Thursday, September 16, 2010

Echad


Is the sky blue? Of course it is, right? Wait, what exactly is blue? Blue is a particular mixture of light wavelengths that pass through my retinas and stimulates my brain in a particular fashion. Now do I experience “blue” the same way as you? Is there any way I can know that? I guess I can know that what I call “blue” is the same things as you call “blue.” Even if we experience blue differently, we generally call the same things blue. What about feeling blue? Do I feel blue the same way as you? Do you know what it looks like when I feel blue?

As I grow older, the world often looks less coherent. Some simple generalizations I have perceived about the world that worked in the past no longer seem to hold water. Pluto was always a planet, but now it is not. Yet Pluto did not misbehave and lose it’s status, something only happened to the way Pluto is understood. It seems that depth of knowledge actually induces less generalizations and more complexity.

Yet amidst this world of complexity, there is a word from God. In Deuteronomy 6:5, he says the Lord is one God. Moses used the Hebrew word “Echad,” which means one, alone, or unique. As the world of knowledge gets complex and seems less coherent, there is one God. Although humans may not perceive any coherence, there is one God.

As a learner, this gives me some peace. That peace comes from having faith that the existence of one God implies some level of order in the universe, even if we do not perceive it. For example, I had a hard time figuring out how the numbers in my apartment complex were assigned. It seemed like there was no reason in it. Yet I know now that whoever assigned the numbers ordered them in two concentric circles. There actually is coherence. It was just hard for me to see. If there is coherence, then may be my attempts at learning are not in vain, there is actually truth I can discover. There is some order.

Second, God is unique. It seems to me that even people who believe in God like to treat the world as being governed rules and principles like a computer program. Although this seems attractive to our brains, God is unique. Our world’s governor is a conscience, not a science. You can have a relationship with a conscience, not so much a science.

In the Shema, God first called us to hear him. Now he tells us who he is: the one, alone and unique. He makes and breaks order, we rise and fall because he is. 

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