|God & Nature Magazine||
In a Room with All Walls Painted Black
The author in a college production of "Beyond Therapy"
Anyone familiar with improvisational acting will likely recognize the phrase, “Yes, and.” It’s the simplest way for a director to state what a talented actor intrinsically knows: Whatever your partner onstage is feeding you, you must respond and work with it. In order for a scene to go forward, and for your chemistry to fly, you as an actor cannot ever stop and say, “No, that’s not how it’s supposed to go.” You can only accept what your partner is giving you—and then add something of your own. No matter the action, or question, or statement, the answer is never “No.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about the days I spent in the black box theatre at Louisville’s Bellarmine University ever since late August, when a good friend of mine passed away from a rare, aggressive form of brain cancer. Ryan Coffey was 27 years old, a carpenter, a poet, a builder of homes for the poor. Without knowing it, he seemed to incorporate this strange little motto into his work, his relationships, and most of the opportunities that crossed his path.
“He never knew a stranger,” I have heard many say since Ryan’s death. Perhaps what they mean by this rather tired sentiment is that Ryan accepted anything you gave him, good or bad, and responded in a way that was both meaningful and surprising. He never flat-out rejected a person or an idea. At least, in the nine years I knew him, I never saw it.
Friends have also eulogized Ryan’s zest for life, his incomparable energy, his ridiculous dreams, his predictable unpredictably, and his willingness to try almost anything. I say to them: Ryan was, “Yes, and.”
What on earth does all this have to do with science and faith?
Simply this. Two equal and opposite assumptions exist at the outset of any conversation about these two disparate paradigms of human exploration and understanding:
1) All the physical stuff that we can observe, test, and formulate theories about in the universe is all there is to the universe, no exceptions.
2) All the physical stuff that we can observe, test, and formulate theories about in the universe is not all there is to the universe.
Each of us, at one or many points in life, will choose whether to believe that there may be more to creation than what we can and have studied scientifically. Nestled among the assumptions we make every day (that the universe is intelligible and its laws unchanging chief among them), we, as members of a curious and self-aware species, have a choice whether to allow the idea of God—the divine—the creator—the life force—infinite love—whatever you call it—into our minds and lives, also.
We are called to act. Having chosen, “Yes,” we are faced with, “And...” And what? We might ask. What next?