Tuesday, July 12, 2011

CWAS Excerpt Number Five

This excerpt is from the fifth chapter of Conversations with a Stranger by Larry Tate

The Cause

As habit would dictate, I entered the shop at my regular time, bought my same black coffee, and proceeded to my favorite table. Not long afterwards, the stranger came through the door, bought his coffee, and found his way to where I was sitting.

He stretched his arms up high and took a deep breath. As he exhaled, he let out a pleasant sigh. Then he cheerfully said, “Top of the morning to you, my friend.”

“Hello, sir,” I said. “Have a seat.” This fellow was just too happy and optimistic for me. I wondered to myself, Doesn’t he ever have the same old boring and routine days like everyone else? He’s too young to be retired, but he never seems in a hurry to go to work. What’s up with this guy? In spite of my questions, I didn’t ask any for fear that he would want to reciprocate by asking personal questions about me. Not that I had anything to hide, I just didn’t like opening up to other people.

“I am so glad to see you again,” he said with that same permanent smile.

His smile reminded me of music show personalities. All through the show they have a great big smile plastered on their faces. I often imagined them eating and sleeping and even shaving with that huge abnormal smile. I usually got more enjoyment out of those imaginations than I did from their actual shows.

I was brought back to reality when he said, “If you like, we can continue our conversation and talk about another proof that God exists.”

“Sure,” I said. “Day before yesterday we discussed that every object in motion needed a mover. That was interesting and thought provoking. Some people might actually find it to be convincing, but I still have my doubts. I’m not easily swayed by every seemingly logical statement that comes my way. What else do you have that I can sink my teeth into?”

“Well, I don’t know if I can promise to give you the absolute answer you want, but I do have more proofs to share with you.” He stopped talking, took a sip of coffee and began looking around at others in the coffee shop, saying good morning to them. They must have been as self-centered as I was, because they pretty much just ignored him and continued to eat their bagels and drink their coffee as if no one else was in the coffee shop. Or maybe they thought he was the strangest person on the planet and simply ignored him. The brush off by the other patrons didn’t seem to affect him at all. He turned back to me and asked, “Did your coffee cup make itself?”

What a strange question. He said he was going to talk about God, but instead he asked if my coffee cup was capable of making itself. “No, it didn’t make itself. Anyone with a lick of sense knows that.”

“If the coffee cup didn’t make itself, then who or what made the coffee cup?”

“Well, sir, a machine made the coffee cup.”

“A machine?” he pondered. “Now this machine you are speaking of…did it make itself?”

“Now, you’re playing games with me,” I said. “No, sir, the machine didn’t make itself either.”

“Okay, friend, you’re saying that the coffee cup didn’t make itself, and the machine didn’t make itself either. Now then, machines are made up of many parts, right? Perhaps the parts made themselves. What do you think, friend? Do you suppose that the various parts of the machine created themselves?”

“I don’t know where you are going with this, sir. No, the parts of the machine could not, did not, and never will make themselves. Do you have a point to your madness?”

“As a matter of fact, I do. The coffee cup didn’t make itself. The machine that made the coffee cup didn’t make itself. The parts in the machine didn’t make themselves either. It just makes you want to scratch your head in wonderment, doesn’t it?”

“Yeah, yeah, I’m just scratching my head until it bleeds. Continue on, sir. Please make a point before I lose my mind.”

“Oh yes…I believe there is a point to my line of questioning. Everything that exists was created or caused by something else. That something else was an object or entity that already existed. Friend, herein is our dilemma. As we go farther and farther back in time, we should eventually reach the first thing that was created or caused. Is that right?”

“I don’t see the dilemma, sir. What is so confusing about the first thing caused or created?”

“Well, friend, perhaps you can help me with my confusion. Everything in existence needs something else to cause or create it. So when we get to the very first thing in existence, we should be able to determine that something was the cause of that very first thing. But if every cause is also in need of a cause, then what caused the first cause?”

“Now, you’ve got me thoroughly confused,” I said. “You must stay up all night dreaming up these riddles. How do you ever get any sleep?”

