the line

the-line Something I heard in a podcast this week deeply resonated with me, as I continually seek to understand who God is and how we can know Him.

“In the book Flatland, there are these characters that are two-dimensional, and I like that idea that we are these limited creatures, dimensionally, scientifically. We are these tiny little specks of dust in the cosmos, and we have a very limited perspective and ability to understand the great mysteries of reality.

If you can, imagine a three-dimensional character coming into the world of Flatland. In other words, imagine sticking your finger through a piece of paper. To a being that lives on the plane of the piece of paper, your finger would look like nothing but a line, and as it got closer or farther away, the line would get longer or shorter. But, there’s no way it could even comprehend what a finger would be in three-dimensional space.

Similarly, we know mathematically that our experience of three-dimensional time and space is not the full comprehensive view of reality. Quantum physics shows us that there are potentially many dimensions, and many perspectives that those dimensions bring to the universe.

So as a “Flatlander,” of sorts, as a race of beings that lives in a very limited perspective of the cosmos and of all things, of reality, who are we to know anything but our dimension?

Here’s what it’s like for me. When you experience this thing that so many of us have attested to experiencing – the experience of what we would want to call God, transcendent, the infinite ground of our being, all the words and the language that we use – let’s talk about, what is that metaphysically? What is that in its essence? I don’t believe we can know.

I think that it’s sort of like encountering the line in Flatland. In Flatland, every time you approach that same line and you experience that line, you don’t have any way to know if it’s just another line of all the lines in your reality. In other words, am I just experiencing some sort of hallucination in my brain? Am I just experiencing some sort of wonder, some sort of emotional chemicals that are flooding my brain? Or is there actually some sort of metaphysical “Other” that is doing this from the outside on some level?

I don’t know that we can know that, because we can’t see outside of the paper. Our senses don’t work outside of the paper. All we can perceive is the line. But what the axioms and a different sort of post-deconstructed faith has become for me is, I notice that every time I approach this line in Flatland, something happens.

And so my decision, as a Flatlander, is, do I approach the line? Or, do I ignore it, in fear that it’s just a line? Do I just stay away from the line, because there might not be a finger poking through the paper; it might just be some sort of internal two-dimensional object that makes me feel a certain way? Or do I just approach it with a humility and acknowledgment of mystery, that I think there’s more than the paper, and that I hope that that line has something to do with that that’s more than the paper?

But at the end of the day, what am I going to do? Am I going to approach the line? Am I going to pray? Am I going to try to follow Jesus’ teachings? And these are all things that I know that when I have approached them, when I have engaged in these disciplines and practices, I know from experience, and there are plenty of studies and evidence in the world to support it, that it’s actually good for the world. Good religion is beautiful. Good religion is taking care of widows and orphans, and keeping oneself from being polluted by the world. And I can attest that it’s good. I’ve seen it, I’ve experienced it.

And so I have a decision. And to me, this is what faith has become, actually. It’s not anymore about a metaphysical certainty. It’s not even a belief in the way that I understood belief to be before. It’s about, what am I going to do with my life? Am I going to approach the line? How am I going to interact with the objects that I see within the page? Because that’s all that I can see. Am I going to get caught up in my own head and ignore the line? Or am I going to live my life in a way that is open, and hopeful, and faithful to the mystery that I believe exists beyond the page?”

// Michael Gungor, The Liturgists Podcast, “Lost and Found – Part 2”

Just like Michael Gungor, I myself “notice that every time I approach this line in Flatland, something happens.”

When I pray to God, my life and the lives of others improve.  When I study Jesus’ words, I find peace and hope.  When I follow Jesus’ teachings, my sense of purpose is clear.  When I worship, I feel part of something greater than my own existence.

What experiences have you encountered when you “approach the line” that have inspired you to seek and follow God?