February 13, 2005

Small Fires on the Deep

Bioluminescent bacteria occur nearly everywhere, and probably most spectacularly as the rare "milky sea" phenomenon, particularly in the Indian Ocean where mariners report steaming for hours through a sea glowing with a soft white light as far as the eye can see. -- The Bioluminescence Page

There is another world above this one; or outside of this one; the way to it is thru the smoke of this one, & the hole that smoke goes through. The ladder is the way through the smoke hole; the ladder holds up, some say, the world above; it might have been a tree or pole; I think it is merely a way. -- Gary Snyder- Through the Smoke Hole

These days my wife Sheryl wakes before dawn. The sound of the automatic coffee grinder and its aroma is her alarm. Before first light today, out on the deck overlooking the Pacific, she was gazing at the sea and saw, across the flat miles of ocean stretching out to Catalina, bright flashes come and go like wet fireworks exploding under the waves. Binoculars brought the flashes closer but didn't explain them. They were scattered all across the wide water except where the full moon sliding down the sky towards the western horizon smoothed a bright white band across the slate sea.

Later, when I woke, she brought me out on the deck to see the place where she'd witnessed this strange antediluvian light show. After a few more minutes I noticed that, in the rising light, large patches of the sea were dark, as if secret islands had risen just beneath the surface. Secret until my 'compulsion to explain the mysterious' arose.

"It's most likely a large algae bloom," I claimed. "When it was dark and the algae was stirred up by waves, breaking combers probably excited and concentrated the algae. What you saw was bioluminescence."

"Bioluminescence," she said. "That's such a fine, soft word."

We watched the dark islands under the surface of the sea for awhile longer and I wished I'd seen the flashes in the pre-dawn dark.

Toward the end of his life, Carl Sagan wrote a book about how most of humanity still lives in a "demon-haunted world;" and how science drives us relentlessly out of the dark oceans of our ignorance until, like some stump-legged fish, we scramble gasping onto the thin, dry strands of our knowledge about the truth of this world.

One of those strands in my mind was 'knowing' that the miracle of rush lights within the ocean was caused by the phenomenon we label "bioluminescence."

Mystery seen, mystery solved. Wonder summed by science, our youngest and most robust religion. A religion whose prime attraction is to transubstantiate the miraculous with the dependable; whose creed reverses the Eucharist by rendering the body and blood of God into bland bread and indifferent wine.

I've long been a lay member of this fresh, muscular faith whose liturgies are written in arcane symbols of mathematics rather than arcane phrases of Latin. As a lay member and mere acolyte my understanding is as shallow as my faith is adamantine. I have worshiped the Saints Einstein, Darwin, Newton, and Bohr. I have believed that in time all will be known and, when all is known, all will be explained and all mystery resolved. I have not yet read The Testament of the Unified Field, but I hope to before I die. Some of our current priests growing old in the quest assure me that I will.

Yet still I wonder.

When we explain what we experience in life in the steel language of science, do we drive the mystery out or merely mix more mystery in?

Perhaps neither. Perhaps what we do, through our relentless human need to explain, is to simply dive, as blindly as fish born deep below the light, ever deeper into the miracle. Perhaps we dive deep in the hope that the light from our minds and souls will, on some immensely distant day, grow large enough and bright enough to illuminate one crest of one wave rising once only out of the darkness. And that something, somewhere else in the immense darkness in which we dwell, will see our small fire and answer.

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Posted by Vanderleun at February 13, 2005 9:54 PM | TrackBack
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

A question posed beautifully in a new way, but not a new question.

The human mind is not capable of grasping the Universe. We are like a little child entering a huge library. The walls are covered to the ceilings with books in many different tongues. The child knows that someone must have written these books. It does not know who or how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. But the child notes a definite plan in the arrangement of the books - a mysterious order which it does not comprehend, but only dimly suspects. -- Albert Einstein

We have found a strange footprint on the shores of the unknown. We have devised profound theories, one after another, to account for its origins. At last, we have succeeded in reconstructing the creature that made the footprint. And lo! It is our own. -- Sir Arthur Eddington

It is wrong to think that the task of physics is to find out how Nature is. Physics concerns what we say about Nature. -– Niels Bohr

Posted by: danae at February 14, 2005 2:05 AM

Aye; poetic, but not new. Evoking Sagan here was deft.

Empiricism, also, needs such poetic apologeia, to respond both to what seems our natural feeling of wonder, and to our need to explain; the bifurcate nature of being human.

They are not separate qualities, but symbiotic.

Posted by: kobekko at February 14, 2005 5:50 AM

Science is pure magick: to name a phemonenon is to tame it.

p.s. danae's quote from Bohr is perfect for what you wrote. Nice piece, nice response.

Posted by: Oscar at February 14, 2005 6:14 AM

You might like to know that bioluminescence is
a phenomena that is different colors across the
globe. Bluish where you are and greeninsh in the
South China Sea.

The altar of science exists only as long as we
worship there and stop asking questions.

