The bats were out again this morning. Around 6:15am. Until recently, I was a bit put out by them. Strike that: I was a bit repulsed by them. I didn’t like them. But then I learned that bats pollinate fruits like bananas and mangoes. I’m agnostic regarding their involvement with the latter, which are hard as hell to cut and make edible, but I am — as I’m sure most of us are — grateful for the banana side of its deployment. And I also learned that we and bats and whales might share a common ancestor from millions of years ago. Yep. Depending on your stance on evolution, we hang out at the same get-togethers on Thanksgiving Day.
In the same breath, I’ll add this: I am as comfortable believing I evolved from a billion years-old protoplasmic blob on Earth’s surface as I am that I came from a 59-year-old blob inside my mother’s womb. Both are miraculous; both are life; both are sacred to me. My and others’ lives and the health of Earth are mine to steward. That is what I believe. ‘Nuff said.
This reminds me of a story.
Shortly after moving to New York from Lubbock in 1995, Karen was riding in a cab with a driver whose name was Nufsed (pronounced NUFF-sedd). She knew what his name was because every yellow taxi in the city must display within view of the passenger an ID plaque with the driver’s name and Taxi and Limousine Commission license number. She being the friendly Texan, she starts talking with “Nufsed,” and because it seems Nufsed is struggling with something in his life, she steers the conversation toward spiritual matters. They reach her destination and she wishes him well and vice versa. A week or two later, she gets in a cab to go somewhere else. (She had not yet realized that real New Yorkers take the subway everywhere, not cabs, but then she hadn’t met me yet, nor had she benefited from my extensive knowledge of the subway system. In fact, she often joked with people while we lived there that the main reason she married me was for my knowledge of the subway system. Now living in Kerrville, Texas, which doesn’t enjoy the benefits of the New York City subway system nor my knowledge of same, I am rendered mostly useless except for my ability to make a decent chicken fettuccine alfredo.)
But back to the story.
As I said, a week or two later Karen took another cab ride — eschewing the subway — and lo and behold the driver was Nufsed! Now, you have to realize that as many yellow taxis that you already think you see in shows involving New York City, that apparent ubiquity is probably under-represented. There are more than 13,000 yellow cabs shuttling fake New Yorkers from one place to another at a cost of $0.50 for every ten feet. More recently, add to that number another 9,000 “Black Cars,” which is the term used for Uber and Lyft drivers and the like. So Karen got in the cab and greeted Nufsed, and he remembered her as well, even though riders are not required to display an ID tag. (Ba-dum-dum. “I’m here all week, folks.”)
You have probably already have guessed that this kind of thing “just doesn’t happen.” Until it does. It’s so unlikely to happen that as many years as I spent in New York, and as capable as I am of remembering faces and names — that’s what essentially I’ve been paid to do for more than a quarter century — what happened to Karen has never happened to me. (Yes, I did take the occasional cab or two.) All I can conclude is that whatever spiritual matters they discussed were matters that, if I know Karen as I do, they are things that Nufsed needed to hear and things that might well have given him new hope in life. New reason to believe he is loved. Their meeting again was no accident, but it can’t be explained.
So I don’t like bats. Or didn’t so much until I remembered their usefulness in consuming mosquitoes that otherwise might have been vexing me. Or until I learned that they cause bananas to be in my life or until I learned that whales and dogs are in my life because of our common ancestor. I like whales and dogs a lot.
So I don’t like bats that much today any more than I like the distant and pimple-covered cousin who, on that large family Thanksgiving Day, stations himself at the far end of the food table eating most of the guacamole and even double dips. (This is Texas. Use your appetizer of choice.) This distant cousin, however, is also the one who volunteers to clean the kitchen later that day, when the rest of us are falling asleep in front of the Cowboys-Giants game on TV.
But I’m big on miracles. I’m big on not knowing how it was that Nufsed and Karen crossed paths a second time in a way that “just doesn’t happen.” I’m big on not knowing how it is that, as my belief goes, all living creatures evolved from an ancient blob in the same way I myself grew from a more-recent blob. (I do also believe, however, that one human’s origin may have been only half-blobulous.) I’m big on mystery, because it is Mystery that breaths faith into my waking moments.
It is said, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” I believe that. But today I believe it in a new way, because of bats and because of Nufsed.
I used to think that the “evidence” was certain prescribed beliefs that I grabbed onto like a life-preserver and that underscored the truth of what I could not see, which was the existence of God. The life-preserver was tangible, it floated and I could grab it and hold it under my chest and stay alive until rescued by a search team from Bora Bora. The life preserver didn’t work for the person next to me, mind you, but it worked for me and my minimum survival, thank-you-very-much-now-fuck-off.
Today I believe that the “evidence” is mystery itself — the “things not seen” — that provides me reason to have and live out faith. That I can’t explain why Nufsed and Karen met twice. That I find it completely compatible, philosophically, biologically and theologically, that I came from two different kinds of blobs, as did bats, whales and dogs. Each creature — except perhaps for the aforementioned Half-Blobulous One — came from an initial blob and a secondary blob as it started its journey toward waking consciousness. That’s what I believe, at least.
The more mystery I encounter, the more mystery that arises one day that science explains the next day and which is then supplanted by new mystery, new science, and is again supplanted the following day…the more that that dynamic repeats each day that I live, the more faith I have that the original blob I came from has blossomed into something so beautiful, so marvelous, so unbelievable — so increasingly Mysterious — that today I have indisputable evidence that I will never have an answer to it other than to declare: “God.”