A Biological Depiction of Grace

The most basic act of Grace is the fact that we are alive. We have entered into this world through no efforts of our own. The value of this gift is inestimable.
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Click here to read an original op-ed from the TED speaker who inspired this post and watch the TEDTalk below.

In "Conception to Birth -- Visualized" I want to accept Alexander Tsiaras' mathematical imaging work as "proof" of God. As inspiring, and plainly gorgeous as it is, I do not feel it's convincing in its own right. Not understanding how something works is not evidence that a greater mind is at work. It's merely evidence of our own lack of comprehension. I write this though as a firm "believer." I find God in the patterns of life, not the mechanics. Yet, I appreciate why someone would come to the affirmative conclusion before the mystery of birth and life.

I do see in this scientific achievement an elegant biomathematical depiction of Grace. In Christian thinking, Grace is God. It is a divine action and presence, God's saving blessing that we don't earn through our own merit. This can range from the conservative's salvation from Hell, to the liberal's compassion of a loving God. There are things in life that we receive through no merit, and no fault, of our own. The most basic act of Grace is the fact that we are alive. We have entered into this world through no efforts of our own. The value of this gift is inestimable.

Two images in this TEDTalk particularly stood out to me in light of this notion of Grace. The first were the 60,000 miles of capillaries -- more than twice the circumference of Earth -- only one mile of which is visible to the naked eye. Each of us is permeated with life-sustaining vessels that are almost completely unseen. To me, this is a microcosm of the truth of this living, breathing world.

There are 60,000 things that sustain our every moment, yet we are capable of perceiving just one of them.

We exist in relationship to the breadth of all existence, to all that is seen and unseen. It takes all of creation to sustain our own life. Every component part, visible or invisible, makes possible the connections that we rely on. Whether we can see all the connections or not, does not mean they are not there. Likewise, for each singular accomplishment we achieve, there are 59,999 other reasons why that success was possible. Grace reflects this biological truth.

The second image was the development of the human brain. Tsiaras shared his amazement at how the body came to know that the development of folds in the brain would expand the data capacity of the structure. Simply put, the brain can hold more memories by folding in on itself. I can't think of a better metaphor for the living experience of Grace. Forgiveness and hope have a potentially limitless impact on the depth of human experience.

None of us can know what new avenues may open up in someone's life when unmerited compassion or reconciliation enter the relationship. With Grace, dead-ends become open once more. Limits bend, and bend again. Where, biologically speaking, Tsiaras references the development of memory, spiritually we come to find depth in human experience. We can not know where our roads will lead, but with every new possibility, the positive potential multiplies geometrically.

I find this talk hopeful. There is a cynical human tendency to argue that we are limited and finite, that we only gain what we personally earn. In this narrow mindset, there is only and always a clear, visible correlation between cause and effect. Tsiaras' medical imagery reminds us that, at our biological core, life is more complex than that. There are miles of road that we may never know, but are always there. We are gifted with that which we have done nothing to earn. Our intellect may not know how the world builds itself, but we are blessed with its building.

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