God and Quantum Mechanics, Part 4 – Love
“ALL are but parts of one stupendous whole,
Whose body Nature is, and God the soul”
God is love…but what does that mean?
Again, there’s no way to prove any of this. Anyone who accepts a proof that God exists or doesn’t exist, or is this form or that form, hasn’t thought it through. Those of us who believe that we know God are using human words to stand for a direct personal experience not a logical conclusion or observation. What I say here is just my words describing my experience and, within its natural limits, my understanding.
Also, this isn’t one thought but a series of aspects of thinking. With God, there can’t be one answer. We just glimpse edges, reflections, and even sometimes shadows.
So, what about disease and natural disasters? This is part of a larger question: Why do we die? Surely no loving all powerful God would allow death. This God would and does. Maybe because the old have no business taking resources from the young after some point. A planet with people living forever is not a place I want to be. No change, no growth, no new ideas. What a drag. I will let the young take my place when the time comes. It’s the right thing to do.
But why do the young have to die? I don’t know. Maybe that’s something we can fix. Or maybe risk, real risk, is just part of what it takes to grow onto what we need to be to save the world. I warned you my answers aren’t always helpful.
Here's some more context. When free associating, if the word given is “life”, the common association is “death”. They go together. Everything we know, including life, is temporal. Anything that exists in time has a beginning and an end. You can’t have a beginning and not have an end. Why not? If you’re God, you can do anything.
It doesn’t feel right. I don’t think we would like it, and God knows that. Maybe we tried it and found out we didn’t like it. Maybe the God who loves us created death because we asked for it. The Garden of Eden story fits well into this idea. All of this is meaningless though because God is us. I don’t mean that we are gods, I mean that God as I recognize God infuses everything, even diseases.
Diseases are part of life on Earth, and God is the God of all. Most diseases are living things, and as another friend of mine says, “Life wants to live.” Somehow, we have to master, tame, accommodate, learn to live with—whatever relationship seems right—all of those life forms. We have the skills and intelligence to do this. We can accommodate most diseases if we stop hurting each other and focus on it. Covid 19 is a great example. Vaccines have stopped it in its tracks. Over the next few years Covid will become another of the millions of viruses we live with successfully. Diseases may not be our fault, but they are our responsibility.
But we will never eradicate all diseases. And then there’s weather: tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, etc., and earthquakes and rogue asteroids and massive solar flares, then the death of the sun—lots of ways to suffer and die. But the earth is God too. And the sun and the stars.
We have a classic jealousy issue here. Yes, God loves us, but God loves everyone and everything else, too. Can we handle the mega-sibling rivalry? We want God to ourselves! We want a god who loves us more than other species/races/religions/nations/tribes/families/. Sorry, that wouldn’t be a truly loving god. Universal love often doesn’t look like love to us because it’s always present, even in violence, even in people and things that don’t deserve it. We aren’t equipped to understand this, we just have to feel it and go on.
As for access to God, the second essay in this series made room for God to hide from us within the laws of quantum mechanics. We tend to make God a mystery that only we (little we) know, but God doesn’t hide from us. God is here in front of and inside us all the time. God is what binds the universe together. God is present and visible everywhere. The story of the two young fish is appropriate. They are swimming along and pass an old fish just hanging around who says to them, “The water’s a little cold today isn’t it?”. The two fish say, “Sure is, Grandpa”, and swim on by. Then they look at each other and say, “What the hell is water?”
In the quoted lines at the top, Pope uses the metaphor “soul” to describe this universal presence. Quantum field theory provides a physical analog. Fields of various kinds permeate everything, and little clumps of waveforms in these fields manifest to us as various kinds of particles which make up the matter in the universe. In this model, a personal experience of God would be a temporary clump in the universal presence of the “God field”.
But again, if God is always present but doesn’t actually do anything, what’s the point?
The God I know doesn’t prevent bad things from happening to us but goes through it with us. God isn’t some remote being on a mountaintop watching all this mess below. God is here now. God suffers with us.
This is fundamental to Christianity—one of the titles of Jesus is Emmanuel which means “God with us”—but the idea is not unique to Christianity. I heard a story told once about two rabbis discussing the horrors of the Holocaust. One asks, “Where is God?”. The other answers, “God is in the furnace.” I wouldn’t be surprised if the other major religions contain this interpretation also. God shares everything we experience. In Christian terms, Jesus never came down from the cross. He’s still up there.
That is a comfort and a responsibility. Ending human suffering would end God’s suffering.
Wait, though, why do we have to end God’s suffering? Surely God can do that.
Ultimately, I feel God as love. Though we talk about the power of love, love isn’t a power at all. It doesn’t control, direct, impose, design, or force anything. Love just loves. In a sense this means that God has no power to change the world, not the way we think of active change, but love does change things.
I think the change that love makes is in removing power from the equation.
Can we imagine a world without power? John Lennon could. I think this is also the message of Christ. This won’t remove earthquakes, diseases, or death, but a loving world would make those facts of life more bearable, and perhaps we can reduce suffering to some minimum. That may have to be enough.
This is my take on the mystery of the presence of God in the universe. It’s personal to me. It’s challenging, but it’s also comforting. We are free beings. Free to engage the universe on our own terms in our own way with the strengths that we have. With us all the time, everywhere, fully engaged in our experience, but letting us lead and do the work, is a spirit of love and wisdom—distinct from intelligence—sharing our journey, answering our questions if we know how to listen, and never failing to support us and keep us strong.
In the end, whatever you believe about God, please take from this that saving the world is up to us. Nothing is going to swoop in and save us. We have to do it ourselves. We will disagree on how to do this, often forcefully, but as long as we are having the discussion, we have a chance. The most dangerous concept in the world today is not among the opposing opinions about how to fix things, it’s the belief that things don’t need fixing.
The discussions are difficult. Debates on opposing opinions about balancing one set of needs against others are always heated. One example from the issue of climate change: nuclear power is undeniably dangerous but also completely carbon neutral. Runaway climate change will destroy many times more lives than all the nuclear accidents combined and for a similar period of time. Have we learned how to reduce the nuclear dangers enough to reap the benefits? Are there better options realistically? Maybe, maybe not. We have to talk about it and make the best decision we can in each particular instance. Knee jerk emotionalism won’t get it done.
The same is true of national conflicts, modern weaponry, religious conflicts, social morality issues, extreme economic inequality, racism, cultural misunderstandings, and so much else. Please, learn to listen to and accept people who are different from you. It’s hard, but it’s what adults do. Inaction is action and has equally significant consequences. We have to grow up.
Live, love, fight, laugh, cry, struggle, give up, enjoy, suffer, and die, but most of all take care of each other. The more comfort you bring to someone else, the more you comfort yourself. We are not alone. We are connected to each other. It’s love that connects us, and God is love.
April 20, 2022