The word ‘miracle’ has been overused to the point of losing its meaning. For example, we hear the term frequently in sports media coverage, with miracle comebacks here and miracle saves there. But if these are miracles, why, then, do they lack the timeless quality of wonder we expect from true miracles? When the first two men ran a mile in under four minutes in 1954, the media then called it the ‘miracle mile’, and don’t get me wrong, it was quite an achievement, but the hype subsided, and today, even a sportswriter would first consult their handbook of hyperbolic clichés for other options rather than call that kind of performance miraculous. And marketers and advertisers have also been known to use the term a bit loosely at times. Consider Miracle Whip. I don’t want to question your gastronomic tastes or impugn your theological views, but I think it violates Occam’s razor to think that we have to invoke the powers of divine intervention to explain the existence of an emulsified mayonnaise alternative. Is this what passes for a miracle nowadays?
Back in the day, God didn’t mess around with His miracles. When the children of Israel needed to escape slavery in Egypt, Yahweh thoughtfully sent great winds upon the water through the night to part the Red Sea, allowing the chosen people to casually stroll across the seabed in their flip-flops without any need to apply sunscreen, all while lugging their beach umbrellas and coolers full of snacks and pulling their whining tots along and trying to avoid the obnoxious meatheads tossing a football around right in the middle of everything. You can’t explain that by referring to known meteorological phenomena — hurricanes and storm surges just don’t part the seas like that, and it is well-known that meatheads avoid beaches in hurricanes, primarily because such weather conditions are unflattering to the male physique. And later on, things got tough again and the people did chide with Moses for they were in an advanced state of dehydration due to the unfavourable hydrological properties of the land through which they passed, but Moses went unto a rock in Horeb and apparently smote it with his rod and water came out of it so the people could drink. I’m really not sure quite what the translators of the King James version intended with that weird and frankly disturbing innuendo, but anyway, the point is, that was another miracle, and not the half-assed sort we see nowadays.
For something to justifiably be called a miracle drug, shouldn’t it at least cure sufferers of dropsy and cleanse lepers on the spot? Should not Miracle-Gro at least provide an input-to-yield ratio comparable to that of Jesus, where he multiplied five loaves and two fishes to a quantity and quality sufficient to feed a great multitude of thousands of sophisticated consumers? Should not a miracle diet or miracle weight-loss pill render the dieter or pill-popper at least as hot as Delilah or Bathsheba? The answer to all of these questions is unnecessary, because they’re just rhetorical questions. But I long for a true worker of miracles to again walk the land, to wave his/her hand and make the infirm strong, to restore sight to the blind, to grant the deaf the power of hearing, to give the dumb the power of smartness, to allow the lame to walk away with their lameness replaced by a general coolness, sporting a rad new hairstyle, encyclopedic knowledge of obscure indie bands, and an impressively apathetic and dismissive public persona.
That said, it occurs to me that if we do not see miracles all around us, perhaps it is only because we are not looking deep enough. Perhaps the entire fabric of our everyday lives is a miracle; perhaps there is really no great divide between the seemingly celestial, grandiose miracles of the Bible and the countless tiny, mundane, agonizingly boring everyday events that make up our lives and sustain us. And that’s not all – perhaps even the most fantastic miracles are consistent with physical laws. Recall the famous miracle of Jesus walking upon the water. A great wind was blowing upon the Sea of Galilee, and the disciples were in the boat upon the water, and Jesus walked unto them across the sea. Now, a skeptic would immediately dismiss this story as superstitious nonsense, as patently hare-brained and preposterous as everything else found in every religious text in existence. But not so fast – consider the water strider. For these insects, it’s a humdrum commonplace to walk across the water, and does the secular skeptic raise an eyebrow? Not at all – even the most clueless, most moronic, most ignorant Canadian federal Minister of Science knows well that the water strider’s appendages are covered with numerous microsetae with fine nanogrooves that have resultant hydrophobic properties that allow the insect to take advantage of the molecular cohesive properties of water as described by Eulerian-Lagrangian equations.
Surely, though, Jesus’s legs were not endowed with similar super-water-repellent properties thanks to a rich covering of almost invisible tiny needle-shaped hairs with hierarchical structures of nanogrooves? The very thought is blasphemy of the worst kind. But it’s not necessary to resort to such wild conjectures about the nature and texture of Jesus’ leg hair. Rather, consider the basilisk lizard. This remarkable animal runs across the surface of the water by employing its impressive understanding of physics. During the first phase of its step, it cleverly slaps its webbed foot rapidly down onto the water and then, in a stroke of genius, rapidly strokes it in a backward motion. The large reaction forces developed through these phases of the step provide substantial support and propulsion, enough to allow it to run across the water at high speed. I contend that Jesus used the same locomotory mechanism in His famous unassisted solo sea voyage. Because translations of the Bible are notorious for their inconsistency, I have consulted the original Aramaic scrolls, as is my usual practice. The original texts clearly state that “Yea, and the Lord moved rapidly across the water, and He did smite his feet down upon the surface of the water in an extremely high-velocity downward stroke, and in His glory He did follow this with a rapid rearward stroke, thus generating support forces of great might sufficient to counteract His downward acceleration due to gravity, while also providing forward propulsion, and thus did He trouble the water.” I propose that the Lord evolved this peculiar means of locomotion over countless millenia in response to intense selection pressures. Though God has no natural predators, we are made in His image, so it should be no surprise that He can get just as annoyed as the rest of us when pestered by people making unwelcome demands on His time. When trying to simply go about His day, shopping for groceries or bringing a plague of locusts or murrain upon the Egyptians, without fail He would be accosted by autograph-seekers or hounded by paparazzi. Then, all He could do was sigh and put on His fake smile and sign and pose away. But then came countless genetic mutations with differential degrees of environmental fitness, and it wasn’t too long, in terms of geological time anyway, until there came the time that when God sensed that the omnipresent hangers-on were getting too close for comfort, He would simply drop his bag of groceries and DVD rentals, give His harrassers the finger, and dash to safety, skipping lightly across the nearest body of water, where He would then sit down with His basilisk lizard friends, having a few beers and snacking on flowers, insects, and small vertebrates, laughing and joking and just generally shooting the breeze, just hanging out and enjoying the magnificence of His creation on a fine summer’s day with a bit of Skynnyrd rising out from the open doors of the parked Camaro into the warm, lazy air.