Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Magnets and vegetables

Hello, Father God.

Katy is learning about magnets at school. This weekend she's been creeping round the house with a large magnet stabbing it at random metal items to see if they'll stick. Radiator, yes. Teaspoon, yes. Grandma's glasses, no. Thankfully.

This thing happened, and you were right there.

My husband got out a very sensitive set of kitchen scales. He placed a key on the scales and then slowly lowered the magnet over the key from above.

The key weighed 17g. As the magnet got closer, closer, the key weighed less and less.

14g...11g... 9.25g... 5.67g...

At 4.3g, the key jumped up to meet the magnet. Whoof. Just like that.

He kept the magnet and key hovering over the scales and the weight registering on the scales started showing minus numbers.

-0.3g... -2g... -3.55g...

The metal plate on top of the scales was being pulled upwards by the magnet.

There was a force acting on the metal key and the metal scales that we couldn't see. Completely invisible, but it was there nonetheless and its effects were obvious. Electromagnetism.

We don't know what electromagnetism is, but we know that it IS. We know what it does, but not really how or why. Apparently people think that it has something to do with spinning electrons but we're not sure. Personally if I've ever known what an electron was, I've forgotten. All I know is that a magnet pulls things towards it. I can see it doing its thing.

It made me think of you. I see you even when you don't come and sit on the end of my bed and chat with me. I can see you in the force of a magnet. Irresistible, subtle, powerful, insistent, inexplicable. I can see you in the uniqueness of snowflakes and in the joy of a five year old making brand new footsteps in freshly fallen drifts of snow. I see you in dew on a spider's web and in orange evening sun on a bare tree. I see you all around, even when I can't see you at all.

You know what I mean because I'm supposed to see you in all these things. I see you pulling like a magnet. I see the power of you, pulling. I am drawn towards you.

 We had this vegetable on Sunday. Part of lunch. It was called Romanesco Broccoli. Sort of like a bright green cross between a cauliflower and broccoli, and as vegetables go, it was the most beautiful vegetable I've ever seen. It's a natural approximation of a fractal.

A fractal is a geometric shape that has symmetry of scale, which means that it's a shape that keeps doing the same thing over and over again. If you were to zoom in on a part of it, it would still look the same. I'm told this is called, 'self-similarity', but I fear I might get sucked into something equation-like and quite complicated if I go much deeper. I am a bear of very little brain when it comes to this stuff. Perhaps that's why I'm so easily astonished?

But look at this breathtaking vegetable and tell me, who wouldn't be impressed?

The romanesco broccoli swirls round in an intricate pattern repeated over and over again, smaller and smaller. A vivid, surprisingly bright green. Beautiful. And when cooked, rather tasty on my plate with some roast chicken, mash and gravy. It wasn't easy to cut into it and serve it up. Such a shame to spoil it.

I contemplated the swirly vegetable and I wondered at a God who would make a vegetable fascinatingly intricate, geometrically beautiful. Why? Because you could.

For the same reason that it pleased you to make a metal key jump three inches towards a lowered magnet. For the same reason that you decided that every snowflake should be different. Just Because You Could.

I see you all around. I'm looking at the flames of the fire. The way they dance, give out heat and light and comfort. In the rainbow picture that my daughter made for me and slipped inside my laptop for me to find. She knows that I love rainbows - and I love them because they remind me of you.

As I glance down from the screen to see my own fingers taptaptapping at the keyboard I get a glimpse of the wonder of you. An observation turns to a thought and forms an idea which translates to words which make their way via synapses and ganglia to bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, fingernails, skin until they are constructed using learned knowledge of a keyboard layout to transfer to a sentence on a virtual page.

Blows my mind.

Take a drop of water.

As if there were not enough magic in a drop of water - essential, life-giving, beautiful, refracting light, beading on a leaf after rain, cleaning and refreshing - when you drop a single drop of water onto more water a crown appears. A crown! A crown made by a King.

Makes me smile.

And here's another thing that takes my breath away. All these miracles and magical tricks were just waiting for us to find them. Hidden away until such a time that we invented or discovered the means to see. We didn't know that a water droplet makes a crown splash until we invented high speed photography. We didn't know about magnetism until someone discovered it.

As Louis Giglio points out in his 'Indescribable' *talk it wasn't until we had telescopes powerful enough to see that we found out that in the outer reaches of space is found the Whirlpool Galaxy and in the very centre of that is the shape of a cross. Just waiting for us to find it and stop still in awe.

A crown, by the King.
A vegetable fractal, just because you could.
A key jumping to meet a magnet, pulled by an invisible force.

You created these things because you're the Creator and you added in all the hidden wonder that astonishes us just because it pleased you to do it. The equation is much simpler than the fractal geometry one that I was baffled by earlier.

You are beauty, and so the things you make will be beautiful.
You are infinitely complex and creative and beyond understanding, and so your Creation will be just like you.

We think we're getting there, don't we? We think that we are so clever with ever scientific breakthrough and discovery but the truth is that there is so much that we don't know. So much undiscovered wonder out there. We don't even know how much there is that we don't know.

You must be there watching us and waiting with a big smile, impatient for the day when we can see further, beyond the limits of our technology and our imaginations.

Microscopes that can see smaller.
Telescopes that can see further.
Human minds that need to be so much more open.

You're not remotely concerned that we will find you, guess all your secrets, become threatening in our growing knowledge and understanding - there is always more; we will never catch up. Always more treasure to find, delights to uncover. It goes on forever.

Beauty is evidence of you. You are Goodness in its purest form and I see you when big sister comforts little sister when she drops her ice cream. The force for good is from you, just like the force that pulls metal to a magnet. Invisible, but we can see it.

It seems easy to me. You are there. I see you. I can see you at work; I can see the things that you have done. You speak to me as clearly as a little note left on my keyboard, a message spelled out painstakingly on the other side.

I love you.

*Check this out: Louis Giglio 'Indescribable' 

Photographs all mine except:
Water crown image 114345352538.jpg by stuartjessop
From Morguefile.com. Used with permission.


  1. This is excellent! Can I re-post?

  2. Thank you! Of course. Do you realise that while you were commenting on my post I was commenting on yours?!

  3. Now that is philosophy at its best.

    1. Well, thank you Martin. I'm getting into exotic fruit and veg. Don't get me started on pomegranates.

  4. The things that have been made point to the Maker. It takes great determination to assert otherwise.

    1. I am with you there.
      Thanks for reading and thanks for the comment.

  5. This is just heavenly, Helen. Such deeply insightful and philosophical reflections on life, science, the universe..etc. I love the way you can 'see' the Divine in not only the strange and inexplicable but also the everyday and natural. To appreciate the fact that God creates and does all these wonderful things just because He can. And He delights to give us pleasure as we observe and have gratitude for them. How lovely! :)

  6. Hi Helen, You write from the heart and the heart has x-ray vision. Well done - lovely thoughts :)

  7. I have never seen that vegetable! I love how it is possible to see God and his love in EVERYTHING, we just need to have our eyes open and our hearts open wider! This was wonderful. Thanks Helen for incorporating God out loud in the quiet electromagnet field :)

  8. I'm currently studying for my next posting in 1 Kings. Ran across a word study the other day that fits in perfectly with your thoughts. It made ME SMILE TOO!. The word was... TRANSCENDENCE;meaning God is way beyond us with all His qualities and attributes...ALL-KNOWING, ALL POWERFUL, MAJESTIC, way beyond our limited understanding to grasp Him and who He is! LOVED this post in particular Helen.


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