I sat around a table with about a dozen international people ranging from their late teens to their early thirties. I was the only American and I was having dinner with some new found friends in the south of France. We took turns going around the table briefly describing the lives that we had left behind in our own countries and what was waiting for us upon our return. Everyone was single except for a German couple in their late twenties, Fredric and Carol. They seemed to fit most German stereotypes. Both were always smiling, yet neither ever really laughed. They always seemed pretty stoic and proper. And Carol was constantly pulling pieces of exotic chocolate out of her pockets and passing them out for us to try. I had to stop accepting her chocolate after she gave me a spicy piece. I almost gagged. “We are physicists,” Fredric explained. “A German physicists?! So, you’re like Albert Einstein?” I asked. Fredric politely smiled, but never seemed close to a laugh. I passed off the lack of laughter as his German sense of propriety and not the fact that my question wasn’t really that funny.
Fredric and Carol
Fredric went on to tell us that he had spent the last several years studying string theory. The way he stated it, it sounded like he assumed I knew what string theory was. I really don’t even understand what physics is, so I asked him to explain. “You see,” he said in his staunch German accent, “physics explains how everything around us works. Physics are the laws of the Universe. And so far there are two theories that explain how everything operates, quantum mechanics and general relativity. These are both very good theories and both seem correct, but they conflict with one another. So one has to be wrong. However, string theory is a new theory that unifies the two theories. It’s the theory that could potentially explain EVERYTHING!” Fredric began to really come alive at this point while Carol still casually smiled and passed out more chocolate. “Jacob, in school, how many dimensions did you learn there were when you had your science class?” I nervously thought back to 9th grade science and wish that I’d paid more attention. How was I supposed to know that one day I’d be getting quizzed by a real life German physicist? “Um, height, width, and depth. 3. Wait! Time! Time is also a dimension. So 4?” I half stated and half asked. “Yes! Very good!” Fredric exclaimed as Carol rewarded me with another piece of spicy chocolate. “We all learned that there are 4 dimensions. But now, with string theory, we are learning that there are so many more! So far, it seems as though there are actually 11 dimensions! Maybe more! What I’m trying to say is, there is so much more going on around us that we don’t even see or are aware of!”
Fredric went on and on about formulas while I tried to appear interested while throwing pieces of spicy chocolate under the table. I forget most everything else he said that night. But what I will always remember is his definition of string theory. It means there’s so much more going on around us that we don’t even see or are aware of! If that isn’t science and Scripture walking hand in hand, I don’t know what is. 2 Corinthians 4:18 says it like this, “…while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” Jesus constantly saw so much more around him that everyone else seemed to miss. Jesus saw a huge buffet when others saw a few loaves and fish. Jesus saw a daughter of God when others saw an adulteress that should be stoned. And perhaps where people missed it most was only seeing a baby in a manger when in it was actually Emmanuel, God with us!
One of my favorite modern poets says in one of his poems, “I have three separate degrees from different universities, but the greatest thing I ever learned was to believe someone when they say ‘Please’”. That is how we can begin to see what is really going on around us. We must choose to open our eyes and our hearts, our ears and our minds to what is unseen. As Pope John Paul II shouted from the Vatican quoting St. Ambrose, “Fling open your doors to Christ!”
Especially during this Christmas season, it is easy to get caught up seeing only what is around us; the lights, gifts, shows, food, ECT. I pray that I can leave you with the same reminder that a German physicist once left me, “There is so much more going on around you than you realize!” In the midst of the hustle and the bustle, take time daily to quiet yourself so that you can see the Babe of Bethlehem in your midst. I guarantee he is there. You just have to look in a new way sometimes.