In the Beginning …
July 1976 – It’s a beautiful Saturday night with a star-filled sky in Barton, Vermont. Like every other summer evening, my family and our campground friends huddled around the campfire to laugh, talk and pop Jiffy-Pop popcorn. I loved those weekends in Vermont … swimming in the lake, tadpole fishing in the creek, racing up and down the mountain side and counting stars in the beautiful night sky of rural New England. I never once watched TV while in Vermont (we didn’t have one), nor did we listen to the radio. We didn’t even have a clock/radio in the country! All of that was willingly left back in Montreal, where I was born and raised. Instead of sitting inside, I raced through the mountain trails, made art with nature, or drew pictures, and hand-fed cute little chipmunks. Even as I grew older, I recognized that my Church was a canopy of beautiful trees.
I grew up with a wonderful sense of community, friendship and appreciation for nature.
On this particular evening, my Dad and I went to lie out in the grass on the crest of the mountain to star gaze and wait for the satellite – which I later identified as Sputnik – to pass overhead like it did every Saturday around 10pm. When younger, that was my cue to head up the hill to the washroom, then into bed for the night. How fortunate I was to have a space satellite as my night light! My 10-year-old self was given gifts that lasted a lifetime – a sense of wonder and belonging.
I consider that conversation with my Dad to be one of the Top Ten moments in my life, and still remember the night like it was last weekend.
“Why are we here?”
“HOW are we here?”
“Where did all of this come from?”
We wondered and debated how any of this – us, the trees, the distant stars – could be here. And where did it all come from? We spoke of science, nature and God. While we weren’t a family who practiced religion except on Christian holidays, we had spiritual moments, especially my Dad. He was the smartest man I knew and he felt that somehow there was all a deeper meaning to life on this planet. When I questioned faith, he said something that didn’t resonate within me until over thirty years later … He said “Sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees. We want to experience it with our five senses – see it and touch it and hear it. We want to taste and smell it. But what about that sixth sense that is all about feeling. Sometimes you just have to feel it in your heart.”
My Dad was convinced that there was a higher being at work. Our beautiful Universe was too perfect to be the result of a long line of evolutionary successes and mistakes. I recall him showing me a diagram of how many asteroids had closely missed our planet. It wasn’t the hits that amazed him. It was how many times we DIDN’T get hit.
My love of science led me away from spirituality … “Science is my religion” I said. I couldn’t reconcile the Theory of Evolution to God Created the Earth. I never thought they could be two compatible beliefs.
The bible tells us that God created the earth in 6 days and rested on the 7th, but the science journals tell us Earth began as a gas and dust cloud 4.6 billion years ago.
The 4.6 billion years sounded more plausible. Even enough time for evolution to wind through the eras, making a few mistakes along the way. But that still doesn’t answer the “why” and the “how” or “where it all came from” and “who started it”.
I scoffed at the bible – it wasn’t the word of God. It was man’s word, and we know how reliable humans are! A few years earlier when I was six, I attended Sunday school and was … booted out! How do you fail Sunday school? Well – you swear and call bullshit to some of the stories – that’s how! I couldn’t reach the hook to hang my coat and my little anxious self didn’t want to ask the strange Sunday School teacher, so I was relieved not to go back. Dad was mortified. Mom applauded my critical thinking skills!
My Mom’s Mother – whom I never met as she died when my Mom was only 14 – said to her “We live our Heaven and Hell right here on earth.” And I believe she is right.
Something magical happened that night back in July 1976 that left the door open for me to believe that there was something more …