I started to randomly write this morning and this came out
I am one of those people who tends to find meaning in things. I was the guy in English class who the teacher would call on when they wanted someone to explain the meaning of an author’s metaphor. I’m pretty sure that my ability to see past the obvious is to due to what my wife (Dr. Julie) has referred to as my autistic brain.
“So Mike, are you trying to tell us that you are autistic?” …No, I am not autistic. I relate to others and I have too much self-awareness to carry that diagnosis. However, it is clear to me, and to those close to me, that my brain is wired a bit differently.
If pressed, Julie would redefine her statement and say that my brain functions differently. Most people tend to think in a very efficient linear way. A cause and effect way of thinking. “If I do this, then I will get that result.” It makes sense to think this way, as most of the world functions in a linear fashion. “1 + 1 = 2,” “I have to bake a cake before I can eat it,” “I have to study to do well on my exam.” This way of thinking is very useful because once you learn a rule you can generalize it and apply it to many other scenarios. “I have to bake a cake before I eat it. Therefore, I also have to bake bread before I eat it.”
My brain is not contemporary. Instead of thinking linearly I tend to think globally. I pool information. Information is placed in categories, and the same piece of information can reside in many pools. All pools connect with each other, the level of connection changes as required. When I solve a complicated problem I have to chug through massive pools of information. Connections between pools of data form and dissolve and reform again. Eventually, solutions start to appear. Solutions can be workable or unworkable. They can be reasonable or unreasonable. They may be possible, or not yet possible. It is interesting that people think that my solutions to problems are due to some sort of high intelligence. They are really due to a different way of processing information. I’ll call this type of processing relational processing. I see how things relate to one another rather than how they affect one another.
This way of thinking can be inefficient when solving simple problems, and so I have trained myself to think in a linear fashion. I envy those of you who do this automatically. After practicing this skill for more than a half of century I have gotten better at it, but I still feel like a “lefty” trying to use scissors designed for a “righty.”
Just like the thoughts and facts that interconnect in my brain, I have also come to the conclusion that we are all connected with each other and the universe around us. By what glue? Here you can fill in the blank with the term that you find most comfortable. “The cosmos.” “Mother Nature.” “The collective unconscious.” I choose to think of the binding agent as “God.” Why? Because God is the most logical solution that I can come up with. Are there other easier solutions? Of course! However, none are able to explain existence as well.
We lived in an ordered universe. Everything works together from the smallest subatomic particle to the largest galaxy. We fantasize ourselves as masters of the universe because we have discovered a few odd facts in physic. With that said, we don’t even know if there are additional planets in the far reaches of our own solar system. The arrogance of ignorance can be intoxicating. When intoxicated it is easy to make decisions based on a limited data set. As a scientist, I can tell you that this happens all of the time. When I was growing up I was told that life could not exist without sunlight/photosynthesis. Therefore, planets that were too far from the sun could not support life. Then we discovered plenty of life at the bottom of our oceans in areas completely devoid of sunlight. These organisms used chemical sources of energy instead of solar sources to fuel their existence. Time to rewrite the science books.
So where am I going with all of this? Growing up my childlike concept of God was what I was taught in school. An old guy with the beard sitting on a throne made of clouds. My spiritual life was synonymous with my religious life. My religious life consisted mostly of rules. In my child’s mind, most of the rules were of the “do not” category. Long lists of commands that if broken would send me to directly to Hell. Miss Mass on Sunday? Hell… Eat meat on Friday? Hell… Have impure thoughts? Hell… Despite being a pretty good kid it appeared that I was going to Hell. The impure thoughts alone would probably land me in the deepest levels of damnation.
It was also evident that religious rules could be different depending on a person’s position or rank. Those enforcing the rules seemed to have absolution. Even common folk could get a dispensation. Meat on Friday = Eternal Hell. Meat on Friday with appropriate dispensation = enjoy, life is good. Additionally, most of the world’s population wasn’t Christian, so the rules said that they were all going to Hell. Unbaptised babies could not go to Heaven or Hell, they would go to Limbo. An all-loving God who is sending most of his beloved children to Hell? This confusing and contradictory information made me reject the entire concept of religion and (by association) the concept of a Higher Power. I did not have the sophistication to separate the two. Religion equaled God in my child’s mind.
