The Breath of God

Mary Doria Russell in conversation with Krisat Tippett, “The Novelist as God,” Speaking of Faith (Jan. 29, 2009):

Up until now the Big Bang has been the cosmology that has been working for most cosmologists for a long time. But there was this point at which the mathematics break down, and they can't quite make the leap from there was nothing and then there is the universe. Recently, there is a new cosmology that indicates that the universe both expands, as it did after what we've been calling the Big Bang, and also mathematically we can see a way in which it would then contract and it would continue to do this. It would expand and contract and expand and contract. And so over and over again. You're talking about really unimaginable stretches of time.

Stevemartin02 Now, the visualization of that idea in science news was to show a diagram that to me looked like, OK, now I'm going to ask you to visualize Steve Martin making a balloon animal. OK?

And he's got one of those long balloons and he twists it and makes it into a series of, like, sausages.

Expanded, contracted, expanded, contracted. When I looked at that diagram what came to my mind unbidden — I wasn't trying for this — I thought, "It's the breath of God."

That God breathes in and God breathes out. And when he breathes in, the universe is contracting, and when he breathes out, the universe is expanding. And I immediately was charmed by the metaphor. I liked that a lot. And then you get also that notion of God breathed over the face of the waters. Oh, poetically I really, really loved that. And so for me, I guess what it comes down to is that God is the largest, most complex, most inclusive, most explanatory idea that human beings are capable of imagining.

Now, that said, we're primates and our brains are like two and a half to three pounds. You know, we're doing the best we can.