Sometimes I feel like the confused rat Emile in the animated film Ratatouille whose brother Remy waves a piece of stinking cheese passionately in front of his nose wondering if he can “detect a certain oaky nuttiness” in its aroma; Emile responds to Remy’s inquiry with a raised eyebrow, concerned about his brother’s sanity, as he says, “Oh, I’m detecting nuttiness, all right!” If you take a look around these days you’re sure to find plenty of nuttiness, oaky or otherwise. In particular, questions of faith bring with them a whole dumpster full of it and I’m routinely amazed at all of the craziness out there.
There is passionate foolishness on both sides of the God debate but, to be honest, I’m baffled more often by the casual attitude most people take to the question of God. Belief or unbelief is welcomed with bland disinterest and church leaders are left struggling to meet a minimum standard of relevance. Relevance? Something tells me that God—you know the one…maker of heaven and earth, yadda, yadda, yadda—would seek more than relevance. But maybe that’s just me. Whether you believe or not is a huge decision, a fundamentally significant point of perspective, and I would hope that the existence (or non-existence) of God and its impact on your life would be entertained with, well, more gravity.
Albert Einstein, a man who knew quite a bit about relevance and gravity, once said that we have a choice between two ways of looking at the world: either everything is a miracle or nothing is. The life of faith consists in a similar decisiveness—either God exists or not. I don’t think that I exaggerate when I say that this basic point of departure has life-changing consequences depending on what choice we make, what we choose to believe. Leaving aside all of the petty fantasizing about the afterlife for a moment, it seems that this basic decision, the choice of faith taken seriously, would have radical implications for the life we’re already living. The fact of God’s existence aside, this choice of faith implicates us and our life is what is at stake.
Pedro Arrupe, S.J. famously compared finding God to falling in love and scandalously suggested that both were actually practical things to do! Falling in love, he said, affects everything and decides what gets us out of bed in the morning. Now, I’m not really a morning person and getting out of bed, for God or anyone else, rarely strikes me as the most practical thing to do, but I have to admit, I think he’s on to something. Take our work for example, our career, our daily occupation: Either this—the creative task, the work of love, the daily grind—is the work of God or it isn’t. Wouldn’t settling this choice determine whether we want to get out of bed at all?
It seems to me that we’re well served to spend some time, perhaps even daily, asking ourselves these questions; that is to say, we might as well take our lives seriously. If it’s relevance you want, well then, it seems to be the most relevant concern out there.