I’m Catholic. With the big C as in “love the Pope,” but really with a small C as in “my parents made me do it.” I start with this to say that I’ve never been much of a church person. But, I go on and off. Over the summer, that was more on than off, because I was staying with relatives and doing my darndest to prove that yes, I am one of those bright and shiny young people who looks forward to church every Sunday morning. I don’t think I was fooling anyone.
But, earnest or not, I was going. And sitting through mass. And for the first time in a while, actually thinking about it. At my sporadically attended masses, many of the readings focused on Christ’s miracles. As a child, these stories both intrigued and frustrated me. On one hand, miracles were magic and magic was cool; on the other, I struggled with the fact that there were no miracles in my world. Feeling that, if God ever had been in the world, he must certainly have abandoned it long ago. ‘Cause I sure didn’t see any multiplying loves or fishes.
But the hours I spent sitting in church this summer gave me a new perspective. So many of the miracles in the Bible: they happen every day now. They happen because of technology. Every day we cure the diseases that Jesus cured: leprosy is all but gone, and so many types of blindness are not preventable, reversible, or at least rendered negligible by glasses. Even more amazing, depending on how you define death, we bring people back all the time. We may perform our miracles in hospitals with tools honed over hundreds of years, but that doesn’t make them any less miraculous.
Using hovercrafts, we – okay not walk – but float on water. With the advances in 3D printing and replication technologies that are sure to come, the loaves and the fishes doesn’t seem that far off, either.
And it’s not just Christianity. We’ve solved many of the natural mysteries that were the basis of earlier religions. We know that, yes, the sun will rise again, and how and when it does – even if we haven’t yet figured out the why. I’m not familiar enough with other religions’ miracles to make the case for technology as the alternate hero there, too, but I’m pretty sure that Hannukah would have worked out just fine if those candles were lit by energy producing gyroscopes.
Technology and Believing (with a big B as in “really and truly”) can seem like opposites. Technology makes things happen. Believing means sitting around and waiting for those things to happen. But, I’m realizing that maybe I believe in technology. Understanding how miracles work doesn’t make them any less miraculous. A cure is a cure, no matter how it happens.
In the Bible, miracles have a certain texture to them. A grittiness, a realness that our antiseptic and shiny, do-not-touch medicine and science can’t match. Our daily miracles, they’re too sci-fi to seem to count. The way that even the best modern literate isn’t as good as Shakespeare, because it’s new and hasn’t yet been embellished with centuries’ worth of literary criticism.
To go back to The Velveteen Rabbit, one of my favorite analogies, our modern miracles don’t seem Real. They’re still shiny, new and out of the box. They haven’t picked up the texture and grime that come with thousands of years of embroidery and embellishment. They don’t hold the same cultural cachet. They don’t feel magical.
I’m not going to make any promises to start Believing with a capital B. But I want to be open to believing with a lower case B, to see the miraculous in the world – and yes, the technology – around me. To appreciate it for the magic that it is, even if it comes out of a box with a barcode on it.
Questions of the day: Do you believe in miracles? Does technology count? Or, does the word miracle imply something more? Does it really count as a miracle if you can understand it?