Last week we began the nostalgic trip through my email files (more exactly, Allen Lerman’s email files.) I shared the launch of It’s Wednesday and the anti-gossip theme with which it began. Today I share from the next theme, which was God. We discussed and debated, talked about belief and non-belief and why Jews are overrepresented in the latter category, whether faith heals, you name it. Here is one of my most favorite postings from that series, dated September 2006.
Why do people believe in God? The last few Wednesdays we talked about God’s role in our lives. For some, God has such a role and that is the basis of their belief in God. For others, it is God’s actions in history, for others it is God’s creation of the universe. Since most Americans profess a belief in God, including [even] most Jews, it’s always important to do some self-examination (and what better time than the eve of the High Holidays?) about why each of us who believes believes. Here is some food for thought that I chanced upon in preparing my sermons for those very High Holidays. I hate to use up good material before the Holidays, but for you nothing is too great a sacrifice.
During the Renaissance, the mathematician Fibonnaci taught us a sequence of numbers. 1,2,3,5,8,13,21, etc. Each number is the sum of its previous two numbers. If you divide the larger number by the smaller and average the numbers out along the sequence, you arrive at a most interesting number, [approximately] 1.618. After observing much of life, including the human body, Leonardo Da Vinci called this number the Golden, or the Divine, Mean. Most of life, he concluded, is established around it. If we measure the rings and strata of all shells in the ocean, we’ll soon discover that the relationship between the outer ring and its immediate interior ring is 1.618. If we were to measure the rings of a tree, we would soon discover that all trees grow at a rate of 1.618. The ratio of males to females in a honeycomb is, you guessed it, 1.618. And, if you measure the human body, you will see the number 1.618 popping up all over the place. Divide your height by the distance from your belly button to the floor and you’ll get 1.618. Try it with your arms – divide the distance from your shoulder to your fingertips by the distance from your elbow to your fingertip, as well as the distance of your leg divided by the distance of your knee of the floor. You’ll find that the ratio of the smaller to the larger is 1.618. The ratio of your hand to your forearm is, you guessed it 1.618. So, it is with your hand and the relationship of the fingers. This was the point of Da Vinci’s famous drawing of the Vitruvian man. The spirals in a sunflower, a pine cone, or a pineapple, the petals in a rose, have a ratio of the larger to the smaller rings of 1.618. Coincidence you say. Perhaps. But maybe, just maybe there is a plan to the world in which we live. Maybe one can conclude from this order, which connects all life, that there is a divine planner after all.
I hope you have time for some thoughts about God and belief on this Wednesday, and other days too. Bill Rudolph