Sunday, April 16, 2006

Richard Feynman on Easter Morning

I teach mechanical engineering technology students to improve their writing, and in return their teacher (and my friend), Mark French, visits my first-year composition class to tell students about the importance of good writing when it comes to getting and keeping a job. Mark speaks to a number of topics during his hour-long visit, and one of those topics is the value of reading. He shares a short list of "must reads" that includes among other titles Green Eggs and Ham, The History of Pi, and The Feynman Lectures on Physics.

Mark's mention of Feynman was an introduction for me, and Mark so enthusiastically invested his recommendation that the Lectures made it to my "must buy" list of books. It was just another title, however, till Norm (onegoodmove) started to post a series of video excerpts of BBC interviews with Feynman himself.

The most recent of Norm's postings ("The Big Questions - Richard Feynman") prompted a rambling consideration for Easter morning. In this taped interview Feynman says,

"I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it's much more interesting to live with not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong... I don't feel frightened by not knowing things."

Today is Easter, and I'm thinking about the celebrated resurrection of Jesus Christ. I am thinking about the difference between faith and knowing - about the investigations of science and the claims of religion, and I realize that I am comfortable believing what I do believe whether or not I know it. There is a difference between believing (faith) and knowing (the work of science), a difference between the worlds they compose and support, the lives they prepare us to live, and the expressions of relationship they are allowed to govern. I am comfortable with the difference.

I believe in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. As disproportioned as it seems when situated against the reach of a universe or two, I believe that at a particular point in history, a singular expression of God (him-, her-, itself) was made manifest on this planet. I believe that "moment" in time has significance for my well being on some wonderfully eternal line of flight. I do not know this to be true, and you should not follow me to a particular answer. Any answer worth keeping will make itself known to you in time. Until then, keep faith where you can, live if peace if you will, and get comfortable not knowing.

Happy Easter.


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