Between faith and science

By Herman Silochan

Last week I had to go to Belleville for the funeral of a cousin’s wife and at the Catholic Mass, there were lots of outpourings of fond memories, personal recollections in that crowded church. There was also universal acknowledgement of her unswerving Christian faith, the bedrock values of home and family.

In truth, her sons are all upstanding citizens with their own offspring. You come to understand why these communities remain solid in a rapidly changing world.

Sitting in the church, among other cousins, looking at all the Christmas buntings, evergreens and hollies, above and around us, time stood still for a couple of hours, as we honour the dead.
I am sure each and every one of us that Saturday, in that church, had our personal reflections, experiences and incidents that have shaped our lives. We generally say that all things happen for the better, and live our lives by that indeterminate code. After all, not everyone is a mathematician or trained philosopher. Even then, everyday occurrences force us to alter strategies for living gainfully.

The day before, in the wee hours of the morning, as I am accustomed to do, was to browse the internet for breaking news, with science and technology usually at the top. I always hunger for more. The headlines in that past week were that the 33 year old space ship, Voyager 1, was about to leave our solar system and enter into interstellar space, an unknown that we still have very, very little knowledge over. This is the farthest that a manmade object, still giving signals, has traveled from our planet, eleven billion miles away; Pioneer 10 an earlier craft preceded it, but is now considered lost. This is a story beyond robotics, or pure science, it is also a human story, because as we master technology, we shall forever travel to our limits and beyond. One might think of the original scientists who created this ship, and surely some are dead, like Carl Sagan, but their work lives on in immeasurable ways. That is why we create science fiction stories, because we put our imagination to work even as we remain earth bound.

This Voyager 1’s ongoing epic journey should have garnered bigger headlines, because we are on the threshold of something that will vastly alter our conceptions, our beliefs, and bring further questions about our biological origins.

From our Judeo-Christian biblical teachings, we learn of our creation in the first book of Genesis. It is majestic, poetic, in a language that carries assuredness, so much so that millions and millions of the faithful adhere to every word as the God given truth. So too, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Taoists, Mayans, Aztecs, all Aboriginal cultures have stories and traditions about creations that also garner the faithful. Is any teaching greater than the other? I say no.

Some years ago, I spent time in a Sweat Lodge ceremony in north western Ontario; I was asked by the shaman to suspend all disbelief, all negativity, and enter, half naked, the hot steam filled wigwam with an open mind and open heart, accept the chant, and only then will I understand. I obeyed him. Late that evening, exhausted, hungry, I felt cleansed, renewed, re-invigorated, I was taken somewhere into the self, even as I remained a child of the world of hard science.

In the ensuing weeks, if not years, I have asked myself if there is a bridge. Some will scoff and say, “Absolutely not!” and others will say, “All life is a pathway, and by increments we shall discover ourselves.” What I will say also, is that my consciousness of time and space has become acute. It is integral to how I observe things around me, even as I sit in church or a mandir, or a mosque and listen to the liturgy.

I think of those small grandchildren in Belleville on that weekend of mourning; all will grow up in an observably different world compared to ours, scientific revelations that we cannot comprehend from our present earthly laboratory. And yet there are those hundred year old cemeteries which anchor us, they pull us back into some sort of reality, and even that too requires long explanations. May Voyager 1 continue its journey forever and yet as always, a Holy and Happy Christmas to all our readers.