Here is the content of a news report I read this morning.
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — A teenager fell six stories from a hotel balcony but walked away with just bruises and scrapes.
Matthew Savage, 17, was reaching up to a balcony one floor above to grab a bathing suit that had fluttered down from the 11th floor when he tumbled over the railing Friday.
The teen, from Gainesville, Ga., hit other balconies on his way down and slammed onto a slanted rooftop, then slid into bushes.
“I just closed my eyes,” Savage said, nursing scrapes and bruises on his back and legs.
After landing in the bushes, he got up and started walking back to his room. But paramedics strapped him to a board and flew him to a hospital, where tests showed he was fine.
“This was a ‘God is real’ event,” his sister, Mandy Baker, said.
I’m really glad the kid is okay. He didn’t seem to be doing anything particularly stupid like doing handstands on the balcony like some people who have fallen. He apparently wasn’t drunk or under the influence. In fact, he seems to have been trying to do someone a favor by retrieving their swimsuit. Perhaps hanging out on the balcony to retrieve the suit was not the safest thing and gravity is still in effect in Myrtle Beach I hear.
What struck me was his sister’s response to this “miracle”. She called this a “God is real” event. I guess she believes he was spared by God for some reason. Apparently she considers this a miracle that proves the existence of a diety, I assume the “God” of the Bible or of Judeo-Christianity in general.
It certainly is amazing although not unique. People have fallen from great heights before and walked away. The question is why? If this was a miracle, if “God” intervened in what one might expect to be the “natural” consequences of falling from a six story height, why would he do that? There are other people who have also fallen and died, far more than have lived. Why did God not save them? What is it about this kid that got God’s attention and prompted him to intervene and save his life? Is the kid destined for some great accomplishments that will aid humanity? No one knows and in a few years no one will remember this happened. I would guess the kid will probably live out his life in obscurity and die a death like all the rest of us. So, what is God’s inscrutable plan here?
Is is possible this is not a miracle at all. Is it possible there was a confluence of natural events, all completely explicable and explanable accounting for his survival? I would guess this is not inexplicable at all. Unusual, yes! Rather amazing, indeed! Miraculous, hardly! If the kid should take anything away from this event it should be not to hang out over six story balconies to retrieve bathing suits, not that “God exist and has a wonderful plan for his life.”
Perhaps it was not God that saved him, perhaps it was Vishnu, or Kali or Allah or some other diety. Perhaps it was the Devil and his future is really infamous. The issue is that the “natural” can be amazing. Just because an event is unusual, uncommon, perhaps even unique does not make it a miracle nor does it prove divine intervention or more specifically the divine intervention of a particular diety. We have lost the wonder of the universe, the unpredictable and amazing things to be found in the “natural”. We have dumbed down the natural in order to make room for the supernatural.
Another issue here is the “non-refutability” of an event like this. I expect there is nothing you could say or show some people with regard to this event that would “prove” it was not divine intervention. If there is no event or circumstances or evidence that will disprove an hypothesis, then the hypothesis is not rational at all but an irrational belief.
However, you hear this sort of thing all the time. It seems to be part of the desire humans have to believe there is someone bigger and more powerful than we are who can take care of things that seem out of our control, too complicated for us to understand, or uncertain and unknown to us. We seem to have a problem dealing with uncertainty and the inherent “helplessness” of living in a world where so many things are outside our control. Things have to make sense and if we don’t understand them somebody has to, so enter God. It seems though we are better able to handle the inscrutablility, apparent inconsistency and helplessness in the face of an all-powerful diety than at the hands of the impersonal universe itself.
The key seems to be the personal. Even if he is inscrutable, unknown and apparently inconsistent doing with us what he will at least God is personal, an entity like us and benevolent someone we can supposedly trust. So, perhaps it comes down to not wanted to acknowledge that in this wide universe the individual human is rather inconsequential and insignificant. On the one hand, we are human and living which makes each of use unique and of value. On the other hand we are each like one cell in the body rather insignificant in the face of the whole universe. This is a difficult thing to accept.
I came to this some years ago. I realized that I would, at best only live for 80 to 100 years, a drop in the cosmic bucket. People more famous and accomplished than me had been long forgotten. My mark on the universe was so small it was virtually non-existent. I would come and go and be lost in the eddys of time. I might have an impact on some people, on my children and so on but eventually they too would die and chances are in a a couple of generations I would be nothing more than a name in a geneology book if that. It’s rather sobering but absolutely true.
How does one deal with one’s relative insignificance?