This I Believe

John - Bethesda, Maryland
Entered on October 14, 2007
Age Group: Under 18
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I awoke one morning to the smell of coffee. My dad was in the kitchen, listening to the radio. On the table was a box of cereal, left over from his breakfast. Next to it was a piece of paper with four shapes drawn on it. I sat down and examined the paper. There was a point, a line, a rectangle, and a circle sketched in pencil, and they were labeled Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism. I was intrigued as to what this abstract diagram could possibly mean.

“Um, Dad? Why is Christianity a line?” My dad grinned, and sat down next to me at the table.

“Ok,” he said. “I want you to imagine a species that exists in only two dimensions. Their perspective is limited to coplanar objects, meaning they can only see shapes that are in the same plane as they are. Now imagine how they would perceive a cylinder.” I nodded, remembering a lesson in geometry about the different shapes that can be created by the intersection of a cylinder and a plane.

“Well, they could see it as a rectangle, or a circle…” I trailed off, trying to visualize the shapes in my head.

“Or a point, or a line,” he finished for me. “Now imagine that God is a cylinder.”

I am a Catholic by belief, and a part of me resented the suggestion that my understanding of God is incomplete. But I have come to understand and to accept the fact that my human ability to comprehend God is as limited as a two-dimensional being’s ability to comprehend a three-dimensional shape. Just because different religions have different concepts of who God is, that doesn’t mean that only one religion can be right. I don’t believe that any religion can provide a full explanation of God, simply because of the limitations of our human nature. But I do believe that in order to gain a better understanding of God, I need to let go of my fear of the unknown, and to explore and be open to new ideas and concepts. This I believe.