I was raised Catholic, but I’m not bashing Catholicism. I am saying that the limited information (rules) that I was taught were incongruent with the evidence (data) that I was gathering. The hypothesis of “A loving God is active in our lives” had been disproven.
With God out of the way, I had to find another structure to hang my world on. I was already moving away from creative pursuits and embracing science. Science appeared to be the perfect foil to the above incongruence and inconsistencies of religion, and I jumped onboard. Unfortunately, science is extremely limited and completely insufficient to define many aspects existence.
With the frameworks of God and science removed as overriding explanations for existence, I was pretty much out of options. Science might explain how amino acids were formed, and how their sequencing made up DNA, but it couldn’t tell Michael Kuna what my purpose or significance was in this universe. Religion could explain my purpose and significance, but it did so by non-sensical rules and threats of eternal damnation.
It is a hollow feeling to view life aimlessly. I used science for the order that it could give me, I felt that was about as good as I could get. But good was not good enough, and so I started to explore other aspects of myself and my universe. I started to quiet my mind and listen to the background “noise” around me. I demanded God to show himself if he existed and if he gave a damn about me. No burning bush appeared. However, I did start to become aware of something, what it was I wasn’t quite sure. Something quiet and peaceful. Something that seemed to be part of me, but at the same time not. Strangely, I remembered similar feelings in the past. Sometimes during times of real crisis, these feelings would appear. Sometimes along with a solution to a problem that would just pop into my head. Sometimes the feeling would allow me to trust someone and let them into my life. Sometimes they would make me feel less alone when I felt that I had nowhere to turn. I had passed off these feelings as coincidence, random bursts of dopamine and nothing more.
As I opened my mind I became more in tune with this force. Sometimes it was so quiet that I could barely feel it, and at other time it became so insistent that I absolutely could not resist it. My life was far from perfect, but it seemed to be where it should be. I have come to believe that force is God in my life. A presence that was with me even when I completely rejected him.
Are my feelings just wishful thinking? Are they delusional, the product of a psychotic mind? You may believe what you wish. To me, they are more than real. But what evidence do I have? Is it even possible that something like God exists?
These are some of my thoughts:
-It is highly unlikely in our vast universe that life exists only on our little planet.
-It is impossible to believe that intelligent life only exists on our planet.
-It is impossible to believe that we are the highest form of intelligent life in the universe.
-It is impossible to believe that the only kinds of life in the universe must somehow resemble us. Intelligent life can take many different forms.
-It is extremely likely that there are forms of life are so advanced that they can directly interface with us if they so choose to.
-The above is logical, even scientific. However, it requires faith to believe that a superior intelligence is interacting with us and doing so with purpose.
So who is God? A guy with a white beard on a cloud thone? A collective group in intelligent life forms? A singular entity? The Trinity? Is God completely separate from the universe? Is he a creator who resides elsewhere, if so where? These decisions are important for theologians who make their living pondering such questions. They are less important to me.
I do believe that something greater than myself has guided me. At times my limited mind has been unable to comprehend why I’m being pushed in what seems to be the wrong direction. Eventually, that wrong direction turns out to be the correct one. Weird, but a good kind of weird.
Do I ascribe to any particular religious beliefs? I was raised Christian, and this is where I hang my hat. How good of a Christian am I? I’m still a work in progress. My global brain gathers information and finds relationships between random facts. It tells me that my experiences are not random, as they have a clear pattern. My brain also tells me that many of my pushes have happened because of a force outside of me.
My global thinking makes me look at large chunks of data, instead of tiny fragmented pieces. If the Bible is the inspired work of God, then I believe that it was written to be understood in totality. The New Testament is a book of important lessons, not a lot of fragmented phrases.
People find secret messages hidden between the lines of Scripture, not me. I’m also not one to build a whole faith or belief system on a couple of passages. It is too easy to misinterpret such things, and it is even easier to manipulate others with a fragmented “Word of God.” The basic concepts of the New Testament are those of love, peace, caring, inclusion, forgiveness, help, and acceptance. When a religion talks about exclusion, division, and rejection, I run. If you believe differently, that is your prerogative.
So where does science fit in with religion? For some odd reason people feel a need to exclude one from the other. I see no logic in this. In my mind, scientific facts and spiritual beliefs exist quite nicely together.
I continue on my journey. I await what God has in store for me. I pray that I can keep my mind open. I wish you peace.