Monday, July 11, 2011

CWAS Excerpt Number Six

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

The Necessary

On Monday morning, the stranger was already seated at my table when I walked in. In a sense, he was no longer a stranger. We had been having regular encounters and conversations. He certainly didn’t treat me like a stranger, not even on the first day we met. But I wasn’t anxious to take our relationship to the point of being friends. Being more comfortable on a formal basis, I hadn’t even asked his name, and so far he hadn’t asked mine. As I approached the table he said, “Good morning, my friend.”

“Hello, sir.”

“Being alive is about the best thing there is. Don’t you agree?”

“Well, it’s better than the alternative,” I replied. “It sounds like things are going good for you, sir.”

“I’m just great!” he resounded. “If life was any better than this, I wouldn’t be able to stand it. How was work Friday?”

“Every day is just like the day before,” I moaned.

“Well, I think you’re in for a great future. I don’t know why I think so, but I just feel it. Can you feel it?”

“Not really, sir.”

“You’ll come around, I’m sure. Start imagining yourself doing what you want to do and feeling the way you want to feel. Start imagining that the answers to life’s questions are right in front of you, waiting to be seen and understood. Pretty soon you will come to believe what you are imagining. After you imagine something and believe it, you will eventually begin doing the things necessary to achieve it. Soon, you will find yourself possessing it.”

I wasn’t sure if he was feeding me some sort of mumbo jumbo or what. It wasn’t the first time I had heard that sort of philosophy, but I never had given much consideration to it. I decided to file it away in my mind and reconsider it at a later date.

While I was mulling over his last statement he asked, “Are you ready to see if we can discover another exciting proof of God’s existence?”

“I didn’t realize that the first two proofs were exciting. But yeah, let’s hear it.”

“Well, I for one can’t wait to get started.” He didn’t waste any time getting right into the subject matter. “I’m sure you’d agree that you, yourself, exist.”

“Well, that seems easy enough to answer, sir. I saw myself in the mirror this morning while nicking myself with a dull razor blade. So yes, I believe that I definitely do exist.”

“Can you exist in a vacuum chamber?”

“No, sir, I need air to breathe. Besides that, my eyes would probably pop out of their sockets if I was in a vacuum.”

“Can you exist without food?”

“No, I can’t. My body needs the nourishment provided by food in order for me to survive.”

“So, it appears that the survival of your body is contingent upon other things and other factors.”

“You have no argument from me,” I said.

Without hesitating, he continued, “It looks like you are telling me that your body can exist only if something else also exists right now, at this very moment.”

“Sir, I believe that to be true. Our bodies require the influence and impact of other things in order to survive.”

He leaned back in his chair and twiddled his thumbs. After a few moments he asked, “Friend, what exactly, are you?”

He had a strange way of communicating his ideas. “What am I?” I asked. “I’m a human, of course. The last I checked, I wasn’t in the jelly fish family.”

His perpetual smile grew even bigger. “Well, whether you are a human or a jelly fish, wouldn’t you say that you definitely are a material being?”

“No one has accused me of being a ghost, sir.”

Ignoring my sarcasm he asked, “And wouldn’t you say that you are a limited being, as opposed to an infinite being?”

“Sir, we decided previously that the term infinite implies something of an unlimited and unending nature. So yes, I am a limited being.”

“Finally, friend, are you a changing being?”

“Of course, I’m changing. I have a picture of myself when I was twenty-one years old. I certainly don’t look the same today as I did then. And then there are those aches and pains. I didn’t have them when I was twenty-one either. And then there is the problem with my hair. When I was twenty-one, I had lots of hair on my head. Today, that hair is on my back and in my ears. So, yes I am a changing being. I’m not too happy about it, but that’s the way it is.”

“Friend, you are about the funniest person I know. Anyhow, you’re admitting that you are dependent upon other factors, and that you are a limited and changing being. What else do you suppose is limited and changing?”

“Well, everything in the animal kingdom is limited and changing.”

“Is that all?”

This guy didn’t make things easy for me. Far be it from him to volunteer much information. He acted like he wanted me to come up with all of the answers. Who was teaching whom? “Well, sir, I reckon that everything in the plant kingdom is also limited and changing.”

“Is that all? Is there anything else?”

While waiting for me to think about his question and respond, he was busy drinking his coffee, eating his bagel, and glancing about the room. He was beginning to get on my nerves. There were times when he reminded me of when I used to play chess with my father. Being a youngster and not having much enthusiasm for becoming intimate with the intricate strategies of chess, I would have to sit for minutes on end laboriously thinking about each and every move. Not being one to sit idly by, my father would keep busy reading a book, changing channels on the radio, or talking to others in the room. The more he did that, the more frustrated I got. Eventually, and with much hesitation, I would make my move. Out of the corner of his eye, he would see me retract my hand from the game board. With speed and flair of authority, he would then move his piece. Then the whole frustrating process would start all over again for me.

My eyes must have glazed over while I was reminiscing about my past. I had completely forgotten what he had asked. “I’m sorry, sir. My mind must have drifted off. What did you ask me?”

“Not a problem, friend. You said that both plants and animals are limited and changing. I asked you if anything else is limited and changing.”

“Oh yes, now I remember. I’m not sure what else is also limited and changing. But I suspect I will know shortly.”

“I am referring to inanimate objects. Take rocks for example. Do you suppose that rocks are limited too?”

