In his comment on the previous post, Julian invited us to share our answers to a question: How do we get to the point where our belief in the friendly universe is not shaken by natural cataclysms—earthquakes, tidal waves, tornadoes, and so on.
My answer is that strong faith in a friendly universe is the fruit of well-balanced human development. In the bosom of a loving family, the child learns comparative security in the universe. When the child is allowed to take the consequences of his or her own unwise actions, essential learning takes place; the consequences are unwelcome, but when the lesson is learned, growth comes, and the pain of the learning process flows downstream and gets forgotten. Sports lead to a vigorous disregard of certain levels of pain. Normal curiosity leads into a never-ending discovery of facts and causes, which promotes understanding: a scientific perspective puts terrifying facts in a universal context. Note the difference in the images between tornado as fact (usually experienced as fearful) and tornado through the lens of science (experienced as understandable).
When we begin to realize how the small upsets of life—so intolerable in the moment—are forgotten as we go on, we can begin to realize that even big things may be overcome as well. As we open ourselves to accept and experience the love of God, we have a human taste of an infinite and eternal love which implicitly has the power to make major tragedies into things forgotten after the growth has been achieved. Cataclysms teach us to modify architecture, to teach the public how to prepare for such cataclysms and how best to go through them; we learn to prepare emergency teams and to care effectively for the injured; some people move to safer ground. It may take major collective action to show that we have learned the lessons.
Acute pain, suffering, and loss eclipse the faith of the average person. Think of the teenager who drops his or her faith in God when a grandparent dies after a protracted and painful illness. The person knew of such diseases intellectually, but when a horrible disease comes close, understanding and sympathy turn to anger and revolt. James Perry, physician and teacher, testifies to the power of faith to accept death.
Charlie C. spoke of “restoring life to its original difficulty.” We live in a vast, evolving universe of energy and power, where inherent tensions make this life difficult. Faith is receptive, but not passive. It trusts and works. It prays and cooperates.
Of course the universe often appears cold, indifferent, heartless, and cruel. The laws of nature take no notice of us. Faith dares to challenge that appearance, dares to proclaim a more inclusive truth, which we can only verify to a small extent in one short lifetime: all things work together for good in a universe where nothing can separate us from the love of God.
In this tour through scientific living, we will look at cosmology, biology, psychology, and history. The reason for considering cosmology in a philosophy of living is to cultivate an attitude to the universe that undergirds our action in the light of the sciences that pertain to life on our planet.
If you believe in an ultimately friendly universe, how does that belief grow stronger? What relations do you find between the phenomenon of the tornado and the scientific image? Please continue to help us with your comments and questions.
The photograph:https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Seymour_Texas_Tornado.jpg The radar image is of a classical “hook echo” as seen in the strongest tornado in the 1999 Oklahoma Tornado Outbreak. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/30/Tornadic_classic_supercell_radar.gif/120px-Tornadic_classic_supercell_radar.gif