Most of the people reading this article likely believe in a God who designed and created everything in the universe, right down to the atoms as well as the mechanisms by which all the hardware interconnects. They likely also feel that the Bible is designed and preserved by the same God. And they likely also feel that humans, though currently part of the temporary physical creation, have the potential to live forever so long as they have certain qualifications that allow them to get along with their God and their peers. The accuracy of these points needs to be solidly verified by every individual. In line with the title of this essay, it is a paradox that this expansive project can be done simply and easily, but that methodical process isn’t my focus here.
My purpose in this article is to promote the thinking that we have far more high quality food on the table than immediately meets the eye. It is very possible to walk through life, thinking you are being guided by an accurate Biblical map, yet only seeing the ground your feet are stepping on, while all around you, there is dramatic scenery full of excitement and crucial lessons, begging to be observed and absorbed!
Clearly believers see the Bible as one way God speaks to us. Does His ingeniously designed creation also speak to us? One Creator, one purpose, one physical creation, one central lesson? Simple day to day living is the basis of “common sense”. Do the common sense lessons from day to day life provide us with a second ear to hear the voice of God, such that we gain a judgment similar to the directional sense of a person who can hear out of both ears? Is the Creator of all things providing us with a broad education, the sophistication of which, few fully appreciate? Is the Bible intentionally figurative and vague on many points to force us to observe, puzzle, (agonize, perhaps) and think, and to not simply develop a “paint by number” approach to this astonishing gift we know as “life”! Have we been given a Text Book and a Lab; a total, interconnected, school environment? A Big School! Is God truly “The Great Educator” who knows how to guide His children to vibrant freedom, as well as to success, and to not turn us into boring stamped copies, mindless cultists, or fearful boot lickers?
The Bible is full of analogies. All sorts of personalities and situations mentioned in the Bible play analogical roles – long term educational roles. Many Biblical individuals had no appreciation of what a brilliant performance they were putting on. Many of the performances, in some way, must have been influenced by the Teacher. Most eyes don’t see the lessons but some do. And the benefits for those who do see the lessons are highly valuable.
Consider the story of Cain and Abel, of Joseph, of Moses, of Pharaoh, of Ruth, of the Israelites, of Joshua, of Elijah, of the sacrifices, the temple, the Holy Days, the Exodus, of marriage, even little details like Pilate replaying the Day of Atonement ritual as he sentenced Christ to death and set Barabbas free.
So why should the same physical world we live in today, not be a dynamic generator of lessons for those with eyes to see? Is God inconsistent or less active now than in the past? Do modern students in His School get second class treatment vs. the old timers? Some may think God has aged and slowed down. There are many residents of the School, during good times at least, who claim He doesn’t exist. Some see the physical world as big and basic and sort of evil (shades of Gnosticism!), and the stage for a struggling God to try to work His plans and save the “elect”. But God isn’t even on the stage. He built the physical stage and manages it. The stage is the “Lab”. It is the Big School and the place where the “living” can ignore, violate, or apply and expand and reinforce the lessons of the Text Book. And I think I have noticed an inspiring modern analogical lesson that is worth talking about! By modern, I am thinking in “relatively modern” terms, should anyone object to my use of the term! Let’s push on!
As a figure of speech, when thinking of our individually hoped for future achievements and eternal existence, surely an image is put across by saying “I dream of being able to fly”! Physical flight for men was an exciting dream up until the recent past, as in 1902. Consider your outlook had you lived prior to 1902 compared to your outlook today. What once was a seemingly mysterious ability has become a type of common sense. Aircraft, helicopters, gliders, ultralights, drones of all sizes, parasails, jet packs, manpowered high tech planes, squirrel suits – human mastered flight is everywhere and advances constantly. And you and I are living it and can evaluate the ongoing adventure story, first hand! If we have open eyes, we have a more riveting and insightful vantage point than those amazed individuals who experienced the excitement of seeing the very first human flights.
But the transition point, I think, is an exciting modern day hidden analogy, I suspect guided by the Great Teacher. If I am somewhat wrong on this guess, then it is at least one unlikely, unusual, and good story! It is an inspiring story that should encourage individuals to think and analyse and not simply flow with the thought patterns of the masses and the recognized experts. It is a story that involves the effective application and definition of “common sense”.
Some might question “What is common sense?” John 18:37 records that Christ said “I have come into the world, that I might witness to the Truth. Everyone being of the Truth hears My voice.” And Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” Pilate was a confused sceptic, ignorantly arguing with the wrong Person, and Truth and Common Sense do exist. The capital letters are intentional. I hope that my “flight” story is a positive attempt at the identification and clarification of just what Common Sense is and why it is so important! And how it can be refined!
