. . . in a ragged blanket curled,
I've watched the gulf of Heaven foam with stars;
I've walked with eyes wide open to the wonder of the world,
I've seen God's flood of glory burst its bars.
I've seen the gold a-blinding in the riffles of the sky
--The Wanderlust, Robert W. Service
Sitting behind the wheel of a car felt odd. It felt uncomfortable to be in charge of a throbbing metal machine instead of civilly sitting in a subway car, of which I have no control over, thank you very much, and can "read a book" on my commute (which usually translates into catching up on texting, people-watching, or smelling the neck hairs of the commuter I've been slammed next to by the Lexington Avenue line rush hour commuter crowd).
But when I lift my eyes up from the road (a practice whose safety is debatable), instead of seeing the dark, graffiti-ed tunnels of the MTA, I see the wild blue sky of the midwest. I see the herds of clouds migrating with the wind, the marbled turquoise aqua of the atmosphere, not a single skyscraper scarring the view.
The sky is a constant reminder to me of a broader view of reality: the sky, and music by the likes of Lauridsen, Rutter, and Stanford. In the Gospel today, the disciples only see the objective reality: (I am hijacking this observation from the muy bueno homily of the priest at mass this morning.) that reality being that there are twelve loaves and two fishes and JESUS HELLO THAT'S NOT ENOUGH TO FEED ALL THESE PEOPLE WHO NUMBER APPROXIMATELY FIVE THOUSAND MILLION.* (exaggeration added by me for effect)
*not including women and children." (I can't tell if this is ridiculously exclusive language or subversively inclusive.)
Just do the math, Jesus. That math is telling us there is not enough food.
The math is not wrong. Math is beautiful, in her own way. Math is elegant, as truth is elegant. Truth is full of simplicity and complexity, that, mixed together with reason, create elegance.
But math only computes objective realities, like most sciences. This, of course, is useful. It is useful to clearly perceive objective reality. But reality is not a zero sum game. There is not just the reality that meets our eyes, or our ears, or our memories.
Reality has another dimension. It is the dimension of sacrament. It is the dimension of liturgy and worship. It is a reality that takes a leap of faith to believe in. But, just like oxygen, whether or not you believe in it, you are living in it.
If you believe in this sacramental reality, and you live your life to conform to this version of reality, not just the objective reality that life presents to you, then your life will sometimes make no sense. You are operating on a different form of logic. And, to those that are not operating by that same logic, your choices will look, by turn: stupid, illogical, prudish, old-fashioned, too liberal, too conservative, crazy, uncomfortable, unreasoned, impractical.
Operating on that logic, you will do stupid shit like feed five thousand men with twelve loaves and two fishes.
Viewing the world purely from this objective reality can lead to discouragement and pessimism. How can our country survive this election? How can our world overcome this violence? How can we feed all these people? There simply isn't enough.
But, if we cast aside our doubts, if we embrace a wider view of reality, even what seems barren can bear fruit.
As a human being in relationship with others, I so desperately want them to always understand my actions. Sometimes, I have to accept that what I do and who I am will make no sense, reasoned from just this purely objective reality. The reality that drives my life is not an objective, but sacramental, and, perhaps, outside of that logic, it cannot by understood.
Sometimes, all we can do is simply feed the five thousand, and let our actions stand as reasons for our hope.