God is a sphere, which is a wow. But there’s more wow. We experience it in everyday life.
Everyday experiences help us imagine God. For instance, ever spent a day at the beach and wished it would never end? But why would we imagine eternity if it doesn’t exist? It’s the same with dear friends. We wish our time together would never end.
It won’t if you know God. Friends in Christ are friends for eternity. Peter Berger called these experiences “signals of transcendence.” They’re universal and instinctive yet assume and require a reality that lies beyond us.[i] They’re everywhere.
Consider for example God is love (I Jn.4:8). Love is giving and receiving. We see this in the triune God depicted as a sphere. The Father, Son, and Spirit eternally give and receive love. Spheres can be seen throughout the universe. Planets. Faces. Plants.
Or look at the Japanese male puffer fish. It makes ornate circles to attract mates. Males flap their fins as they swim along the seafloor, disrupting sediment to create amazing circular patterns. Although a male puffer fish is only about five inches long, the formations he makes measure about seven feet in diameter. Wow.
Or watch Ingrid Fetell Lee’s 2018 TED Talk: “Where joy hides and how to find it.” She says that, in spite of our polarized world, “there’s a part of each of us that finds joy in the same things.” They remind us of the “shared humanity we find in our common experiences of the physical world.” This includes “round things” such as spheres. Wow.
But there’s more wow. Love is also the enjoyment of another and the desire to expand the circle. That’s why we exist. God’s plan is to expand the circle of love by having us “marry” the Son (I Cor.2:6, Hosea 2:19; Eph. 5:32). This is how we enjoy God’s love.
Now look at the Fibonacci Sequence. For centuries, observers noted expanding, numerically ordered circles. Hindu mathematicians of the 6th century used this as the basis for the Hindu-Arabic numeral system. In 1202, Leonardo of Pisa (or Fibonacci) wrote an influential book called “Liber Abaci” (“Book of Calculation”). He promoted the Hindu-Arabic numeral system as superior to Roman numerals then in use in Europe. It became known as the Fibonacci Sequence. Starting in the center, each number is the sum of the two preceding: 1(+) 2 (=) 3 5 8 13 21 34 55 89… Wow.
In the 1750s, Robert Simson noted that the ratio of each number in the Fibonacci Sequence to the previous number becomes more accurate the higher the numbers. The higher and wider and deeper and further into the universe we go, the more accurate the numbers. More wow. This increasing accuracy is referred to as the Golden Ratio, the Golden Mean, Golden Section, or Divine Proportion. Wow… Divine.
Many older faith traditions get this. For instance, we see the Fibonacci Sequence in the interior of church domes. Few new churches feature domes, however, or expanding spheres. They discarded the sphere for the linear Cartesian coordinate system. The ancient image for the God of love faded away.
And so did our sense of wow.
[i] Peter L. Berger, A Rumor of Angels (Doubleday/Anchor Books, 1990), 59-65.
Wow. loved reading about the signals of transcendence.
Wow. We need more “Wow” in our lives; might help ease our current and sadly growing polarization.
Wow to the people!
As an architect, I love the Fibonacci sequence! Thanks for the post!
How can a number be more accurate than another?
By definition it is what it is.
Depends. Albert Einstein said, “As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain, and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.” God is Ultimate Reality.
@John: I saw this as the ratio becoming more accurate. . . . and the number then being the attempt to depict – or number – that ratio/relationship. Then: what Mike said, quoting Albert Einstein!
Fascinating thoughts, Metz – thanks!
. . . I find myself grieving the loss of the dome and arch, and the rise of the relentless hard angle in our living spaces.