I don’t believe in miracles

Or at least, I’ve never seen one that struck me
As truly miraculous, beyond chance and doubt.

And where others see miracles
I see the chances of life
The vitality of thousands of interactions
Seen through the prism
Of the human wish to see patterns.

A wish to see the world
As a movie which we star in
Where divine gifts and mysterious forces
Bless or curse our path – with intent.

(like a puddle, thinking how perfectly
the hole around it
seems to have been made
to fit its unique contours)

I’m just an extra, enjoying my journey through the backstage of the world
It’s not about me, but I am me. And I enjoy what I see.

Who am I to say,
that the pattern you see
Is chance, is pure illusion?
It’s clear to me that’s all it can be
But I don’t want to hurt your dreams.
– though I will, if I think they will hurt you too

For there are people who exploit
This wish to believe –
Cold reading. Horoscopes. Psychological tricks.
Exploiting the wish to believe in miracles
To create a financial miracle of their own.

I have been hurt, too, by the illusions that others believe,
the special sensitivity they claimed to possess,
the fear-driven intuition they called extrasensory guidance.

I have nearly been killed by a driver who thought himself
Divinely protected and therefore able to take risks
With the lives of himself and his passengers

(It matters, oh how it matters, what we believe.
For what we believe shapes what we do and what we are.)

Is it a gift, to believe in miracles?
Is it deprivation, to believe they are not miraculous?

I don’t feel deprived… I just enjoy
The passing slideshow of the diverse earth
And take joy when my searching eye
Finds a special beauty in random chance.
Without making it more
Than a natural thing.

(The joy of rolling a double six
just when you needed it. Of drawing just that card
from the shuffled deck.

Almost more pleasing, for being random!)

Everyone is always at the centre of their own rainbow.
Not because of rainbows.
But because of humans being human.
Our creativity. Our hopes. The stories we tell.
These, if you like, are miracles I can believe in.

This poem-ish reflection was a response to a post over on red ravine, about miracles. I wrote in response:

I think it’s all about what you want to see. We are very good at finding patterns when we want to see them. Some people see the dot of earth on the iris… Others just random splashes. Others see a pointy-nosed mouse face looking out from her left collarbone…

Is it a gift to believe in miracles? Should sceptics like me butt in when people talk about them? I don’t know. I know people take a lot of comfort in miracles and strange coincidences.

But I’ve also been hurt by people who believed in things like this, who believed in signs and patterns relating to me when there was really no such pattern. At the end of the day, I think it does matter what we believe in. And for me, believing that such appearances are random chance rather than miraculous doesn’t actually take the comfort away.



10 responses to “Miracles

  1. Love the part about the puddles!

    but beware of butting babies out of bathwater… in reaction to hurt provoked by some misguided soul in pain

    What’s most important in the end is that you are happy with your own beliefs and remain aware and strong enough within yourself and confident enough about who YOU are so that other people’s beliefs can not twist your heart and soul again. But that doesn’t necessarily mean closing off to everything either.

  2. I think what I actually believe hasn’t really changed – sometimes my hopes have temporarily expanded what I believe in, but never really sustainably. The doubts always came back in as soon as I plucked up the courage to look into the beliefs in more detail.

    What does make a difference now – and the whole “misguided soul in pain” incident is an important part of this – is my willingness to honest about my doubts about what other people believe.

    It’s hard to challenge deeply held beliefs, particularly when those beliefs are comforting, and I’ve often bottled up my sceptical questions – if it does no harm, why challenge their comforting beliefs?

    But what is different now is that I see the harms that mistaken “nice” beliefs can bring. The harms, and the wasted effort. This awareness makes me more likely to speak my mind than I would once have been.

    I believe in human magic, human miracles and human grace. I also believe that human credulity about the supernatural can be deeply dangerous.

    Yes, there are areas of doubt, and “more things in heaven and earth” etc . But it worries me when people who claim to be in search of the truth start believing in orbs and crop circles. The evidence that these are perfectly normal, natural phenomena seems so strong that for me it casts doubt on the rest of their beliefs, and the sincerity of their search for truth.

  3. I believe in human magic, human miracles and human grace.

    Powerful, as is the poem.

    I think the key for me is that one’s beliefs are one’s beliefs. That’s not to say they’re the truth and/or that others are wrong if they don’t own the same set of ideas. I look at my own sensitivities and superstitions and beliefs with a cocked eye. I’m not much into New Age, but I do love mystery. Orbs, crop circles — who knows? Hoax, seeing patterns, or something real. I’m open to the possibility that it’s any of the above.
    But any zealot pretty much turns me off, whether it’s someone pushing miracles, politics, religion.

