Category Archives: Cool Science
The science behind physical phenomena can be even more convincing evidence of the divine hand that created it.
Today, I thanked a tree for its shade, pausing under its broad branches for a moment’s break from the late morning sun. I even blew it a kiss, the only gift I could think of to offer back was this bit of extra CO2 for its respiration. A very small bit, to be sure.
On a normal day, I wouldn’t notice this tree or at least I would pay it no mind. But these aren’t normal days, are they? These are odd days, co-opted by the novel corona virus. They have us thinking a-new about every thing and thinking more about everyone. Paying closer attention and taking more care.
Unannounced, this had me attending in a different way to many things I passed in my outing. This tree was the first of many trees I thanked, along with the woman riding toward me on her bike who got off and walked it wide so I could pass at the prescribed social distance. I returned the favor to a cyclist where I had room and he didn’t.
Not all were happy things. I lamented the loss of the life of a turtle who, in departing his pond in search of a distant and deeper shore, didn’t make it that far. This invited sudden thoughts of people who were now in peril because they had embarked on a similar trip. What was it like in the face of this virus if you were in close quarters, in a homeless shelter or detained as an immigrant seeking asylum?
Further on, from another resting spot in the shade, I could see a family of Sandhill Cranes walking along the shore. Mom and Dad mate for life; each year their brood is only two fuzzy yellow crane-lings. This family who only had one saddened me; I had watched two chicks with these parents only a day before. The danger to the young and the defenseless is real in all species.
Actually, that today was yesterday.
Today, I thanked the rather the tall hedge who provided me shade as the sun was still early in the sky.
The walkers gave me less leeway, so I swung wide for them.
The early bikers preferred the roadway to the path, as auto traffic was far more sparse than pedestrian.
The turtle now rested on its shell, having provided sustenance for scavengers nearby.
The cranes pecked their way along the familiar shallow hillside. Mom, Dad, and baby.
I paused then to appreciate the cool shade offered by the trees by the pond. I marveled at the majestic blue heron fishing, the glistening snowy egret so still, and the black bird in flight whose red wing patches gave it away. It landed in the reeds near the cranes who paused in pecking their way along shore’s edge.
Mom, Dad, baby and… another spot of yellowish white. From my distance I couldn’t be sure, but perhaps. If it moved I would know. I waited and watched. No one sped me along. No one called me home. No one pushed my pace or bid me hurry. I waited and watched, craning my neck and squinting into the quickly brightening day.
The spot moved; I was almost certain. As I looked on, it did move and then, sure enough, it straightened into a gangly, yellow fluff of a walking thing. It wasn’t dead; it was alive. I had witnessed a resurrection! Praise be!
In the times we are living, these 2020 times, this corona virus time, this Lenten time that will now almost surely conclude in canceled Easter services, this chick come to life felt like a sacred moment.
I have heard some quip that “This Easter Jesus will stay dead,” but watching the baby crane I wondered if things had turned their way around. Perhaps resurrection is happening among us, so that this Easter, in the very midst of the hardship and sacrifice we’re witnessing, we will be the ones telling the stories of all that God is redeeming and bringing back to life.
And that tomorrow will be all our todays.
This pair of eagles was perched on the rooftop, amiably and companionably awaiting the rise of the new day, new month, new year, new decade. I wonder what they can see way up ahead, where their eagle eyes can pierce through the fog, the foliage and the distance.
My eyes, on the other hand, are such feeble instruments, requiring spectacles to read the tiny print and binoculars to bring distant things into focus. What meager vision I have by comparison to these two magnificent creatures. And yet, I perch before my day and pretend to see it clearly.
Vision, what a miraculous gift! But how confounding. Because my two eyes, set apart as they are, give me two versions of my world, one from the right and one from the left. Thus, I have two perspectives on every viewpoint, such that by holding them together I may compare them and judge their distance. This is how My Designer teaches me depth perception.
