Factual and actual
Scientists study the factual patterns observable in the natural universe, and the results are called ‘science.’ Theologians study the actual patterns observable in the human universe, and the results are called ‘theology.’ Until relatively recently, one could be both a scientist and a theologian without being forced to be one or the other. The experience of reality was not yet an either/or proposition. One knew instinctively that One was behind all the observable phenomena in all universes. Science was the growing body of knowledge about what God makes (the facts). Theology was the growing body of knowledge about what God does (the acts). The patterns discovered and rationally organized in both disciplines were found to be so consistent and reliable, that if one were a scientist or a theologian of some experience, one could instantly tell when a hoax or fable were being foisted on you. Even though science and religion have now officially parted ways, the real scientists know when pseudo-science is happening (homeopathic ‘medicine’ for example), and the real theologians know when pseudo-theology is happening (Mormon ‘revelation’ for example). In the case of the agnostic scientist, ‘Nature just doesn’t work that way.’ In the case of the theologian, ‘God just doesn’t act that way.’
There are many patterns observable in the human universe. All of them stem from human nature itself. Theology, then, is as much the study of man as it is the study of God. You might also say, theology as a discipline is the study of God in man, and of man in God. Whereas the scientist uses a lot of apparatus and all the materials and forces of the natural universe to discover the patterns and understand them, the theologian’s tool kit is much simpler: the apparatus is a human life—his own—and the raw ‘materials’ to be analyzed are the events of his life, and what is observable in the life, that is, the history, of the human race. Both the scientist and the theologian start small, and work toward the large, first microcosm, then macrocosm. Even the way both carry out their respective labors is an observable pattern, and very much alike.
‘Change’ and ‘squeeze’
Now, having laid out in brief the frames of reference that I use in defining science and theology, I want to apply them to just one of the patterns inherent in both science and theology. I don’t know exactly what to call this pattern, and the choice of terms is really quite arbitrary and depends on the angle from which one is observing the pattern. The word that comes to mind most often is ‘squeeze.’ This pattern is a subset of a larger pattern that can be called ‘change.’ It seems to be one of the ways in which change occurs. I may uncover a few other patterns along the way.
Origins, of a human, and of a universe
Let’s start with the human being, the individual. Where do we come from? Well, we all know we start out not as a single entity but as two, originating from separate and different beings. We don’t exist just prior to our origin on the physical level. There is an egg, and there is a sperm cell, a physical pattern replicating a metaphysical one, there is matter, and there is spirit. We don’t exist until the two ‘seed halves’ are united, at which point we come into being as a singularity, without personality, consciousness, or sensation. Yet, we are at that instant ‘human.’ A process begins and a new universe unfolds, just as real and potentially infinite as the natural universe, the cosmos, which resulted from a singularity that was jump-started in ‘the Big Bang.’ This change from two living cells into a singularity which is now a human being may be a first example of the pattern I call ‘squeeze’ or it may not. I can’t tell because I can’t see that small.
Expansion from a singularityStaying with that singularity, a human being in the first stage of metamorphosis, the fertilized egg, soon to be renamed an embryo, we find patterns of change—we can specify them as ‘development’—cascading faster than we can see, as the embryo becomes a fetus full of organs and systems of increasing complexity and interdependence. Turning our view for a moment to the cosmos, the scientist starts telling us all the wonders of the early universe, how stars and galaxies and planets were formed, and how the size of the creation grows exponentially. Back to the patterns of human gestation, the ‘being knitted together in the limbo of the womb’ as the psalmist sings it, we are not to the pattern I call ‘squeeze’ yet. No, we’re in a pattern of rest, of growth, of comfort really. A baby is being formed and is gradually becoming more than a living cell city. It already has functioning organs, a heart, a brain, eyes, and those tiny fingers and toes. It has sensations. It can feel but doesn’t know itself. Sensation—that is mostly what it ‘knows’ itself to be. Yes, by this time it is already a ‘he’ or a ‘she’ physically, but it won’t recognize that till much later, not until it has undergone many ‘squeezes,’ and it hasn’t even undergone the first one yet.
The initial squeeze
After about nine months, a physically fully formed human is now ready to be ‘decanted,’ and the comfortable, safe, anonymous existence of the egg-sperm, embryo, fetus, baby has to come to an end. There is no choice at this point. Once existence of any kind has begun, there is no turning back without shedding existence itself. The forward movement into the flow of time must continue. Through a physical construct known as ‘the birth canal’ the baby must now be ‘squeezed.’ If it had a vocabulary of words its thoughts could be verbal, but just because it still doesn’t know what language is doesn’t mean it has not got a personality or thoughts and feelings. No, it has all three. Where and when did these come from? Well, there’s still too many patterns to analyze for even the scientists to know the answers to most of these questions, and to the theologian, those patterns simply provide the basis for further, more meaningful patterns.
