I was sitting chatting with this woman this afternoon whose dad was in the heart ward. He’s wired up to all the techno-wizardry a modern hospital has to offer. Pumped full of all the right drugs. With sone amazingly skillful doctors and nurses on call. Yet as we sat talking she says, ‘Any way. Touch wood he’ll be all right’. And she proceeds to tap on the table. Someone else listening in to this chat points out that the table was made of chipboard, so she knocks her head as backup.
It just causes me to muse. Here we are with such amazing scientific help. And yet it’s not quite enough for us to fully put our trust in it. The university of Berkeley puts it really well. “Science is powerful. It has generated the knowledge that allows us to call a friend halfway around the world with a cell phone, vaccinate a baby against polio, build a skyscraper, and drive a car. And science helps us answer important questions like which areas might be hit by a tsunami after an earthquake, how did the hole in the ozone layer form, how can we protect our crops from pests, and who were our evolutionary ancestors? With such breadth, the reach of science might seem to be endless, but it is not. Science has definite limits.”
It goes on to say that science does not make moral or aesthetic judgements. And maybe that’s the point. The why of life is as important as the how. If not more important.
Science is pretty compelling in what it can deliver for us. A brave new world of understanding. Science answers the question of how things happen but never why. I wonder if advances in science will ever really be enough to help us understand life in all it’s fullness. I think not. We will always need a bigger framework to make sense of things.
The why of life is as important as the how. If not more important.
Touching wood is a particularly funny habit. The origins of the superstition are lost in the mists of medieval history. Some folk say a sailor would touch wood because it is what kept him floating above the waves. Others that if you were in the woods talking of your hopes and ambitions, you knock a tree to stop the evil spirits in the tree from hearing. The one I think makes most sense is that medieval merchants would sell religious items to give people luck. The most popular of these was a small part of the True Cross on which Jesus died. The idea was that if the plague came calling, or disaster struck, touching the True Cross would give you protection. Enough small fragments of the ‘true’ cross were sold to fill a forest.
Personally I try not to put my trust in any superstitions or in science. Both seem incredibly flimsy. Clinging onto a piece of wood gets you nowhere, however holy you may feel. When science comes to end of the questions it can answer and superstitious jiggerypokery is no more than guess work, I turn to a relationship.
Relationships are a good way to judge value. A life partner. Family. Friends. All give meaning that ventures into the Why? of life. And for me, being a follower of Jesus is all about relationship too. If relationship gives us insight into the why of life, then relationship with God, if such a thing is truly possible, gives us insight into the Eternal Why.
Jesus once said, “I have come that you may know life. Life in all its fullness” John 10:10. That fullness is not about knowing certain ideas. That fullness is about relationship. Knowing Jesus in my life gives me a moral framework, and answers to the biggest questions of all. Puts everything else into context.