    Anyhow, I’m glad you commented on the “Virgin Mary Sightings” post. It was as much about the connection I have to my mother and the influence she’s had on me as it is about belief in miracles.

  4. p.s., My post for today features a bee swarm that is formed in the shape of Elvis Presley’s head. (smile)

  5. Yes, I picked up that your post was a story about your relationship with your mother. And a touching one too. I think I was originally going to ask about the “she was a believer but wasn’t willing to concede it”, which intrigued me. I suppose I got a bit sidetracked by the comments on the way down…!

    Thanks for your thoughtful response – it’s made me think a bit more about where I’m coming from on this.

    I love mysteries too. I suppose I just don’t find crop circles or orbs particularly mysterious! (I have an underwater camera which I chose because it has a flash positioned to minimise orb appearance… you get a lot of orbs in underwater photography, particularly in murky water, and I think this has a lot more to do with all the tiny particles floating in the water than with high incidence of ghosts underwater!)

    More generally, I think everyone has a right to choose what has meaning for them – what is personally significant, what emotions it envokes. That’s why I love experiencing other people’s creativity, and hearing the stories they have to tell. And I can respond to your story, and your interpretation of the photograph, on that level.

    So I don’t think it’s right for me to criticise what meaning people find or attempt to come between people and the symbols and ideas that give their life meaning – unless they criticise mine, or find meaning in harming others.

    But I think it’s different when it comes to beliefs about physical phenomena which are about how the world actually works rather than what it means to us. With this kind of belief, I don’t think we can get away from checking what we believe against physical evidence, looking at issues like probability and observer bias. That’s where, for me, our beliefs are more than just our beliefs.

    That still leaves us a lot of mysteries – how bees make honey when no human can manufacture it, how they navigate and communicate, how they organise their lives… these are beautiful and important mysteries to me.

    And swarming in the shape of Elvis Presley’s head… now that ‘s truly miraculous ;)!

  6. Have you ever heard about the Chupacabra? It’s a myth (some think it to be true) about a big chicken-like animal that sucks the blood out of goats. It’s pretty widely held in these parts (where I live), as are beliefs about UFOs and cattle mutilations. I have to admit, I love these beliefs, and I can’t even tell you why. They’re just so bizarre. So I often write about them as if they’re real, but what I love more than the myths themselves is the notion that they even exist.

    My mother had a sort of run-in with the Catholic Church, and so for most of my childhood she did not go to church. She was also pretty rebellious, and so she’d say she didn’t believe in heaven. We all pretty much figured she was an atheist. But then alcholism hit our family, and if you’re familiar with the 12 Steps, it’s completely based on the notion of a Higher Power. Suddenly Mom’s rejection of faith took on greater meaning, since the person in our family who was battling alcoholism was also rejecting 12 Steps.

    Well, long story short, that was a wake-up call for my mom. She has since returned to faith, and the family member is now sober about four years, I believe. So, there’s a backstory that I didn’t write about.

  7. That’s a fantastic myth – but a truly weird thing to actually believe!

    Interesting to learn about the backstory… I’m always fascinated to understand people’s reasons for believing what they do. I can see that confronted with something as destructive for a family as alcoholism you might well find your attitudes changing if the only thing that seemed to help included belief in a higher power.

    I just hope I never become an alcoholic because 12 steps definitely wouldn’t work for me!

  8. I guess my attitude is up in the air at the moment. I used to be a pretty strong believer in “live and let live” when it came to people’s beliefs. But then folks started flying planes into buildings, or demanding creationism be taught as a science, or opposing equal rights for homosexuals, etc. So I’ve been questioning this live and let live policy, and I’m feeling a bit torn these days.

  9. Paul, I know exactly what you mean – my views have been through a similar transition over recent years. Firstly with religions, and more recently with new-age beliefs, for reasons that I think you’ll be familiar with from previous posts here! Beliefs matter when they cause people to behave in harmful ways.

    Having said that, I don’t take any pleasure in challenging other people’s deeply held beliefs.

    Which is why I think it’s helpful to make a distinction between what people believe about what things mean and what people believe about how reality works/how people should behave. It’s a bit of a fuzzy distinction, but for me it helps to distinguish what I feel it appropriate to challenge.

  10. Pingback: The 92nd Carnival of the Godless « Jyunri Kankei

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s