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- Faith, Science Roundtables
Eric Jensen writes the Faith and Sports column for our monthly church newsletter. He’s an aspiring sports journalist studying at SLCC. You have to check out his June article in this month’s issue He’s describing the unique architecture of our church, using sports metaphors of course. What caught me was how he talked about the vibe inside the sanctuary at Mount Tabor. “The vibe” is that tangible, invisible presence of a feeling you have when you’re with a person or group of people, or in a building. “Good Vibrations” are what we look for, like the Beach Boys. Eric says he feels good vibes in Tabor’s sanctuary. He talks about the natural sunlight, and how it often enters the sacred space. And he talks about sound, and the absence of sound, in our community’s worship together.
Vibes are all around us, wherever we are. I think tuning into those vibes, being intentionally aware of their presence, is something that either comes naturally to a person, or is something we have to work at to experience. People who experience it naturally call it a 6th Sense. But I think everyone is born with it. I think it’s associated with our “fight or flight” reflex; the sense of impending danger, or the sense of safety. Good vibes or bad vibes can come to us from people, places, or things. We don’t always have a rational explanation for it. It’s just what we feel.
On Pentecost Sunday we celebrated the coming of the Holy Spirit after the Risen Christ Jesus ascends into heaven. “I’m going away” he’s saying to his followers. “But you won’t be alone.” We won’t hear his voice on the earth anymore, but he promises the Spirit of God will keep talking. Tuning into the vibe of Christ’s presence, the vibe of God’s love, begins to take root. Spirituality begins to take root in the church.
I get God vibes often at Mount Tabor. It has good energy. Sometimes it’s stronger for me than at other times, but it’s something to be experienced here through community, through singing, through Gordon’s playing, through silence. The light. It’s good energy. I call it God vibes. The presence of something greater. The presence of hope. I think spirituality is tuning into the God vibes, and seeing where they take us.
One thing I have noticed about the Holy Spirit: she’s always doing something. She’s motivating, she’s inspiring, she’s always doing something. She’s an agent of change, growth, creation, and healing. Sound and light seem to be her favorite mediums. The Spirit uses them to touch our emotions, and emotions tune us into the presence of God. We get God Vibes. Always the good kind, never bad.
I’m always interested in how science can shape the experience of faith. The more science reveals about the cosmos, the more wonder is uncovered! Wonder is the common ground of faith and science, I think. Wonder is an emotion. It’s something we feel. It’s one of the deepest emotions we possess as humans. And it’s so healthy for us to experience it! Wonder always been a result of Christian spiritual formation.
The sacred spaces that humans construct have always had the goal of evoking that experience of wonder through sight, sound, and color: The highest cathedral ceilings; the lowest roof of a Lakota sweat lodge.
The experience of wonder is what we interpret as the experience of God’s Spirit. It’s the chills up the spine, the hair on the back of the neck: the good kind of vibes! Sometimes we get them from people we meet. Sometimes from music we hear. Sometimes from ideas that really resonate deeply with us. These are the God vibes that Pentecost is about. They are the intangible, yet real, experience of the Spirit in the body of Christ.
Do you ever hear Jesus complaining that his disciples don’t hear what he’s saying to them? All the time! “Don’t you get it? Don’t you feel me?” No, they don’t. They just don’t seem to be tuned in, for one reason or another. So human, right? It’s very comforting to me that even this is no obstacle for God’s grace. God is with them, and us, even when we’re in a fog. God’s love still finds us.
Science tells us now that humans really don’t hear everything the same way. The same words spoken by one person, and heard by others quite clearly, can be completely different when heard by someone else! I realize this is not news to couples who’ve been married for over ten years: he doesn’t hear what you are saying to him! He says, “I didn’t hear you tell me that!” “So you weren’t listening to me!” “But I was!” “If you were, you’d know what I said!” “You don’t listen anymore!”
So the explanation is that men hear what they want to hear, or they are tuning out their spouses. I’m not denying those explanations. But marriage is hard work. It takes a lot of intentional behavior, especially the more years in you are. Tuning out distractions and tuning into your spouse. That has been and always will be the challenge, right?
There’s a thing going around social media now that shows how you can hear something one time, and the next time the exact same thing sounds completely different. Sounds really weird, right? Some people hear it one way, every time. Others hear the same thing completely differently, every time. And still others can hear it one way today, and then completely different tomorrow. What is it?
You’ve heard of optical illusions? Like seeing a mirage? This is a demonstration of auditory illusion. It’s from Vocabulary.com, if you’re interested in trying it. You listen to a recording of a single spoken word, and you hear either the word, “Laurel” or the word “Yanny.” People either hear one or the other. Sometimes they hear “Laurel” one day, and “Yanny” the next. Completely different result, depending on the person, and the variables at the time.
It has to do with how individuals perceive high frequency sound, or low frequency. Sounds are waves of energy moving through atmosphere, and those waves vibrate in our ears at different rates: high or low; fast or slow. As we age, our eardrums begin losing their ability to sense the higher frequency sound waves. Old age, or too many rock concerts! Either way, eardrums wear out and the high frequency sounds are filtered out by our diminished ability to hear them, and now we hear the low frequency sounds instead. That’s what’s happening with the “Yanny” and “Laurel” experiment. The sound “Laurel” is a lower frequency sound. “Yanny” is a higher frequency sound.
If your ears are no longer what they used to be, you’re more often going to hear the sound “Laurel” in the experiment and if your ears are still sharp, you’ll hear “Yanny.”
Also, depending on the quality of speakers or headphones you are using, either the high or low frequency soundwaves are filtered differently and you’ll hear one word, but not the other.
If you switch to higher quality headphones, you’ll hear the other word! Either way, I think this proves my spouse can be saying “Take the garbage out please” but you in all likelihood can very well have heard “Change the channel please.” But since the word “please” is a high frequency word, you’d never hear that anyway and think to yourself “How demanding they’ve become!” And pout that kindness has fled your marriage forever! Is it any wonder that marriage is hard? It involves human beings!
The wonderful mystery to me of our shared faith story is that the eternal transcendent immortal Creator of all that is, became one of us. Became a human being, just to be able to relate to us on the lowest frequency possible so that we’d have this good news that no matter how dense we are or become, God would never leave us. God would always be there, speaking at a higher frequency level now but still speaking.
I think the Spirit of God is always trying to get us to comprehend that there’s more here than meets the eye (or ear). There’s wonder woven in, with, and under “the ordinary” (as we might call it). And I think the Spirit of God is trying to always inspire us to look closer, focus more, and discover how there’s really nothing that’s ordinary after all. By the grace of the Holy Spirit, God vibes are everywhere.