Strange encounters

You and I are but specks of that rhythmic urge which is Brahma, which is Allah, which is God.

Ruth St. Denis

IMG_2243My friend R is visiting from Chicago.  She had spent a few days with her friend H near Cuernavaca, where H lives.

R and I were in a cafe when we met this very soft-spoken man who tried to convince us that there was a creator.  The conversation started innocuously enough as he asked where we were from, what we did and all that.  When I asked him what he did he said he volunteered, and then he said he taught and I asked if he taught English, but he said no, he taught morals using the [Christian] Bible.  And I thought, “shit, a missionary.”  It was worse than that as he was a pretty slippery rhetorical character.

When he learned R worked in science, he tried to convince her that there was some being or force behind the handedness or alignment of amino acids.  R is an atheist who teaches physiology and knows one or more facts about amino acids and their handedness and spoke with authority while the guy was just quoted something he didn’t understand.  He then turned to a book that had quotes from scientists that supposedly showed they questioned the workings of the universe as being anything but the work of a creator.

He said he had been taught by Jesuits, all of whom had to have Ph.D.’s.  He said he was anti-organized religion.  He seemed awed by authorities.

He claimed to understand science and mathematics but he didn’t understand that for every question a scientist answers at least one new question gets posed.  He quoted Einstein’s statements about the existence of god and he yet he didn’t understand that Einstein’s concept of god, according to Einstein himself, was not a literal god.  R tried to convey that Einstein’s god was metaphorical, almost like Ruth St. Denis’s definition above.  In a letter to Eric Gutkind in 1954 Einstein wrote:

The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this.

IMG_2245Those who have faith seem to want the questions to cease – want to be secure in their faith, for faith is unquestioning, except perhaps to say “Why god, me?”

R comes from a Polish-Irish Roman Catholic background so we have spent time in churches and cathedrals and on Sunday we went to Atotonilco where the chapel’s ceiling is covered with frescoes and where penitents from all over Mexico come on retreat, some to flail themselves and crawl on all fours in their stone-floored cells. R bought a corona, a crown of thorns, and a braided whip.

In San Miguel  today (Tuesday) I encountered BC who is moving to Tijuana and then passed the memorial to the victims of the murder and kidnapping of 43 young men that took place in Ayotzinapa.

Pina, Wim Wenders

Pina Bausch’s dance troupe performs her choreography in a film by Wim Wenders.


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