Grace Happens - Not / by John Ailor

A friend said to me "What rhymes with Orange".  I said, "No it doesn't".

When I heard the topic for this summer's Wednesday night services was "Grace Happens", I said, "No it doesn't'".  Grace doesn't happen.  

Lot's of things happen.  Middle C happens.  Every time it's played on an Organ, or a piano, or a car sounds a particular alert tone.  A person can make Middle C happen.  A computer algorithm can make MIddle C happen.  But when someone or something isn't making Middle C happen, there is no Middle C.  There is the concept, created by Humans, of Middle C.  When Middle C isn't happening, there is the concept of Middle C that humans can discuss and analyze, but that concept only exists when a human is thinking or talking about it.   Concepts created by Humans only exist in the collective conscious of Humankind.  Without that collective conscious, humankind conceived concepts don't exist.  Other species don't know about Middle C as a concept.  They experience Middle C when it happens, but they don't, as far as we know, have a musical theory that places that particular tone in the middle of a scale.

Bats can't see.  Their entire reality is based on an amazingly sophisticated sonar.  Their sonar is so highly developed that they can dart through the sky and catch a tiny flying insect in their mouth.  Bats visualize the world in a way we can't begin to imagine.  Yet their version of visualizing the world without seeing is shockingly efficient.  Watching a Bat erratically dart around the sky at dusk, you have to be impressed, once you get over your skittishness and fear of being bitten on the neck, with their sightless abilities.  While our powerful technology that guides nuclear submarines is sophisticated, I'm much more impressed with that bat snatching it's tiny prey out of the evening sky.  I have to think that, while Human's musical scales produce glorious sounds, something as central as the tone we call Middle C in our theory is an infinitesimal aspect of a bat's sonar reality.  A bat only "sees" Middle C when it happens, if it happens at all.  

The tone we call Middle C only exists when it happens.  Most of the time, Middle C doesn't happen, and when it's not happening, it doesn't exist.  

Grace.  Grace doesn't happen.  For something to happen there has to be a time when it doesn't exist.  Unlike Middle C, there isn't a time or place when Grace doesn't exist.  You certainly experience Grace.  Once in awhile the experience of Grace is so profound that you are compelled to acknowledge it.  Once in awhile experiencing Grace is so amazing that songs get written about it.  Once is awhile experiencing Grace is so all consuming that you name your child Grace.   Once is awhile someone lives their life and dies their death so full of Grace that their eulogy is all about their life lived in Grace.  But Grace doesn't happen.  It can't because to happen there has to be a time that there is no Grace and there is no time when there is no Grace.  Grace isn't absent because you have done something wrong.  There is no hole in Grace because you don't measure up to someone's expectations.  Grace is always.  Grace just is. Grace covers all time, all places, all circumstances.  Grace transcends dimensions, universes, species, religions, systems of government, political parties, genders, grace is always.  Grace transcends Humankind.  

There will, presumably, be a time after Humankind as we know it today.  There certainly was a time before Humans.  Scientist believe the universe is around 14 billion years old, the earth 4.5 billion years old, our ancestors about 6 million and Homo Sapiens a mere 200,000 years old.  If the age of the universe was the length of your outstretched arms, Homo Sapien's time would be less than the dust created when you file your fingernails.  

But Grace, Grace, as we understand it, is older than the universe.  Grace was around when Homo Sapiens evolved from Homo Erectus and will be around when Homo Sapiens evolve into something else.  I say Grace, as we understand it, because Grace will only be around post-Homo Sapiens if Grace is in fact not a concept created by Humankind.  

You might have seen in the news lately a little dust up between Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Tesla's (Paypal, SpaceX, etc.) Elon Musk.  Musk is asserting that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is dangerous and its development needs to be controlled.  Zuckerberg takes the opposing view, that AI will evolve for good.  This is not a new argument.  For decades the idea of the Singularity, when machines become smarter than Humans, has bounced around.  The fear is that unless some form of liberal or social humanism (the idea that the Summum bonum of existence is a focus on humans and their values, capacities and worth) is embedded in AI, then eventually, when machines become smarter than humans and can create and program themselves,  machines will decide Humans no longer have a useful purpose and will wipe us out in the pursuit of their Summum bonum - whatever that may be.

But if you believe, as I believe, that Grace is always, that Grace has always been and will always be, that Grace transcends Humans, then you have to acknowledge, as Viktor Frankl does in his book "Man's Search for Meaning" that Grace was in the ghettos and concentration camps of World War II.  You have to acknowledge that Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Aleppo and Mosul were, and are,  as bathed with Grace as are the sweet voices of children at summer camp signing "This is the Day".  Grace is everywhere and in all things.  While Middle C may not exist for the Bat, the Bat exists in Grace.    In my charmed life, Grace isn't hard to find.  John Newton during that storm aboard the Greyhound, and Viktor Frankl had to search harder than do I.  For me, I find Grace on the long quiet runs on the Chester Valley Trail  and in the wind on the Chesapeake Bay.  Grace is always, Grace is here, now.  So, take a deep breath and be in this moment and experience the alwayness of Grace.  

Take a deep breath and accept that "What" does not rhyme with Orange, accept that nothing rhymes with Orange, and Grace doesn't happen, Grace just is.