What is a miracle?
Now, that is an old question.
I tend to think that the greatest miracle of all is the peace that I, and I hope you, are enjoying at this present moment.
It is still fairly early in the morning, I have finished my gardening for the day, and my laundry. I had a wonderful breakfast at a local cafe and right now my cat is nuzzling me wanting some attention... miracles all - if you look at them through the long lens of human history and prehistory. I did not have to risk hoof or claw for breakfast nor beat my clothes with rocks. Better still, I am not hiding from brutish neighbors as I type this.
This peace is a by-product of something called civilization, which is the exception, not the rule of our history. It is something to be marveled at - and carefully cultivated. One of the tragedies of our time is that we seem to take it for granted. We play perverse political games that tear-at and weaken our democracy as if our anarchic angertainment will do us no harm.
The miracles of nature are a given, those of our own creation are not. "Progress" however we define it, is not a given. Neither is peace.
And now, my cat has had enough of my typing - he needs my undivided attention and affection for just a few moments. A good scritching behind the ears, thank you. How miraculous it is that I can do that.
This piece, from Orion, invites us to contemplate the web of miracles that we are fortunate enough to bear witness to - if we actually open our eyes to see them.
What are miracles? Miracles are avocados in winter and starling swarms and the handwriting of children. They’re bridges that let trucks carrying toilet paper for thousands zip across uncrossable rivers and books that contain the voices of the dead.
Once, my scientist brother showed me a housefly under an electron microscope. Savannahs of small hairs grew out of the fly’s nose. Rows of perfect domes arced over each compound eye. There was as much intricacy in a barb on one of the fly’s legs as there is in a Shakespearean sonnet.
The towels in my hotel room are deeply, amazingly white. The lotion smells like paradise.
We sit for a minute on the bed, my caveman and I, dusk on Miracle Day, the lamps off, and watch the Seattle skyline bloom out of the fog. Gulls cry invisibly. Out there, beyond my windows, people are eating ground-up cows from Argentina. They’re reading Whitman:Unscrew the locks from the doors! Unscrew the doors themselves from the jambs! They’re building towers of glass, dreaming of mackerel, studying gridlock, falling in love. Above us, above the mist, 50 sextillion Earth-like planets swing around 50 sextillion Sun-like suns. Galaxies fly away from us. Mica glitters on a trillion rocks.
My telephone rings, and I study it for a moment before answering. It’s as much curse as marvel: a wafer of glass and plastic that embodies rare mineral mining, carbon emissions, slave labor. And yet, when I answer, my sons want to show me, in real-time, the snow falling in our backyard five hundred miles away.
They hold the phone out into the darkness. I can just make out clumps of flakes falling on the foothills. Everything, if you study it closely enough, is a miracle.
Read the full article here.