I read this poem (quoted in full below) at the end of a podcast last year. It says something very imaginative, yet very obvious, about the human condition.
In the television adaptation of The Elegant Universe that author Brian Greene did for Nova1, he takes a couple of minutes to make another version of the same very good point: You can’t teach physics to a dog.
The implication is this: we have no way of knowing that we as humans are capable of understanding the universe. We can make advances in physics that do a good job of predicting outcomes, but it’s still entirely possible — likely, even — that the line marking the limits of our mental ability still falls far short of the distance needed to fully understand the workings of the world.2
The poem Fishes’ Heaven illustrates the spiritual side of the same question. It’s a delightful joke on everyone: on materialists, because there is a reality outside the pond, and on the religious, because their vision of the Beyond is so thin and mimsy-simple that it bears no resemblance to the real thing.
This is a concept of Humility for which both materialists and Christians ought to feel a deep affinity.
I believe the Bible to be true as far as it goes, but the Bible itself, besides telling us very little about either heaven or physics, tells us that we now “see through a glass darkly,” and that ultimately our present knowledge, mystic experience, and revelation will all fail, and only Love will remain. An honest reading of the Bible itself also doesn’t give us any assurance that we can reach anything close to a complete picture of God, heaven, or even this world, by a thorough study of Biblical texts; on the contrary, it tells us that these things are vastly beyond our ability to comprehend.
Someone at church informed me that they found parts of my book to be “unbiblical” in some way. I fully understand why some people might think that, but on reflection I cannot admit the charge. Rather, I think that such a person may be confusing inferences with truth, and placing the possible limit of their own knowledge much further than it can really extend. Noise of Creation is (in part, at least) an imagination of things that have, in fact, been left to our imagination, even assuming the Bible to be your sole frame of reference.
Fish (fly-replete, in depth of June,
— Fishes’ Heaven by Rupert Brooke