Unlike the Republican uncle and Progressive son-in-law brandishing their forks–while pointing out to each outer the one true path–belief systems can, in quiet moments, be seen to be partial views of a multi-faceted ‘reality’.
Some people become polarized about whether life is the unfolding of a Divine Plan or the consequence of a natural process. But “creationism” and “evolution” are two diverse ways of looking at the eternal mystery of life. To accept either one, while excluding the other, is to reduce the unknowable to a dogma of preference.
What Divine Plan could be worthy of an inspired Creator which didn’t leave room for beings to realize their own unique potential? And who among us can rise above our confused stumbling through life who does not—at least in moments of inspiration–feel the wingbeats of the infinite?
It seems a paradoxical phenomenon that change is sometimes needed in order for a process to continue, but I wonder if this may actually be a fundamental characteristic of how time manifests in our lives.
Sitting on the board of the “New Mexico Parkinson’s Coalition”, I find myself engaged in an effort to evolve from a non-profit organization that is entirely dependent on volunteer board members, to one with stable funding and paid staff. This evolution may be necessary if we are to survive.
Here’s a theory (about a theory). The concept of evolution (scientific or otherwise) expresses the optimistic hope that the past can influence the future through changes taking place in the present. The susceptibility of the present to the past seems a more important characteristic than any supposed mechanism of “random mutations”. To me, the most interesting dimension of the “theory of evolution” is that it posits a view of time which involves relationship among past, present and future: The accomplishments of the past have power, but only if those of us living in the present bring them forward into our time. If we do so, then we will have the opportunity to preserve those accomplishments—evolved and changed to fit the time in which we live—and to lift them up in the hope that a future time will find in them seeds worth nurturing.
This flow of potentiality is clearly visible for me, at this juncture of my life, in the New Mexico Parkinson’s Coalition, where a volunteer board has created an organization that provides an impressive range of support, education, and networking for the Parkinson’s community of New Mexico. But it is in the nature of time that this legacy is at risk—in this case because people who are themselves affected by a progressive disease, as were all the founding board members, cannot keep putting in countless, unremunerated hours on behalf of a constantly growing community.
So time is asking a question: can the energy and vision of this beginning evolve into a sustainable presence—one that adapts to the present time and is equipped to step into an unknown future?
The present offers a window that looks out onto the flow of time, where–among a chaotic migration of conditions and inertias–worthwhile accomplishments can move into the present from the past. It is for the present to then decide whether these visitors from the past—which are always at risk—are able to evolve into something relevant for our time. If recognition of continuing relevance occurs, then a place may also open up in the invisible domain of the future.
Although the past cannot force itself upon the present, and the future doesn’t issue special passports into its realms of open possibility, collaborating together, it can happen that past accomplishments and future hopes create a living relationship—from which positive change can come into being.
I don’t see a conflict between a Divine Plan and evolution. As much of the past is now present for us to examine, we have learned that sudden changes in the environment can drastically alter evolution for many species, resulting in extinction. Some of those sudden changes appeared random, but maybe they weren’t. And now maybe mankind will foster changes that will not be positive. It seems possible. I probably won’t be around to see the answer.