In order to compare what each side sees, some of the “image” from my right eye crosses over to the left side of my brain and some of the “image” from my left eye crosses over to the right. Thus, my brain shares visual input “across its aisle,” considering both sides before concluding what it sees. This is how my Designer teaches me deliberation.
Because of the unique properties of the lens in my eye, the image on my retina is projected upside down. The top is on the bottom and the bottom is on the top. Only as I use my body through my environment, touching, feeling, manipulating what’s before me can I convert the image to see it “right side up.” This is how my Designer teaches me mind-body connection.
Next, my eyes send this abstract collection of color, intensity and pattern on a journey to my visual cortex where the inputs are compared with patterns I have seen before and impressions made by previous experience. Along with other pertinent sensory input, all of this is “processed” in light of what I’ve learned and what I believe. This is how my Designer teaches me understanding.
Finally, I see.
Isn’t it miraculous how inside a problem lay its solution? How inside a question lay its answer? And if we pay close attention, how inside a human lay our solution for humanity? This is how my Designer teaches me about Himself.
Sitting together on a rooftop taking in the long view before the sunrise of a new decade, I pray we might see into the distance and be completely and utterly amazed. Now that would be 2020 VISION.
*For more like this check out Made to Move: Knowing and Loving God Through Our Bodies.
We all notice, don’t we? The thing that wasn’t there before. The thing that isn’t but was. The thing that’s different from one image to the next. Heck, that’s a puzzle I loved to do as a kid! Find all 10!
Yes, if we’re paying even the slightest attention, we notice when something has changed, been moved, seems out of place or is acting strangely. That’s why airport security admonishes us, “If you see something, say something.”
The funny thing is, we were made for this. It’s a survival mechanism. Really. Our perceptors (my new word: receptors for perception) are designed to alert us when something might be dangerous. Did you know that your body responds more quickly and forcefully to a critter crawling UP your arm than to the one crawling DOWN? Yep. One is a threat to the jugular; the other may only nibble a finger or toe. No biggie.
So, given this design, it’s not surprising to find that something moving quickly in our peripheral vision draws our attention. Someone behaving oddly gets our gaze. Someone dressed distinctively gives us pause. Honestly, when something or someone is different, it is hard to look away — even when it’s impolite to stare.
I find it at least a little bit comforting to realize that it isn’t just my socio-cultural bias at play here: a good bit of this responsiveness is programmed in. I’m designed to notice different and be wary, AND I’m drawn to seek the similar because it brings me comfort. It’s our instinctive nature to distinguish among and between in order to seek safety, security and well-being. It’s the same for all the animals in the animal kingdom. Draw close; protect your own.
Today’s world, though, is demanding more of me and of us. It is calling us away from the basic animal in our nature toward what is unique to our human nature. Yes, we have biases — ingrained, learned and polished over years of practice. There’s no disputing: We do prefer this to that. We understand this and not that. We accept this and reject that. But our humanity has been dealt a brilliant extra card: a mind that can notice its bias and reject it.
It’s a small thing really, to catch myself in the act of assigning a story to someone I see but don’t know, whether it’s on the TV, in the news or in the parking lot at my local shopping center. I have discovered that I can nip that thought right in the bud, though. In fact, I’ve taken to giving myself a little swat on the thigh to say, “Stop that right there, you!” That’s what you’d hear if your earbuds were listening in to my brain. I trust you aren’t, but the Big Someone Else surely is.
So, I figure I ought to listen, as Lincoln put it, to the angels of my better nature. They’re telling me to: lead with forgiveness, err on the side of generosity, assume the best in the other — until further notice. Lotta grace flowing down that stream. Grace I don’t always even give myself. Got a lot to learn.
Ironic, the difference between what gets your attention and what you give your attention to. Every animal in the kingdom comes pre-programmed for survival. We humans have the capacity to discern, decide and re-direct. Thought by ever-loving thought.