I was having an imaginary conversation with some imaginary strangers while sitting on my deck this morning. This is not entirely unusual; I often have imaginary conversations with imaginary people about contentious topics. Today, the topic was Moses; I have no idea why it came up but suddenly there I was, debating whether God really spoke to Moses on the mount.
You see, I generally don’t believe in religious miracles. I don’t believe in biblical flood stories, or the resurrection, or origin and original sin myths, or stories about sages who lived into the many hundreds of years. I think these stories have been inflated with the passage of time.
What I do believe about religion is that there are a lot of very similar rules for life across a great many religions and philosophies and that the truth contained in those beliefs is self-evident. The fact that we almost universally developed simple rules on how to live a good life is a miracle that gets little in the way of attention.
Not lying, not cheating, and not stealing or harming others are good philosophical positions to hold. Do I think the people who at various points in history articulated the rules were sages and deep thinkers? Absolutely. Do I believe they received direct messages from God? I think that’s unlikely. I think God is a big picture individual and doesn’t focus on the day to day minutiae as much as we wish He might.
So, do I think the commandments are a miracle? Probably not. I do believe in miracles, however. I just think we look in the wrong places.
Take a flower. It’s a damn miracle sitting there, unnoticed, right in front of you. So many things have to happen to make a flower possible. You have to have an appropriate environment; there has to be dirt. The dirt has to have nutrients. There has to adequate be light and water. Animals or the wind have to fertilize the seed. The seedling has to not get eaten and not suffer blight. The weather has to be conducive to the growth cycle.
There are a lot of factors in play and yet more often than not, they all come together and the next thing you know, there are flowers blooming alongside the deck, flaunting their glory, with bright colours and brilliant smells lightening up a formerly arid environment.
We seek miracles in the wrong places. We look for a burning bush and we ignore the miracles that happen all around. We ignore the miracle of our own existence. We ignore the miracles contained in the mundane.
The fact that I can get clean drinking water from a tap. The fact that I can read books online or at all. The fact that I’m here. The presence of friends. The existence of art. Music. These things are all miraculous and mostly unappreciated on a day to day basis.
Studies show that a gratitude practice can have a positive impact on your mood and well-being and yet historically, I’ve struggled to come up with things to include. I get tired of writing “friends and family” repeatedly. Yet I, too, miss the point. We encounter things to be grateful about and for every minute of every day. The computer I’m writing this on and all the people who contributed to its creation and evolution. The potato I had for lunch, and the farmer who grew it, and the store that sells it, and the purveyors of the hot sauce I topped it with. The engineers who designed the furnace that brings me heat. The fact that there’s such a thing as a domesticated cat.
These are all miracles that I can be grateful for and appreciate. I think I’ll bring that point up the next time I’m sitting on the deck participating in an imaginary debate.