“Everything is a miracle. It is a miracle that one does not dissolve in one’s bath like a lump of sugar.”
Do you believe in miracles?
The New Oxford American Dictionary defines a miracle as: “a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of divine agency.”
Miracles, in other words, exist outside of human reason. They do not make sense. They are non-sensical.
However, just because they exist outside of our reason does not mean that they exist outside of our experience.
So again, I ask: Do you believe in miracles?
Stir that question once or twice around in your brain and let its reality dissolve into your consciousness. Sip on its significance as you brew up your response. Savour its philosophical flavour.
The question is our ticket to wonderland today. It is our invitation to a tea party where some of the world’s greatest minds have surprised us by turning reason on its head.
Picasso starts the conversation. “Everything is a miracle,” he says. “It is a miracle that one does not dissolve in one’s bath like a lump of sugar.”
A bold statement and one we might expect from an artist. It certainly paints an interesting picture.
“But if everything is a miracle,” you ask, “how can we distinguish miracles from ordinary things…like bathwater?”
You grab the strawberry jam and begin to spread it on a biscuit.
“Nothing,” C.S. Lewis responds, dabbing his mouth with a napkin, “can seem extraordinary until you have discovered what is ordinary.”
That explains the magical wardrobe.
The author’s words, however, make sense. After all, in order to appreciate the extraordinary you have to recognize how it departs from the ordinary. In fact, that’s the point you were just trying to make!
You finish swallowing your biscuit and decide to try a second time.
“So,” you begin, “if our recognition of the extraordinary depends on our understanding of the ordinary, then how can everything be a miracle?”
Here, Albert Einstein decides to jump in. He takes a bite out of his cookie and remarks as he chews: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
In the world of complex mathematical probabilities can our understanding of miracles actually be so simple?
You watch as the genius licks the crumbs from his moustache.
Meanwhile, George Bernard Shaw stands up.
“Miracles,” he observes, gesturing around him, “in the sense of phenomena we cannot explain, surround us on every hand: life itself is the miracle of miracles.”
The miracle of miracles.
You gaze down at your empty plate and realize that the conversation has come full circle.
Because, if life is the miracle of miracles, then everything in life is a miracle.
And if everything in life is a miracle…
…then Picasso is right.
Time stops as you consider this possibility. You watch the lump of sugar as it disappears into your tea.
Maybe, you think to yourself, if reason is what attempts to render the extraordinary ordinary, then reason may not be as miraculous an accomplishment as people make it out to be.
Reading your thoughts, Saint Augustine nods in agreement.
“Miracles are not contrary to nature,” he says, “but only contrary to what we know about nature.”
To prove his point, he takes a bucket of bathwater and dumps it on your head.
Miraculously, you don’t dissolve.
But your reason does.
After all, how can we distinguish between the miraculous and the mundane when both escape our powers of explanation?
How can the often competing rationales of scientists, artists, and theologians, all come to a similar conclusion on this matter? Is that a miracle in itself?
I’ll let you decide.
Your answer, however, will influence whether you perceive miracles as “welcomed” or “unwelcomed” events. A bucket of bathwater on our heads can do us some good, but it can also make us uncomfortable.
It forces us to question our existence, our meaning, our purpose.
Now it’s my turn to answer the question.
Do I believe in miracles?
Yes, I do.
After all, if I have the choice of leading an ordinary life or an extraordinary life, I choose the latter. I choose the path where everything is extra-ordinary.
I choose wonderland.
Hope you have a day full of miraculous thinking!
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