Putting words to the thought-feelings of the baby who has just noticed that his warm, watery berth has just vanished, ‘Yikes! What’s happening? Ow! Stop pushing me! Stop squeezing me! Why is everything feeling so tight? Help! I can’t move my flippers! Where am I going? I can’t take this pressure much longer! I can’t sleep! Why can’t I move anymore? Ow! Something rough just grabbed me! It hurts! Ow! Oh my gosh! This must be the end! I can’t take it anymore! Oh, oh, oh! Oh… oh, wah, waaah! Where am I? But it feels so wide! Hey, what’s that weird sensation coming through? Hey, what am I doing? In and out, in and out! Ouch! Something cut me! Oh, why was I ever born? What did I just say? What is the meaning of all this?’
‘Squeeze’ as a gateway not to death but to life
The squeeze was terrifying and harsh to the little creature. He had been comfortable and satisfied to stay that way forever. Then, ‘something moved,’ and he found himself being carried along in the flow into a crevasse that just kept getting narrower, and he knew he couldn’t take it much longer, though he didn’t know what the alternative would be. We know, of course: he might’ve died, as many infants do in child birth. But his chances were pretty good in most cases. After enduring the unendurable ‘squeeze’ which he’d rather die (if he knew what death was) than have to go through, he was ‘out,’ and very quickly and unself-consciously began making adjustments to his new environment. All this, without thinking, without reasoning. Again, not that he has no thoughts—he has plenty—but language hasn’t revealed itself to him. He is only just becoming aware of a new reality—himself. Without choosing it, he has been born and is becoming a personality. All this involuntarily and, for some time to come, irrationally. The ‘squeeze’ has come and gone. He has passed from one world to another, and though his body is a continuous experience, his soul is now at the threshold of spiritual life.
‘Squeeze’ as a basic pattern of life
The pattern I’ve chosen to call ‘squeeze’ is one that occurs over and over again as we humans (as well as other life forms) live and grow. In both individual experience and social, we feel the squeeze, making us uncomfortable and ‘forcing us out’ from wherever we found ourselves ‘finally happy and comfortable.’ From a Christian’s point of view, sometimes it may seem that God is on the lookout to make sure none of us ever has a rest or time to just get comfy and have a little fun. We work so hard to please Him and then before we can look back with justifiable pride, He squeezes us out, gets us all disoriented again. How often have we asked ourselves in desperation, ‘Why me?’
Squeezed is the way to goSqueezed out of kindergarten (no more nap time!). Squeezed out of sixth grade (how I hated middle school at first!). Squeezed out of the circle of my childhood friends (why did we have to move?). Squeezed out of High School (that, I must say, actually felt good!). Squeezed out of college (who needs a degree anyway?). Squeezed out of my first real job (I wasn’t meant to build steel office chairs!). Squeezed out of my first and only commune (I was tired of vegetarianism anyway!). Squeezed out of my life as a dairy farmer’s only hired man (free milk is all I missed). Squeezed out of living in Canada’s subarctic (yes, Auntie Em, there’s no place like home!). Squeezed out of being a cabinetmaker (upstairs to be a designer, or there’s the door!). Squeezed out of being a general manager (no explanation, we just don’t want you!). Yes, the squeezes just keep coming in my life, but as I get closer to the present, I’d rather not recount them. I’m still smarting a bit from the last few. They seem to have gotten worse, but after being dumped, I must admit, I do feel a lot better!
The pattern written everywhere
Not only this pattern of ‘squeeze’ which I’ve taken such pains to explore with you, but all of the patterns we find giving structure, form and meaning to our individual and social lives, and to the natural world, are so pervasive and so reliable, that we take them for granted, and often, because we fail to recognize them, we suffer unnecessarily. Hence the twin pursuits of science and theology, both of which are open to the seeking mind. All these words I used to explain these realities to myself in your hearing pale in significance and are shamed into obscurity by the light that still shines in the Great Book and the Little Book, in the Universe God made, and in the Book of His mighty deeds. The same eternal and divine Logos, the Son of the Father in Holy Triad with the Spirit, has imprinted Himself on everything and everyone whether great or small, seen or unseen, animate or inanimate, for every mind to perceive.
Though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him.