A Reality Check

In the mid 50’s Vice Chancellor McCrady of the University of the South – or Sewanee if you like – was the invited speaker for my fraternity’s annual Founder’s Day Banquet. Sewanee is an Episcopal school known more for its Rhodes Scholars than for its football team. At Sewanee, the Chancellor is a Bishop appointed by the Church and the Vice Chancellor is the chief executive. Dr. McCrady was a scientist with a national reputation and was on our WWII nuclear physics team. After the war, he stayed on to study peace-time application of nuclear physics. He learned that radioactive tagging could be used to trace specific molecules as they flowed through the body. His team made the amazing discovery that your body continually replaces its tissue – including your brain and heart. To make the point, He looked around the room and said something like this: “There’s a good chance that someone in this room has a molecule in their body that came from that of Cleopatra.”

Of course, I didn’t take notes, but as I remember it, his bottom line was something like this:

  • The real you is not your body tissue – that gets totally replaced every several years. (If you find this to be incredible you might want to check this article.)

  • We understand very little about reality but we tend to believe that anything that we don’t understand doesn’t exist. For an example, he used “psychic powers”, and cited mental telepathy and the works of Edgar Cayce – the 20th century psychic who allegedly possessed the ability to answer questions on subjects as varied as healing and wars. These powers may or may not really exist, but we will never know that they don’t exist. It is impossible to prove that something doesn’t exist.

  • While we understand very little about reality, we tend to believe that anything we can’t understand doesn’t exist.

This was a turning point in my life, and the new bottom line for me became:

  • My body is not the real me.

  • Man understands very little of all that there is to know and can never know how much he doesn’t understand or never know that something doesn’t exist – so I don’t try.

  • I do know that the world exists and something called the universe exists but I understand almost nothing about either one of them. But they exist, so they got here are some way. They were created, so someone or some thing created them. My parents taught me that the English name for this creator is God – so I will stick to the name God. And they also taught me the Christian basics; God loves us, is all-powerful, all-knowing, always with us, and wants us to love him. He talks with us through the Bible and through prayer.

  • I have found the following quote to be most helpful for a better understanding:

    God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go either wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong; I cannot. If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata—of creatures that worked like machines—would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they must be free.”

    C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
  • For many years – encouraged by Christian relations of many kinds – I tried to understand God and to understand the mind of God. I finally concluded that this is a useless endeavor.

  • I don’t understand God but I think he understands me, and I think he will in some way communicate with me as he sees fit – the Bible calls it the Holy Spirit. So, I try to listen to his leadings, knowing that he understands my feelings.