I have shared in the past that I was reared by, and infused with the values of, a staunch empiricist. Yet my scientist father was a highly committed and active member of the Episcopal Church most of his adult life. Furthermore, to everyone’s surprise, including mine, he parented an Episcopal priest who evolved into a Unitarian minister. As a teenager I could not untangle the mystery of how belief in science and faith could be embodied in a single skin. It was a conundrum. It was an impossible juxtaposition. It was mind-numbing cognitive dissonance. It defied an adolescent’s black and white view of reality.
To continue with Elizabeth’s Kolbert’s river metaphor, I am reminded of a gift a friend who knew me too well gave me at the beginning of my ministry. It was a poster of a landscape featuring a river. The caption beneath it read, “Don’t push the river”. This intrinsically Taoist wisdom taunted me from its primacy of place on the wall facing my desk. All my stereotypic male traits wanted to move the river faster; straighten its meandering nature; keep it carefully constrained within its banks. There was way too much to be done to accept the river’s natural pace. The river’s course might be more picturesque, but posters be damned, it wasn’t efficient or fit for purpose from my limited view. Time to push it.
Optical illusions are fun. In part because they are universal as far as I know. The word illusion comes from the Latin word illudere, meaning “to mock”. These illusions trick our brains into perceiving something different from physical reality. Three common ones are illusory motion (images that appear to be moving), double pictures (images that contain two pictures in one), and impossible objects (images that make sense when drawn on paper, but which could never exist in real life!).