Posted by: Steel Turman at February 14, 2005 7:55 AM

Nicely done, although your vision of scientists as modern-day priests is a bit disingenuous. Unlike most religions, which adhere to unchanging orthodoxies, science approaches the world as it is. Scientists seek out facts and let the facts speak to them about the nature of our world. Those who don't understand this are easy marks for creationists and other seeking to advance religion by posing as men of science.

Posted by: Philomathean at February 14, 2005 11:37 AM

Not the emotion you were probably going for but what your piece made me feel was a bit of envy.

I envy you for being able to write this well. And I envy you for the fact that your home overlooks the Pacific Ocean (my water view is of my neighbor's pool).

Very well done piece.

I would say that science and religion are not mutually exclusive though. The bible says that God created the earth in seven days but who is to say what constitutes a day for God? The Big Bang Theory explains how the universe was created but what explains what existed before the Big Bang? I would also point out that the word "bioluminescence" also has its roots in arcane Latin phrases.

Posted by: chris at February 14, 2005 11:39 AM

With regard to the majestic mysteries of the universe,the infinite compexities of the natural wonders, one can only ask:
"What about Bacchus?!!"

Posted by: Vopelwitz at February 14, 2005 4:55 PM

Wow!!! a Google search on Eucharist/light/Einstein brought me face-to-face with your profound comments.

While they differ in perspective from my own---by 180 degrees---I think they might open eyes, an as antithetical view to the Truth that I believe.

One question looms...is this a satire relating the sad state of a world that has made science a religon, or do you really believe in the canon of secular saints?

My kids and I are anxiously awaiting the PBS Special EINSTEIN's BIG IDEA on October 11th. I don't think we will hear a word about Einstein's youth and relationship to the Catholic Church, but I pray that his communication with the "Old One" is portrayed for all to see.

Last week when I read the Pope Benedict's Angelus comments from his summer residence I was struck by his remark, "The Eucharist becomes in this way the source of the spiritual energy that renews our life every day and, in this way, renews the love of Christ to the world."

As you might recall in his homily to 800,000 motivated young Catholics at the closing Mass of World Youth Day, the Holy Father spoke of the Eucharist with words packed with meaning, "This is like inducing nuclear fission in the very heart of being -- the victory of love over hatred, the victory of love over death," he said. "Only this intimate explosion of good conquering evil can then trigger off the series of transformations that little by little will change the world."

And his profound "dictatorship of relativism" from April remains permanently etched in our consciousness.

For the past ten months I have been attempting to share what I believe is a key to this "Year of the Eucharist" and the Church's New Evangelization, however I am neither a scholar, nor a very good communicator. My qualifications as a former Army Infantry Officer mean little to the world of theology and religion.

I am by the grace of God, a late-in-life husband and a father of two young boys (so far.) My family serves full-time as lay missionaries for the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, SOLT, a religious order that was founded forty-seven years ago in the Sangre de Christo Mountains of New Mexico.

I deeply know and love the Catholic Faith and believe fully in God's Providence. I have experienced it firsthand---often in dramatic fashion---these past seven years of my adult life. I was shown the power and love of Jesus' Divine Mercy at my reversion (4-16-98) when I was exposed to the light that beamed from a silver cross of a Deacon Joe Hromadka (he was ordained a priest at age 79, this past July here in Corpus Christi). From that moment on, my constant prayer has been to serve humbly and faithfully in the Lord's vineyard.

Near the end of a year of intense research for a fledgling book project, I drafted the twelve page "paper." I have tried and seemingly failed to get it into the mainstream to help jump start the "burning bush." My concept was simple---to get others (more talented than I) curious enough to follow a lead to learn what I did.

Writing a book was not an option, for I know my limitations.

Since last December we Americans have witnessed over a dozen significant events that involve matters that I discussed. I say this not to testify to any prophetic gift, but to tell you that I have received strong confirmation that compels me to continue trying share the truth of what burns in my heart.

We are now witnessing the final events of a year that has been filled with coincidence---not luck, synchronicity or accident, but Providence---for the Eucharistic Year Synod in Rome coincides with the two-hour PBS/NOVA Special on Albert Einstein.

Please take ten minutes to read the paper at www.soltlaity.org/breadoflife.htm.

(You'll notice a lack of documentation but be rest assured, this "broad brush stroke" of a paper is supported by so many different primary sources that to start parsing how credit is distributed would unduly burden the reader)

If you'd like to review a sample of some of the more than 125 slides that support the the ideas contained in the paper go to www.soltlaity.org/slideshow.htm.

I have been praying that I would find someone with whom I might collaborate, to bring the key research findings into the public eye. Dialogue, with the goal of becoming more LIGHT and TRUTH sensitive, that is the key.

I can be reached at jmjriz@aol.com, at the office at 361-767-9417 or on my cell at 361-563-2602.

God bless you for your great efforts at shining His Light.

Sincerely yours,

Mike Rizzio, SOLT

Imitate Mary, Become like Jesus, Live for the Triune God

Posted by: Michael Rizzio at October 9, 2005 4:21 AM
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