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  • Wayne Chasney

Circles Aren't Real

The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. (Ps. 19:1)

Circles are not real.

I know what you are thinking. Of course, circles are real. My coffee cup is a circle. My watch face is a circle. The wheels on the bus go round and round because they are circles. Sorry, but it’s true. Mathematically speaking, at the most basic level, circles aren’t real.

I came across this little gem of knowledge while reading “Struck by Genius” by Jason Padgett and Maureen Ann Seaburg. It’s the fascinating story of Jason who, after a violent mugging, suddenly became a math whiz. The repeated blows to his head rewired his brain in such a way that he is now able to see the world in a whole new mathematical light. As he worked through what happened to him and began to understand this new way of seeing the world, he came to the realization that circles aren’t real.

When I checked this new discovery with my resident math expert, my daughter, she said, “Yeah, I kind of remember learning that in calculus but the teacher said that’s higher math.” I don’t think I will be doing higher math any time soon, barring some unfortunate blow to the head, so I will take her word for it.

What has struck me most about this new little detail about my world is the way it has reminded me of how much I do not know. For much of 54 years now I have lived believing that circles are real, and you can find the area by multiplying the radius squared by pi (A= πr2). While that will give you a very good answer, because of the nature of pi and the fact circles aren’t real, it is not exact.

It reminds me that I should not approach anything with absolute certainty, and that includes my relationship with God and faith. Do I question if God is real? Sure, sometimes, but like circles, I still experience God in my daily life. More importantly, it is the things I think I KNOW about God that I take with a grain of salt. There is always more to discover, more to learn. Psalm 19 tells us all creation “proclaims” God’s work and we have barely begun to uncover the mysteries of creation. How much greater must be the mysteries of God?

And that’s what is fun for me – being surprised by new discoveries and new understandings of what it means to be a child of God and disciple of Jesus Christ. I have been a pastor for 29 years, spent 6 years in higher education studying religion, and been a disciple since my baptism 54 years ago, and each day God still surprises me with something new. How cool is that!

Be open, and curious, and delight in the glory of God revealed all around us each day. We cannot even fathom how much we still have to discover in our relationship with the divine.

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