Where to look for miracles

If people are determined not to believe something, then no amount of proof will change their mind. You will be called a liar for proclaiming things that call into question the way people are living. But remember, you’re just one in a long line of Cassandras and Jeremiahs — prophets who were scorned for being right. They stuck to their guns, and so should you. What’s the alternative? You can’t change the laws of nature.

If you still think you can overcome people’s aversion to the truth by uncovering better evidence, hey, go for it. Delve into the mysteries of geologic time, subatomic particles, or the outer reaches of the known universe, and bring the clearest evidence you can find — see if that makes any difference. Only those who have learned to listen will actually hear, and that depends in great measure on whatever chance circumstances shaped their upbringing; you have no control over it. Those who can’t hear are as good as dead — and therefore soon to rejoin the cosmic mystery in any case.

Some will say: How come God hasn’t sent some sort of obvious sign about this? And all you can say is, signs and miracles abound! Most people just don’t know how to read them. All creatures that move on the earth or fly through the air belong to communities equal in importance to your own. God doesn’t overlook anything, and we’re all in this together.

The foregoing is my own rough paraphrase of several verses from the Quran, 6:32-38, based primarily on the Ahmed Ali translation but with reference to several others on the Internet, especially for the crucial passage about the equal validity of non-human communities (other translations offer “societies” and even “peoples”). I even found a Sufi blog that interprets 6:38 as a call for animal rights.

Note however that in attempting to make this passage a bit more palatable for modern secular types, I have stripped out most of the poetry. The part about geologic time and subatomic particles, for example, paraphrases: “Seek out a tunnel (going deep) into the earth,/ or a ladder reaching out to the skies, and bring them a sign…” Fascinating stuff one way or the other, though, I thought. I am seriously exploring the idea of writing a modern bestiary now, and looking for inspiration. Who’d have thought the Muslim holy book would contain such a radically inclusive vision?

9 Comments


  1. great post…interesting! i am obsessed with the idea of bestiaries, they are the kind of books i imagine discovering in a tall, dimly-lit and ancient bookstore filled with arcane knowledge and magic. i hope that you really do this, i would love to read it, i will buy copies for all my friends at christmas (when i seem to have less of a problem waving my hand carelessly at large credit card bills, haha)…

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    1. Well, we’ll see what happens. I appreciate the reminder about arcana. These will be science-based, but hopefully preserve plenty of mystery (which shouldn’t be too hard because good science mainly just raises more profound questions).

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  2. Fascinating.. who would have thought it, indeed! A bestiary from Bonta, coming up, please!!!

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    1. Thanks. That was a pretty good post. I particularly liked the point that “The opposite of easy isn’t hard, it’s whatever it takes to meet the situation at hand.” Very Daoist, no?

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      1. Thanks for the link Susan! I just followed it back and found this post! Amazing!
        OK, I’ll try to tone back the exclamations.
        I’m struck most by the way you, Dave, or the Qur’an itself, makes the point that people cannot be brought to any belief by compulsion. That while some of us enjoy the pursuit of evidence and amassing constructs, these will not bring people in unless they are already predisposed and that, as with our own histories, is a result of accidents of birth and who we are.
        That the rest are “dead”already may be true. It ties in with the fascination with Zombies we have today.
        The only thing I would like to add is that without compassion for all Beings, including the Zombies, we are drawn into power plays that lead to our own corruption. Those who refuse to see the signs, even those fighting to destroy what little is left, do so out of a complex dynamic that has its basis in fear. If we focus on adapting to our own fears, we can come up with ways to help others do the same. At that point we can widen the circle and move forward.
        Looking forward to following your blog!

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        1. Hi Antonio – thanks for visiting and for leaving such a thoughtful response. I couldn’t agree more… and as for the zombies, George Romero himself made it pretty darn clear that those movies are a satire of mindless consumption. Even before the advent of the modern cosumer society, though, it seems that most people had a problem with being fully present most of the time, to say nothing of the tendency of older adults to avoid any challenging new ideas.

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