When I heard the learn’d astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.
(Walt Whitman, 1865)
“Sure,” I answer, “He’s everywhere.”
“Is His stomach bigger than our pool?” he follows.
“Sure,” I answer again.
“Is He magic?”
“You could say that,” I say. I imagined magic is just what it must look like what God does to a four year old. (Actually, it looks like that to this 44-year-old.) So, without deconstructing God’s omnipresence, I let it stand as magic. And why not? It’s an easy out when he asks, “Did God make the trees?”
“Magic,” I answer, which is much easier than explaining the evolution of cycles of plant life that God set into motion who knows how long ago. (Well, He knows.) Beyond that, it seems like magic. Supposedly, we get the answers when we die. But I don’t care. I can’t imagine enjoying a tree more. And if God says, “Look how easy it is for me to make a tree,” it won’t diminish my impression of a tree at all. The trick won’t be ruined. I feel for those who get caught up in the How How How. Just sit and marvel that it is.
This, I think, is God’s plan—magic. But there’s His BIG magic and out little magic, which, perhaps, introduces us to His BIG magic, by our own attempts at ours. Perhaps I have a little better understanding, for lack of clearer expression, of God’s magic, God’s skill, because I grew up with my father’s magic.
I know at seven years old I was an easy mark, but my dad used to fool me over and over with this one magic trick (to be honest, all magic tricks) that I just couldn’t get enough of. He would peal a card off the top of a deck, show it to me, let’s say a two of diamonds; and then he would rub the card on his knee, or better yet…my knee, and show it to me again—and it would change, let’s say to a king of clubs. My eyes would pop. I would examine the card, turning it over and over in my hand; and I would demand, “Again!” And he would do it again and again and again. I couldn’t get enough.
Eventually, I figured out that my dad was doing a card trick, a sleight of hand, an illusion, skillfully done. There was an easy explanation. But not to me. I just didn’t know what it was, and I couldn’t figure it out, thankfully. I would have spent my time focusing in on his hands, on the how, and that would have ruined all the fun. All the mystery. All the joy.
Of course my dad wasn’t trying to make a fool of me when he would change a card or cut and restore a rope or close a sponge ball in my fist to have it then grow into seven sponge balls springing from my hand. Instead, he was trying to make me see something—a world filled with magic. Still, I would pester him for the secret, but he’d never tell, not till I was much older. He didn’t want me to miss the fun. He wanted me to have the wonder that abides with faith of its existence. It makes life fantastic. It allowed me to peer up at a vent in my attack and think, Yeah, Santa can fit through that. And now on a calm, clear night I peer up at a blanket of scattered gems across the black abyss and I think that I should never want the moment to end. Now, I know a star is a gaseous sphere illumined via thermonuclear fusion. That’s a BIG creation by God’s skill, but I can’t make one. To little old me, it’s just magic. Beautiful. It just is. If I get caught up in the how, I miss the glory. And I think that’s God’s message.
In Matthew 14:19-21, Jesus feeds the hungry multitude of people:
19 And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.
20 And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full.
21 And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children.
Now when they were done, Jesus departs to go pray, no questions asked. It’s truly one of the most amazing moments in the gospels. Thousands of people fulfilled from so little. Satisfied in the marvelous. Knowing that only God could provide in such a miraculous fashion. And I’m so glad that Matthew 14:22, the following verse, doesn’t begin, “And one among them said, ‘Hey, wait a minute…Do that again, this time slower,’” hoping to catch Jesus produce 5000 fish from the sleeve of his tunic when no one was looking.
Yes, it’s puzzling and unbelievable. But, so are we. The mere fact that we exist, that we evolved over such a long period of time from something so small is that changing card in the cosmic deck. Sure, my tiny mind would like to know how God does it. I am tempted to say, “Do it all again. This time slower.” But, for me to dwell on the How How How, I might miss what God wants for me, what my father wanted for me—all the fun.
After my father passed away, some of his belongings were divvied up between my sister and me. Among these artifacts were some magic tricks, a magic wand, linking rings, a life-like rabbit, decks and decks of cards, the usuals. And in one bag of tricks, deep down in a corner seem, was a little rubber hand, hollowed out to fit over a fingertip. I slipped it on the tip of my pinky, and it came to me when my dad used to show me his cupped hands with this little rubber, life-like hand in miniature reaching out from between the palms, as if my dad had captured a little man to show me. Since then, from time to time, I interrupt my children at play in their rooms and dive on the bed, as though in hot pursuit, and reign in my cupped hands from under a pillow and rush over to my kids to show them the ensnared little man-sprite, whom my kids now call Guod (which is Doug backwards), his hand reaching out and waving to them; and then as quick as a flash he is gone again to dwell among us and watch over us from the shadows. “Seeing” Guod always gets them going.
Last night the two of them composed a note to Guod, revealing their hope for his happiness and pledging their love to him. Not missing any of the fun. I hope they never lose that.