Wind and Sand, was a classic 1983 book of photos and direct words from letters and diaries of the Wright Brothers – Wilbur and Orville – almost a delayed autobiography assembled by Lynanne Wescott and Paula Degen. In a forward to the book, Oliver Jensen, the founder of American Heritage magazine made the following profound statement, “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and it curls the sand around the base of the great monument to the brothers at Kitty Hawk, a memorial less to genius than to courage, persistence, and that most uncommon of all virtues, common sense.”
The Wright Brothers illustrated constructive common sense in the glare of ignorance on the topic of human flight. Birds of shocking variety were everywhere but men just couldn’t seem to figure flight out. And despite the relatively simple access everyone had to the vital data, the Wrights learned how to fly while others either plodded along on the ground or were made laughing stocks by their laborious and blundered efforts at flying. Some of those in the race were dingbats and some were brilliant men. Wilbur and Orville, themselves, were seen by many as simplistic phonies but the first coordinated public flights that the Wrights made in Europe and the USA left the “flight experts of the day” in a state of shock. Wilbur wrote home and said “Bleriot and Delagrange were so excited that they could scarcely speak, and Kapferer could only gasp and could not talk at all. You would have almost died of laughter if you could have seen them.” When Delagrange did find his voice at last, he threw up his hands and exclaimed “We are beaten! We just don’t exist!”
Were the Wrights a modern day lesson to all of us; a bit like Joseph can be seen as acting out lessons that were far bigger than his immediate situation? Maybe. Maybe not. It’s just that I can list off an endless number of similar “common sense” stories and I find it hard to believe that there is nothing to such a deluge of wisdom examples generated by human experience on Planet Earth. I feel that if you can grasp the lessons in the Wright example, you will release a landslide of similar educational insights!
Wilbur and Orville Wright were outliers in that they so effectively achieved a dream of mankind in such an unusual manner - on their own, basically from scratch, with minimal economic resources, and via regular test flights that incredibly and intentionally, went unnoticed for over 5 years (how was this possible!). It was a heated race but others with seemingly more skill and background and definitely vast wealth at hand were not the ones who led the way to the new chapter in the human journey. And what the Wrights achieved was not via undeserved luck or some type of roulette wheel process. Success could, in part, be attributed to the brothers having a combination of minor circumstances in their lives, but there were solid reasons as to why they succeeded where others failed. Oliver Jensen and others, looking back, had good reason to attribute the Wrights’ success to “common sense” and to observe that their insight was available, but not common for people at that point in history. Surely we have an example from which anyone can learn some practical lessons!
Wilbur commented on a trip to Kitty Hawk to test a new glider, “Although the hours and hours of practice we had hoped to obtain finally dwindled down to about two minutes, we were much pleased with the general results of the trip, for setting out as we did, with almost revolutionary theories on many points, and an entirely untried form of machine, we considered it quite a point to be able to return without having our pet theories completely knocked in the head by the hard logic of experience, and our own brains dashed out in the bargain”. (from the diary of Wilbur Wright on returning from a research and testing trip at Kitty Hawk – Sept 18, 1901)
The fact that Wilbur phrased his diary entry the way he did reflected a mental approach that was a key factor in making him a winner. Indeed he had sensitivity to common sense. He knew that you have to research and think and theorize and then you have to test your understanding against the “hard logic of experience”. If there is a disconnect between theory and physical fact, then, if you want to understand and make further progress, you had better figure out why the clash is occurring. If you read about the well documented path of the Wrights, you may see a pattern that those who have a desire to connect to the Truths of God might do well to copy. Wilbur was a type of an Acts 17 Berean. Flight tests of gliders, using bicycle mounted model test wings, a simple powered wind tunnel in his workshop, and systematic experimentation guided him, step by step, towards physical truth. And my contention is that spiritual Truth is exposed in a very similar manner.
I am convinced that God hits us between the eyes with double impact lessons. So often, it seems, physical lessons mirror spiritual lessons. As one would expect, the Text Book and the Lab are in concert!
Around 1615 the Roman Inquisition shut down Galileo Galilei for claiming the earth rotated around the sun, claiming a clash with Bible verses such as Psa 93:1, 96:10, 104:5, I Chron 16:30, and Ecc 1:5. That foolish autocratic blunder is attributed with flipping a switch that began a process, arguably of switching ditches, of gleaning information from the physical creation and not just relying on the opinions of religious professionals who claimed to understand the Bible and God.
Psa 111:10 (ASV) states, “The fear (respect?) of God is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all they that do his commandments – ( laws?) The Wrights had respect for the physical laws of God, strove to apply them, gradually gained understanding, and won a major victory. They learned the laws and did them! Men are able to make a rocket that can intercept a speeding comet, years after launch, and place a lander on the comet. Not bad application of laws and of understanding! GPS and cell phones also illustrate that physical laws are exacting and applying them brings dramatic results. The Text Book provides the success formula in just a few words and the Teacher sure knows how to design and institute good laws for the Lab! Physical truth is exacting and doesn’t change in some whimsical manner and the examples given prove that fact to all of us.