With a belly-rocking laugh he answered, “I’m not losing any sleep at night, but thanks for the concern. It certainly can be confusing. It’s almost like asking which came first, the chicken or the egg. If the chicken came first, then we wonder how the chicken came into existence without first hatching from an egg. If the egg came first, then we are in a quandary about where the egg came from, because an egg can only come from a chicken.”

My mind began drifting. I really didn’t have any concern about how much sleep he was getting. As a matter of fact, it was rare for me to feel such emotions for anyone, much less this stranger who had befriended me. I knew he was just being polite, but all too often politeness tends to be little more than a fa├žade. On most any day of the week, someone will ask me how I’m doing. Before I have a chance to open my mouth and answer, they are moving on and talking to someone else. To me, politeness is highly overrated.

Back to the task at hand, I continued our conversation. “All right, I see our dilemma,” I said. “How can we dig our way out of this one? What caused the first cause?”

“Well, let’s just dig a little deeper. Nothing can begin to exist on its own power. It must have a prior cause before it can begin to exist. We’ve already determined that the universe and everything in it had a beginning. The first thing in the universe had to have had a cause. That is a fact. So, there must be something that is not a part of the universe that caused the universe and everything in it to come into existence.”

I had to protest his last statement. “Sir, there can’t be something that is not a part of the universe. The universe is the accumulation of everything that is. Outside of the universe there is nothing. Anyone should know that out of nothing comes nothing. So, how can there be something that is not a part of the universe? Quite obviously, something can’t be a part of nothing.” I leaned back with the confidence that I had stumped the stranger.

“You bring up a valid objection,” he said. “Let’s try it from another angle. Everything that exists was caused by something else. Anything and everything that ever came into existence was not capable of making its own self but had to be caused by something that already existed. Going back in time, we find a chain of caused objects preceded by the causes that created them. Eventually, we must find our way to the very first object that was caused. This first object must also have a cause. We now know that the universe had a definite beginning. And we know that everything that is must be caused by something that already exists. The only conclusion left is that there must be a first cause that is uncaused.”

Repeating himself he said, “Everything that exists was caused by something. That something was caused by something else. So, everything that ever existed had to have been caused by something else that was previously caused. If there was no uncaused cause, then the first thing that came into existence had to come from nothing.”

“Sir, I think you are baiting me. I guess I’ll go ahead and bite in spite of my better judgment. Something can’t come from nothing. That is impossible.”

“Well, if something can’t come from nothing, then we are left with the one and only conclusion that the very first cause had to be uncaused. The uncaused cause had to exist outside of the universe of material things. But the uncaused cause also must be something. It can’t be nothing.”

“Are we getting somewhere, sir?”

“Friend, I do believe we have arrived. The uncaused cause is not a part of our universe of material things, and the uncaused cause is not a part of nothing. Friend, I think we have stumbled onto the solution to our problem. Day before yesterday, we discovered that the first mover had to be the unmoved mover, called God. Today we have determined that the first cause must be the uncaused cause, called God. This uncaused cause is not a part of the universe. This uncaused cause is outside of time. The uncaused cause has no beginning, and it has no end.”

I found myself regretting the day I crossed paths with this stranger. Up until then, I felt fairly confident about my beliefs. He was causing me to doubt myself and question most everything I had previously settled in my mind. “You know,” I said, “I can’t think of an objection to your so-called proof at this very moment, but there must be one. Your conclusion seems to hold water, but I just can’t see how it absolutely proves the existence of God. It sure would be convenient if I could just see God. Then I would know for sure that he exists.”

“You are stubborn, indeed,” he said. “I’m sure that this proof is not an absolute proof, but it sure sounds convincing to me. Since we got to the bottom of the First Cause, perhaps we could explore another proof.”

“Not today,” I said. “My cup is empty, and it’s time to go to work. It appears that you’re beginning to become a regular patron here at the coffee shop. Perhaps we can continue the next time we meet.”

“You’re the boss,” he said with a big smile of his face. “I’ll look forward to our next chat. If you don’t mind, I’m going to just sit here a little longer and have another cup of coffee.”

“No problem,” I said. “I’ll see you later.”

The above excerpt is from the copyrighted book Conversations with a Stranger by Larry Tate

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