A fifteen-year-old boy asked me a straightforward theological question that is difficult to answer, “I’ve been looking for God. Where is He…?”
His phrase, “I’ve been looking for…” reminded me of an experience:
When I misplaced my favorite sign pen, I searched for it in my bedroom and in my office. I searched in my tables, drawers, the pockets of my pants and polo. I searched in places where I think I can find my sign pen, but I never searched the ceiling, nor my toolbox, nor the toilet. Why? Because I knew I would never find my sign pen there. I would have to look for my pen in the right places.
When I’m looking for something important, I don’t look in the wrong places. So when somebody tells me that he’s looking for something, my first instinct is to think whether that person is looking at the right places. Otherwise, I would feel that he won’t find what he’s looking for.
God, however, is not like my sign pen that when misplaced, cannot be found in the wrong places. Yet, like everything else, when we start looking for Him, our own perspective plays a very powerful and definitive role. Somehow, He allows himself to be subjected to our assumptions.
In academic research, we start with basic assumptions. In search of an invisible God, we do the same. Aren’t our attitudes serve as our assumptions when we are looking for God? They are the lenses we put in our eyes. Can’t we recall all the happy moments, all the blessings, and joy and then ask ourselves whether God has nothing to do with those favors?
Or do we look through our pains and hurts, through calamities, wars, famines, and other human suffering, and then tauntingly declare that God is nowhere to find? Where are we looking at? What lens are we using?
The Power of Perspective
If I want to see something far, I would use a telescope. If I want to see objects so tiny that naked eyes can’t see, I would use a microscope.
I remember the first time I bought a pair of polarized sunglasses. The sales lady asked me to look at an image without wearing any glasses. She asked me what I saw. I said, “I see trees beside the sea, and then skies above.” Then she had me put the polarized sunglasses and look again at the same image she showed me earlier. I was amazed, suddenly I saw the dolphins. From that experience I learned that there are images that we can see through polarized glasses that we can’t with ordinary glasses.
Our basic paradigm is our lens. We see things through it. Yet its powerful enough to see the not easily seen images. The state of our heart in the moment of our search for God, whether we are happy, bitter, afraid, troubled, or angry, our predominant attitude at play when we are looking for God are powerful—very powerful.
Lenses are powerful enough to deceive us. When I was young, I always laugh at my grandmother when she was looking for her reading glasses and couldn’t find it, only to realize after few minutes of search that the reading glasses were on her eyes—she’s wearing it. She couldn’t see it. But she saw everything through it.
I didn’t give the boy an all-knowing wise answer; I don’t have one. Instead I asked him more questions, “Are you looking for God? Where?” What do you expect to find? What lens are you using in looking for Him, the lens of pain, bitterness, anger, resentment…or the lens of happiness, contentment, peace, and blessings? If in case you found Him, are you ready to face Him?
For someone who is so interested in logical inferences, I was a little bit skeptical. For many years I believed that arguments are the best tool for convincing people. Set the right premises, and express clearly the conclusion, and that’s it, if you are good enough, your arguments will be irrefutable. People will be convinced.
I was wrong.
Gradually I have observed and learned that verbal argument actually sometimes is the last part in the process of changing minds. After we have observed enough actions, our mind becomes open to the arguments behind that action. If in case, arguments come first, we tend to wait for compelling actions before we are convinced. Then again, after we have carefully observed the action, the arguments just naturally follows.
If a person wants me to believe that he’s trustworthy, no amount of argument will convince me; I need to observe his actions.
If in case a person shows me trustworthiness in her action, even without explaining, I will be convinced that I can trust her.
My tranquility was once again disturbed by a friend. One day she called me to help her out in her assignment. Being a close friend, I quickly answered yes. But when I started reading the seven different dicta of seven ancient philosophers, I also started to panic. I love the subject, yes…Philosophy for me contains the most exciting but also the most exhausting things to ponder about. How can I simply establish rational reaction to these philosophers’ words of wisdom without given enough time to ponder deeply? My ungenerous friend did not give me the luxury of time: she wanted me to deliver my quick reaction in two days. So I attempted.
Of those ‘Words of Wisdom” from different philosophers, one struck me like no other: According to Socrates,
My quick reaction was to disagree, of course. I began my argument with the assumption that knowing is separate from acting. Meaning, our knowledge can be used for both good and bad. It is the choice of the person who possesses the knowledge where he’s going to use it.
Let’s look at the obvious. Many people who know too much use their knowledge in wickedness. Therefore, Socrates was wrong. Or was he?
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See you on the next pages. 🙂
Why people are generally so negative and prejudiced?
Sometimes we criticize and ridicule too much, and look down on others as if they are nothing…only to realize later that we are wrong—that they are something.