Big trees fell into Lake Michigan over and upon each other like pickup sticks. The beach became a trimmed path to wend down more than to lay on. What happened when I was so busy inland mowing my lawn? So much for long walks on the beach. It was more like an obstacle course, hiking around large upended stumps or limbo lumbering underneath thick trunks.
A bit overwhelmed, I found a perch part way up on a dune. The kids had invited me along to do some hammocking. Yes, that’s a thing now. Hammocking isn’t really a word yet. Auto- correct suggested ‘ham mocking.’ Next Easter I will try mocking the honey ham. Anyway, my kids dug their toes in and continued to the top, while I sat and pondered the plight of our most favored lake of the greats.
Is this simply another sign of the times? Is this God’s way of reminding us of how little control we have over the skin of the earth? Some suggest humanity has contributed to climate change. I don’t doubt that, but the degree of our influence on the changes are still under review to my mind.
I sat for a bit, then pulled out of my back pocket a small book. If Einstein Had Been a Surfer by Peter Kreeft is a slim hardcover about the search for the Theory of Everything. Although it is a short walk on a really long pier of thought, I found it fascinating considering the view of dunes cut off at the knees and horizontal trees still bearing green leaves.
Now, I don’t know why, but for a few months now I’ve been queuing up surfing videos. Before that, I had a fetish for tsunamis. Before that, I thought of how unfathomable the oceans are and why God proportioned them thus. Consider this…maybe God’s thought was to overwhelm us with motifs of eternity like the universe having no back wall on which to hang our pretensions. How about the ocean blanketing 71 percent of our little blue planet? Maybe God thought 29 percent was all that humanity could manage.
[Side note: Did you know the saline of the ocean is within .5 percent of the saline percentage of human amniotic fluid?]
Anyway, as Kreeft surfs (He is a surfer, by the way, along with being a professor of philosophy at Boston College.) the waves of thought in search of an ‘everything’ that curls in on itself, he employs a philosopher, a scientist, and a surfer in conversation. After a few pages in I realized how over my head I was, trying to grasp what they were after…but the undertow. I caught a small wave and I wasn’t sitting on top of the world like one of the Beach Boys.
I set the book down several times to look off in the middle distance, the distance being a huge lake of which I could not see the other side. A metaphor of eternity, infinity, or simply a bigness beyond what my eyes beheld in total. I knew Wisconsin was over there somewhere, but right then all I could do was exercise faith. I couldn’t see everything. Hmm.
A thought spilled on my conscience. “Jerry, you’re not Einstein, Kreeft, or a surfer. Why are you splaying intellect? What is it you’re after? Does thinking about these things bring about a peace of mind, or mitigate a piece of your mind?” If anyone does capture The Theory of Everything, then what?
Hang on, I’m about to hit the brakes and take a sharp turn.
Recently someone reminded me that the first temptation of humanity was knowledge of everything. “Just take a little bite of the fruit and you will be as God, full of knowledge.” Well, hey, becoming a know-it-all seems harmless enough. How about realizing you’re in the nude and reach immediately for underwear. How about playing hide and seek for the rest of your life? The ole be careful what you wish for scenario.
Surfing. Channel surfing. Surfing the internet. Have our eyes gotten Googly all of a sudden? Do we ride the Youtube all the way to shore? Since when do we need a 24 hour news cycle, real, fake, or everything in between? Knowledge is power as they say, but is absolute knowledge absolute power? There is a forest. There are trees. Do we understand the difference? Is it okay for elms to lay down on the beach? Does all sand eventually fall through the hourglass? Will the theory of everything distill our intelligence into artificiality? Will we be as gods, or will we be okay with bearing God’s image? Will we acquiesce to God holding onto the final coherence, keeping intact the mystery and majesty of human existence and God’s?
I set the book down and turned to look to the top of the dune. My son was up there, taking in the broadest perspective. My daughter was next to me as we took in a narrowed view of the lake. Down below my other daughter was waist deep in the chilled early summer waters. I may not know the theory of everything, and at this point, I’m not sure I want to. What moves my desire is theories of somethings, like sharing an afternoon at the beach with people I love, taking in the creativeness of God, and thanking God for both. Surf’s up.