Connecting with God is the same thing as connecting with Reality. Nothing positive happens without a living mind and creative power, be it hands or whatever. This is a solid Common Sense fact that most people have been taught to brush over, yet it is a vital fact – a solid Truth. Ignore it or reject it (and many have) and you are off with the fairies! Everything we see is linked in some way to everything else and the Bible and the physical creation are an integrated system. That is why Wilbur Wright was able to systematically achieve mastery by applying God designed laws ala Psalms 111:10. Respect and play by the super stable rules and you can understand how things work and you can win! Make theories for sure, but test them with experience, don’t think you know everything, and keep your eyes open and actually read the pages of life that flash by – along with the corrections. And as you build up solid, tested experience, use it and push ahead. Your ability (common sense) to make accurate calls will improve constantly if it is based solidly on underlying Truth.
Oliver Jensen, in Wind and Sand, stated “the brothers set out with absolute faith in existing scientific data, were driven to doubt one thing after another, and finally, after two years of experiment, cast it all aside – brute power was not the answer or the most important element – the existing information on wings was wrong – the story would never do for a play: no romance, no villain, not even any suspense worth the name – luck played no role at all – there was, in sum, a kind of simple, sensible, one-two-three progression to their whole four-year epic.”
Were the Wright Brothers converted and true Christians imbued with the Spirit of God? I doubt it. Did they hold some of the cards in the exciting game of Life? I think so. Did they add to everyone’s “here a little, there a little” base of wisdom and common sense? I’d say yes. Were they a bit deaf on the Bible side ear? Orville was shocked at the carnage of WWI. He believed that the aircraft would make wars impossible. If he had used both ears he would have tried to refine his broad common sense by resolving the clash between his understanding, the Bible, and day to day reality. Not all laws are physical.
The Wrights applied physical knowledge that was available to everyone and they learned to fly, physically. They meshed theory with practical, day to day action. They were rewarded with success that gave them a front seat in a movement that changed the world. And when I read about their lives I see patterns that illustrate huge lessons for all living individuals who are interested in learning how to live productively for eternity – figuratively speaking – to Fly!
The “church” and Galileo were at odds. They should have cooperated.
They lived on the same earth and answered to the same God whether they agreed on that fact or not. But their failure to connect their two functional ears prevented rapid progress at connecting to that True God. Louis Agassiz, a modern day outlier (1807-1873) as large as Wilbur Wright (1867-1912), stated “Philosophers and theologians have yet to learn that a physical fact is as sacred as a moral principle. Our own nature demands from us this double allegiance.” As a current New York Times slogan states “Truth has no alternative.”
One major concept that the Wrights grasped which most others failed to
appreciate was that control, not power, was the key to flight. They also realized that practice was essential to learn how to use the control that mechanical innovations made possible. And the Wrights knew that they had to avoid being killed while they learned. They had observed that the progress of the earlier pioneer of flight, Otto Lilienthal, ended abruptly when he crashed and died! The Wrights moved cautiously and did early tests where there was soft sand and no trees – they lacked a flight training simulator. The earth and universe can be seen as a physical flight simulator for spiritual flyers. Humans need to learn to fly and not destroy themselves and others before they can figuratively take over an eternal jumbo jet or rocket – their expansive, high powered eternal Life! Zech 4:6 might be a relevant scripture; “not by might or by power but by My spirit”.
As Bible based Christians we are Aficionados of Life and we have two
ears and two eyes connected to a remarkable Living mind. We are
blessed with the daily opportunity to steadily develop broad Common Sense that impacts every understanding and action we confront. You might say we are forced - birth puts us on the non-stop toboggan slide! Spiritual and Physical Common Sense have remarkably similarities. We need to learn how to live individually, as well as with peers, and with God. The Teacher, who is God, has us locked in His “double barrelled” Big School with our Text and our Daily Lab, plus the examples of historic winners and losers. We are on the cutting edge of time, right now, every second, and just like 2017 flight enthusiasts are in a far better position to evaluate their field due to their time line vantage point, we are similarly positioned far better than our famous alumni personalities of the Bible.
Productive sharing of “Life” is not a simple matter. We’ve got a brilliant, kind, ingenious Teacher and Friend who understands the complex and lengthy process. He provides the “Gift”. He built the School. He pays the tuition. He’s pulling for each of us!
Students in The Big School are free to be deaf or to only use one ear and to learn from the resulting mistakes. Self righteous stupidity or rebellious stupidity fosters learning, but not in a very pleasant way. For many, adopting the “two ear approach” can destroy a tiny, personal, “religious or secular” rain cloud that provides them with perpetual debilitating gloom and bad traction. The two ear approach can open a world of opportunity, green meadows, breath taking vistas, and sunshine! The two ear approach helps us to learn without mishap, to thrive, and to be happy! The Bible encourages choosing Abundant Life! Carefully listening to, understanding, and connecting with our Creator might be defined as meshing the True lessons of the Bible with True Common Sense!