration it's in Singh's nonfiction work that I find the most emotional comfort. Singh's detailed history of the development of scientific thought and human understanding of the cosmos helps me realize that I'm part of something much bigger than myself. For me it's akin to praying.
I know that sounds dramatic and possibly a little weird but I've never understood the conflict between science and religion. I understand the resentment scientists feel towards institutionalized religions that have fought to suppress ideas and theories that aren't easily reconciled with their doctrine. I also understand the bitterness felt by religious individuals who know that their beliefs are looked upon with derision by more than a few people in the scientific community. But as for an actual logical conflict between a belief in God and the pursuit of revolutionary scientific ideas...no, that I don't understand at all. To me the very fact that the universe can be understood strengthens my spiritual convictions. I mean think about it! Through mathematical equations we can predict the movement of the planets, moons and stars. We can look at our own genetic make-up and understand our connection to all the other species on earth. We can figure out the age of a rock by studying its carbons. The universe, this massive thing with no perceivable consciousness follows RULES. The parting of the Red Sea is a cool and all but God shouldn't have to break his own rules in order to impress us. The very fact that there ARE rules should be recognized as a miracle. As fantasy writer Terry Pratchett continually points out in his Tiffany Aching books: Something doesn't stop being magic just because you can explain how it's done.
And as I read Singh's book I can't help but smile as I come across scientist after scientist who felt the same way. When Johannes Kepler mathematically proved that the planets actually orbited the sun in ellipses rather than perfect circles (the accepted view at the time was that everything orbited the earth in perfect circles within circles as originally explained by Ptolemy) he reportedly shouted "O, Almighty god, I am thinking Thy thoughts after Thee!" He was learning the rules of the universe, learning its language and because of that he felt he was establishing a much closer connection to his God.
This morning my son came into my room as I was reading Big Bang and on a whim I started reading aloud to him. You could see the excitement in his eyes as I read to him about the value of developing theories that can be tested and examined even if they do end up being wrong. By the time I had read three pages he was shouting out ideas of his own. "Mom, think about this!" he demanded. "If we could develop a super telescope and put it on some rocky planet hundreds of thousands of light years from earth we could see the prehistoric animals that used to roam our planet! We could study them!"
I realize that the likelihood of us ever being able to develop a telescope that powerful or place one on a planet that far away is highly unlikely but I love that he's thinking that way. He's considering the possibilities of our universe. It's like my son has learned how to pray.
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