My Big Question: God, The Milky Way, Miracles, and More

April 7, 2021Richard Reiss

We live in a galaxy we called the Milky Way that is massive and unimaginable in size. Within the Milky Way are anywhere between 150 billion to 250 billion stars. The milky part of the Milky Way is dust and gas, of which there is enough to create approximately 100 million more stars. And scientists say it is colossally old, creeping up on 14 billion years.

Our galaxy is one of thousands in the Universe. And if you think it is gigantically big, well, guess what? It’s nothing compared to the Universe – which is not to say it is small. It is only small relative to the unfathomable size of everything. If you wanted to do a lap around the Milky Way, like some people do laps around a high school track, it would take 230 million years travelling at 670,616,629 miles an hour, which happens to be the speed of light. And should its billions of stars disappear one day, like a rabbit in a magician’s hat, the Universe would hardly notice their absence, although God (if you believe in God) might notice a void in God’s creation.

The enormous question for me, then, has always been: Is God watching? When I was young, I had a problem accepting that there was an entity out there – somewhere or anywhere – that watched our every action and ultimately determined if we were going up or going down (if you follow my drift). How could one being possibly follow billions of people on earth, let alone the Universe, which we have been told God created? But then I began to understand computers and realized that yes, one thing could follow billions of people if those people were nothing more than data points on a revolving planet with polar icecaps.

For a long time, my adolescent concept of the Computer God worked really well. Colloquialisms like “It was meant to be” or “Things happen for a reason” made perfect sense in a world where an all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-invisible Computer God guided and determined our lives as simply and accurately as GPS takes us from our homes to places where we have never been before. It’s all a bit of a mystery, but it’s a mystery in which we trust and believe.

Unfortunately, the older I get, the greyer the world becomes. For every act of kindness, an act of cruelty seems to create a universal imbalance. Is the Computer God directing cruelty, too? I discovered that life is hard; it’s complicated. Terrible things happen. I sat with my wife during chemotherapy and shaved her head before all of her hair fell out. I watched my son cry at the funeral of a friend who overdosed, all the while unaware of his own descent into the bowels of heroin addiction. And I saw dementia slowly steal my mother’s dignity, helpless to intervene. If Computer God was watching, I could only surmise that It had been infected with a terrible virus.

Seven years after surviving cancer, my wife had a horrible accident that should have killed her. More than a dozen bones were broken. Nearly every person I spoke to said it was a miracle she survived. They all said that surely a guardian angel had been her protector. Really? An angel of techno-Computer God? An algorithm? My faith in technology and religion was stretched. Where was the guardian angel before the accident occurred? Certainly, not preventing it.

My wife has long since healed, but the guardian angel legend – servant of the Computer God – continues to this day among the believers. They have achieved something that I have been unable to do: the suspension of disbelief which affirms their faith in the mysterious. Not me. Not yet.

Like all residents of Earth, I see the Milky Way diagonally, which is strange because in space there is no up or down. Sometimes it’s overwhelming to think that a speck in the universe of everything is worthy of attention. Yet, as any mathematician will tell you, a single digit out of place will ruin even the simplest formula.

I like to think that there is order in the Universe. To me, order implies balance, and to achieve balance requires the even distribution of good and bad. If I accept that guardian angels exist, what must I accept about their opposites?

For now, I accept that the Universe, our galaxy, and our solar system, are wondrous creations that evolve and struggle and try to make sense of everything. They are colossal and I am minuscule. Maybe I am the data point that messes up the perfect formula. Or maybe, just maybe – although I might be disappointed – I am right where I am supposed to be. 

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