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Science and Miracles

A lobster diver named Michael Packard recently found himself inside the mouth of a humpback whale. The whale realized its mistake fairly quickly, surfaced, and shook its head, releasing the modern-day Jonah.

There was a time that I focused only on the spiritual truths and the rich symbology of the biblical story of Jonah, the reluctant prophet who survived in the belly of a giant fish for three days and three nights. I was skeptical that the story literally happened that way.

Then I started beholding, with less hubris, events in my life that aren’t easily explained. Like the time at a retreat center when it rained very briefly and in only one small area, right outside the room where a group of us were having a spiritual experience related to the restorative power of water and rain. Others who were at that retreat center during that same time reported that there was no rain elsewhere on the grounds. Or another time at another retreat center, when I woke up in the middle of the night, walked to a chapel I had never seen before, and found myself looking at an unusual piece of art that I had only seen once before - in the dream I had before arriving at the retreat center. Or times that I dreamed about people I hadn’t talked to in a very long time, and then saw them the next day.

I don’t have special powers of perception. It’s possible that in a few decades from now, scientific understandings of consciousness could shed more light on strange events like these. (The work of Donald Hoffman, an MIT-trained professor of Cognitive Sciences at UC Irvine, is particularly intriguing in this front.) We may discover more precise explanations for the ways in which our conscious experiences intersect with one another.

I do believe in miracles, though.

Having a scientific explanation for something doesn’t mean that it can’t be miraculous. I understand the processes by which the green bean seeds I planted a little over a month ago have sprouted and are now starting to climb. But what an insult it would be to the Source/the All/G-d, to see those beans beaning in their greenly glory, and not marvel. I understand the science behind the colors of a sunrise. But I have seen sunrises which have brought me to my knees in awe and wonder.

I have beheld too much of this strange and wonderful world to completely dismiss the possibility that Jonah may have actually been swallowed by a giant sea creature. I would feel arrogant and small to do so now.

And I’m guessing that lobster diver might just be looking back on his brush with the jaws of death and appreciating the miracle of existence.

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