Saturday, August 11, 2007

Mask of Faith

I was not raised in a religious house, and the closest thing to religion was to live according to a rather Asian philosophy - to be concerned about this life and living a "good life" and how to achieve that life. The key was always education, as that opened the doors to everything and my parents have emphasized that like no other.

This is not to say that religion is foreign to me. My cello teacher was Lutheran, and we had recitals and concerts at the churches she belonged to. I also played for her church a few times for their Sunday morning service. When I went to Hong Kong in 5th grade, my mom and one of my brothers (and I) went to the grave of some family member I didn't know and prayed/paid our respects in the Chinese-Buddhist (not to be confused with Indian Buddhism) way. We also went to a monastery place in Hong Kong, and that was actually really cool. In my second semester at the university I'm attending, I had a class where we had to read parts of the Bible (as a piece of literature, not as a religious text) - that produced some very . . . interesting conversations between the Christians and the Jews in my discussion (I never want to experience that again). And towards the end of that class, I attended a Catholic mass with a devout Catholic friend of mine. I was amused that they read a passage from Matthew that I had to read for my class a few days prior. I also have some Jewish friends and celebrated a few Jewish holidays with them (mostly out of curiosity).

In all of those instances, the closest thing I've felt to God or anything Divine was in the monastery place. I've never really liked to discuss my beliefs and the topic of religion, as there's a lot of closed-mindedness there. But under this "Mask of Faith," suffice to say I don't belong to any one religion or world philosophy, but I have developed my own beliefs. And where did I find my beliefs? In my major - biology. It's interesting how many people either see science as an antithesis to religion or otherwise a way to disprove religion, but I disagree. I am more in concordance with Einstein and his beliefs on science and God.

There's also a line from Dan Brown's book Angels & Demons that I particularly liked (it's actually on my facebook profile). The line goes: "Science tells me God must exist. My mind tells me I will never understand God. And my heart tells me I am not meant to." It's such an elegant quote, so simple and true (for me).

So then, where do I "find God?" Or rather, as I'll call it, "the Divine." I'd have to say, in a leaf. Has anyone actually taken the time to look at a leaf, I mean, really look at it? (I'm talking about an archetypal leaf.) To notice how the top side is often darker than the underside, how there are veins running through it like veins under your skin, to see the patterns making up each leaf and iterated to all leaves of the same tree/plant. To see a world of complexity in something so "simple" as a leaf. And with some knowledge of how a leaf works - how chlorophyll works with a single atom of magnesium that literally resonates when struck by electrons that're powered by photons of light, like sound waves of an instrument, how photosynthesis turns carbon dioxide into oxygen and creates starch - how can one NOT be impressed by something so simple containing such complex mechanisms? And that's barely scratching the surface.

Here then, is a leaf. A massive collection of atoms and molecules that somehow knows what to do, something composed of non-living particles that acts with so much life. In the same sense, the regulation of DNA is equally amazing. How DNA fixes and prevents errors and mutations so effectively, is something to be awed. Even something like evolution provides such a simple yet complex explanation. I believe that it was Einstein who said something like "Science is the mind of God." And I believe it truly is, and we're just unlocking that mind.

So then, what might the sum of my beliefs be? That everything is connected in an endless cycle of birth, growth, death, and recycling. That life, consciousness, after-life, whatnot, is also a part of that endless cycle. Do I believe in reincarnation? Maybe, I don't know. But I believe everything has a reason, a meaning, a purpose - though it might be beyond human comprehension. I believe that everything is simple, and everything is, at the same time, complex (think of the leaf).

Again, there is a quote that sums this all up fairly well. It's from the movie Latter Days (a decent movie), and it goes: "When I was a little kid, I used to put my face right up to them [the Sunday comics] . . . and I was just amazed because, it was just this mass of dots. I think life is like that, sometimes. But, I like to think that from God's perspective, life, everything, and even this, makes sense. It's not just dots; and instead we're all connected. And it's beautiful, and it's funny, and it's good. From this close we can't expect it to make sense, right now."

There is so much more that I could say, but they're not coming to mind at the moment. Perhaps I'll leave it at this, for now. It seems like a decent start. I'd also like to say that perhaps "God" is not what we think, and all the religions and beliefs of the world are merely "manifestations and ways" for the Divine to reach people. If there is "one true religion," then honestly, why do all the other ones exist?

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