“That’s simple enough to answer. Yes, rocks are limited too. They’re not infinite by any means.”

“Wouldn’t you agree that most everything on earth is limited?”

“Sure. Why not? Everything on earth is limited.”

“What about the planets and stars? Are they limited?”

“Well, the only other choice is unlimited or infinite. So my vote is for all planets and stars being limited too.”

“Bear with me, my friend. I certainly do appreciate your patience.”

Patience is necessary indeed, I thought. I needed a lot of patience to listen to this fellow every day.

“Since the universe is the total accumulation of all planets, stars, and all other matter, wouldn’t you say that the universe and all that is within it is limited?”

“You drive a hard bargain, sir. Sure, why not? The entire universe is limited.”

“Perhaps you would also agree with me that the universe and all that is within it is also changing.”

I was beginning to understand the negative feeling that most people have with attorneys. Like this stranger, an attorney continuously builds his case one statement at a time until his victim is backed into a corner with no way out.

“Sir, I’ve got to protest. I don’t know that I can agree on the changing part. A rock doesn’t change. It’s inanimate. How can a rock change?”

“Have you ever hit a rock with a hammer?”


“Did it break?”


“So, it changed, did it not?”

“If you put it that way, I guess so.”

“What about the sun and the stars? The very act of giving light and heat requires change doesn’t it?”

“I suppose so.”

“Now, there is other matter in the universe. There are planets, asteroids, comets, and no telling what else drifting about in the universe. Do they not change whenever they are impacted by other matter floating about in the universe?”

A bit irritated, I protested, “Sir, you won’t quit until you win. Yes, it seems that the entire universe and all that’s within it is limited and changing in some form or another. What else do you want from me…my first born?”

Undeterred, he continued, “Now, my friend, let’s recap a little bit. The existence of every human, every animal, and every plant is contingent upon something else for its very being. Without something outside of themselves, they would not have come into existence. Without something outside of themselves, they would not continue to be in existence. Without something outside of themselves, they could not change.”

“I believe that is what we agreed on.”

“And all other matter, while not living and breathing, is dependent upon something outside of itself to cause it to change in the way that it changes. All matter and the entire universe, living or not living, is dependent or contingent upon something else.”

“It sounds like we are going in circles again, sir. You remind me of a guy who has one foot nailed to the floor and all he can do is walk in circles. But yes, you seem to have a point.”

“You are quite comical, my friend,” chuckled the stranger. “Your existence is contingent upon something else. The existence of that something else is contingent upon something else yet. This contingency goes on and on and on. It goes farther and farther back in the past to the very beginning. We already discussed that there is no such thing as perpetual motion. Likewise, there can’t be an entire universe of contingent beings that are all dependent upon other contingent beings for their existence and change. Everything that exists needs to be given being, but at some point in the past, there must be something that was not contingent on something else.”

“I feel like I’ve been here before, sir. I think you’re getting ready to make a point.”

“Yes, I believe we are working our way up to a point. There must be something that is not and cannot be contingent on something else. From our description and definition of the universe, this something cannot be the universe itself, and it cannot be any part of the universe. This something that is not dependent or contingent upon something else can only exist in itself. It must be something from outside the universe of matter and limited beings. But what is outside of the universe?”

“We have previously determined that there is nothing outside of the universe.”

“Can nothing have an influence on something?”

“No, sir. We’ve made a determination on that also. Nothing is nothing. Only something can have the capacity to influence something else.”

“We have arrived at another dilemma, my friend. All matter is contingent upon something else for its existence and/or change. But beyond the beginning of the universe, there was absolutely nothing. Before there was something, there was only nothing. If nothing has no capacity to create or change, then the universe could not have begun to exist. Yet, my friend, the universe did begin to exist. So there must be a necessary being that is not contingent upon anything else for its own existence. There must be something that exists, something that does not exist on the condition that something else gives it existence. There must be something that exists only in and of itself. The only thing required for this thing’s existence is this thing itself. There must be a necessary being that is not a part of the universe. There must be a necessary being to cause the being of all contingent beings. All of creation cannot owe its being to its own self, but to something other than itself. All of creation had a beginning. If all of creation had a beginning, then there was a time in which it was not. All of creation and all parts of creation could not have created themselves. All of creation was the result and influence of some other necessary being that was not made or created. This Necessary Being is God.”

“Kudos to you, sir,” I said while slowly clapping my hands in mock applause. “You’ve done it again.”

“No, my friend, we have done it again, you and me together.” Continuing as if I had not just insulted him, he said, “So far, we have explored several proofs of God’s existence. He is the Unmoved Mover, He is the Uncaused Cause, and now He is the Necessary Being. Our two simple minds have proven that God exists. How do you feel about our discovery?”

“As I stated before, these proofs are thought provoking indeed. As convincing as they are, they still don’t absolutely and without a doubt prove that God exists. At the risk of sounding defiant, I wonder if you have any other proofs.”

“You ask and I provide,” replied the stranger. “Yes, my friend, I do have more. Let me think…oh yes, I’ve got another good one. It goes like this—”

Quickly, I interrupted him, “Wait a second, sir. Time is getting away from me again. Will you be here tomorrow?”

“If you’re going to be here, I’ll make a point to be here also, friend. I look forward to sharing another proof developed by a great thinker.”

Getting up I said, “Sounds like a date. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

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

No comments: