Miracles & Meaning | by Holly Hudley

I come today chewing on more questions than answers. I participated in a miracle the other day - a story I’ll tell this Sunday. And as we know Bill has spent some time inviting us to believe that miracles occur everyday. They are all around us. That a butterfly bursts from a cocoon, that the dust of a star creates life, that you and I are here at all amidst so much chaos. Depending on how you define “miracle” its opposite could be God’s wrath or something perfectly ordinary and natural.

In an interview between Krista Tippet and Walter Brueggemann, he says, “When something goes our way, we call it a miracle. When it doesn’t we call it a disastrous disruption.”

I am positive that in some parallel reality, there was another person who experienced the circumstances of my miracle as a disaster. So the questions arise. Can something perfectly ordinary also be miraculous? Am I any more special than anyone else because things went my way that day? {That’s an obvious NO to me, but I can see how some are drawn to believing the opposite to be true.} If we presume God to be active in shaping a miracle, is God also active in shaping a disaster? If I believe God to be all things, the simple but rather difficult answer to swallow is “yes.” And inside of that “yes” is still the problem of limiting our imagination about God as personified. Aristotle referred to God as “the first mover,” an adaptation of which coursed throughout the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas, Immanuel Kant, Georg Hegel and even Karl Marx. His influence is deep. Aristotle’s metaphysical ideas were rooted in the cosmological speculations of early Greek philosophers. These guys took on the age old questions of “Where do we come from? What is our purpose?” Aristotle is often credited with merging scientific reasoning with theological wondering.

The “first mover” moves all things but itself remains unmoved by any prior action. It is perfectly beautiful, indivisible, and contemplates only the perfect contemplation: itself contemplating. {Remember that line about “we are the universe becoming conscious of itself?” It fits here somewhere.} Aristotle wrote, “It is clear then that there is neither place, nor void, nor time outside the heaven. Hence whatever is there, is of such a nature as not to occupy any place, nor does time age it; nor is there any change in any of the things which lie beyond the outermost motion; they continue through their entire duration unalterable and unmodified, living the best and most self sufficient of lives...From [the fulfillment of the whole heaven] derive the being and life which other things, some more or less articulately but others feebly, enjoy.”

Take that and chew on it for a bit. I am left with this: I guess God is kind of huge? Also: the heavens are undefinable, and we are forms that take shape in this realm, forms that have the capacity to emulate the “unmoved mover” in our ability to live an enlarged life.

Does this first unmoved mover shape and interact with our lives? It is said that we live and move and have our being in God; that we are God-created. The larger I envision God, the more shapeless and infinite, the more this actually becomes concrete to me, as miraculous a concept as it is. That God is shapeless but also contained in forms (us for example), that God is infinitesimal and infinite, that God is not you but not other than you....these are nondual ideas, the only ones both complex and simple enough to contain the possibility of God.

The thing is that we are part of this hugeness though we are tiny. God is in both. Miracles are both tiny and huge. God (or the cosmos, as I am prone to calling it) is a container that leans toward expansion and creation. It is also chaotic and destructive. This is just the way it is, and nothing we do or believe changes that fact, but everything we do matters. I just got off the phone with Bill, and of course he gave me a little nugget of wisdom: We humans are meaning makers. We bring and give meaning to the events of our lives and the essential question is really, “Does this enlarge me or reduce me?” And I would add, “Do my actions/beliefs enlarge others or reduce others?”

Drawing by Richard Wingfield  

Drawing by Richard Wingfield