Editor's note: Tikkun is delighted to be publishing Michael Kagan's book Where's G?d as a series on our website. This is the second chapter. Click here to read the prologue, introduction, and first chapter. Click here to read "Night Three."
I had had a wonder-filled day. The fields behind our house were filled with the flowers of spring, and I had spent the whole afternoon exploring the beauty of God in this carpet of color.
I had just finished rereading one of my favorite stories – Jack and the Beanstalk. I loved the way grown-ups hid secrets in children’s stories, although I puzzled over why they felt the need to do this Wouldn’t it make more sense to tell it straight? Wouldn’t it be better to tell us that the Jack story is about Jacob’s Ladder; about the ascent of the soul in the quest for Paradise; about the dangers of such a journey if you are not properly prepared; about the wonderful gifts that are available for all of us to bring down into our world?
As I listened to the sounds of the Golden Harp, there was a tap on my door. Mummy and Daddy where standing there, looking a bit nonplussed.
“Can we come in?”
“Sure.” Daddy looked tired. He’d been working hard all day. I’m not sure what he does, but whatever it is it doesn’t seem to make him happy. In fact, the harder he works the less happy he seems. Joey, my best friend, told me that grown-ups work to make money to be able to eat to be able to work to make money. This seems a strange way to live.
Mummy, on the other hand, had a look of triumphant tiredness. She had succeeded in feeding all of us and putting my brother and sister to sleep as well. Mummy also works, but her work is different than Daddy’s. Her work seems to make her happy and more alive.
“Yes?” I asked gently. Mummy had already sat down on my bed and Daddy had pulled up my little chair.
“Well.” Mummy let Daddy try first. “We’ve been thinking about our conversation yesterday. We are curious what you think about other, how would you put it?” He ahmd and ahhd and finally said, “eh, aspects of God?”
“Aspects of God? What do you mean?”
“Well maybe not exactly aspects. I mean… Well, here’s the point. We’re always taught that God is up there, you know, in heaven which is up, and not down there in you know where.” His voice dropped to a whisper.
“Yes,” added Mummy. “We look up when we pray; we point up when we talk about God. We go up to heaven or down to the other place. Jacob’s ladder went up.”
“So did the beanstalk,” I interjected.
“Never mind.” I continued: “So you want to know about this up and down business after I said yesterday that God is everywhere?”
They nodded their heads.
“OK. Let me think. Could you pass me a piece of paper please?” Daddy looked in the direction of my desk.
“Where do you keep your sheets of paper, sweetie?”
“In the second drawer on the left.” It was Mummy who answered. She should know. She put the sheets of paper there.
“And a pencil, please.”
“Thanks. Now let’s see.” I thought for a minute and then drew a shape.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“Well,” I said, “If you think about it, I couldn’t possibly draw a cat.”
“Oh sweetie, your drawings aren’t as bad as that.”
“Thanks Mummy, but I didn’t mean that I draw badly. I meant that it is impossible to draw a cat because cats are real and a picture is only a picture. It’s flat.”
“I think what you are trying to say,” said Dad, “is that a picture is only a two dimensional representation on paper of a three dimensional object that exists in space.”
“Yes. That’s exactly what I meant,” I continued, a bit awed by my Daddy’s perfect comprehension of the problem. “Let’s say that this creature that I have drawn exists only on the paper.”
“The plane of the paper,” said Daddy. “That’s what we call it: ‘in the plane of the paper’”.
“You don’t mean a paper plane do you?”
“No,” he answered smiling, “You know I meant something else.”
“I know,” I chuckled. “You see: I’ve drawn its eyes here at the forwards of its head.”
“Darling, you mean ‘at the top of its head’. It’s not good English to say ‘at the forwards of its head’”
“No Mummy, I actually meant what I said: its eyes are at the forwards of its head, because it can only move around in the ‘plane of the paper’. If it had eyes here like a repre…representation of a girl, then its eyes would be facing upwards. That wouldn’t be very useful as it would keep bumping into things.”
“Or falling off the edge of the paper.” That’s my Daddy’s strange sense of humor.
“So,” I continued, “the eyes must be forwards. And as it moves around it can only see what is in its world: left, right, backwards and forwards.”
“You know what it reminds me of?” Mummy interjected. “Bacteria under a microscope. They can only swim like that.” They were on good form tonight. Encouraged, I pressed on.
“If we call out to our little two dimensional friend here, would it be able to turn around and look up at us?”
“Of course not, it’s only two dimensional. To be able to look up and down it would have to be able to come out of its plane and then it would be three dimensional.” That was Daddy again.
Mummy held the edge of the paper towards her eyes and squinted as if to look into the eyes of my little, flat creation. “Well it could look at us if the whole page turned towards us like this. But other than that, I agree with Daddy. It wouldn’t be able to look up and down.”
“I’d go further than that,” I continued. “I think that it wouldn’t even have a clue what up or down were. If we told it to look up, it wouldn’t know what we are talking about. If we called out to it, it would first look around, forwards, left, backwards, right. It wouldn’t find anybody, and it would think that it has gone mad and was hearing things. The thought of looking up or down would never even occur to it. In fact, the words up and down wouldn’t even exist in its language.”
“So we would be like God to it?” Daddy asked cautiously, no longer sure where we were going with this line of reasoning.
“Maybe,” I answered, “But we’ve not finished yet. Look!” I drew a small circle in the middle of the figure’s body.
“What’s that, dear?” Mummy asked.
“That’s its stomach.” I then drew some squiggly lines in the circle. “And that’s what it had for supper – spaghetti.”
“Yes, spaghetti. You see from our perspective in three-dimensional space, we can peer right inside its stomach. No secrets. But leaving that interesting fact aside for the moment, let’s go back to the ups and downs that don’t exist for our little friend here. What do you think it would see if I were able to pass my hand through its world?”
“As you said, it would see your hand as it passed before its eyes.”
“Not exactly. As I pass my hand through its world, it will only be able to see slices of my fingers and my hand and my arm. Look.” I spread my fingers and passed them before the edge of the paper. “The first thing that would be seen would be a small dot that would seem to appear out of nowhere. Suddenly, a small dot, right in the middle of its living room.”
“Ah. But how could it tell that it was a dot? Being flat, it can’t see around it. It would appear as a small line.” Daddy’s voice of reason.
“It could walk around it and would then discover that it wasn’t a line but a circle.” “Touché.” That was Mummy.
“It figures out that it is a circle, OK? Now watch as my hand passes a little bit further through the plane of its existence. What happens then?”
“Right. Would they be connected in any visible, obvious way from the perspective of our flat, fat friend?”
“Now as my fingers continue to move down, our friend here will experience that the size of the four dots will vary slightly in shape. You see, if I cut my fingers here they are thicker than if I cut them here.”
“Like sliced pepperoni,” quipped Daddy. Mummy gave him one of pokes in the knees.
“Now look what happens as my knuckles line up with the paper. What will it see now?”
“All four of the circles suddenly coalesce into … into some kind of a sausage shape.”
“And at the same time another circle appears as your thumb crosses the plane.”
“Exactly.” I was feeling quite proud of my parents.
“And as you continue, the new circle and the sausage shape join up, and as you get to your wrist the shape becomes ovular. Is there any way that our surprised friend could make sense of what is happening? Remember, it can’t look up nor look down. He can only see what’s right in front of its eyes.”
The both shook their heads.
“You see, the idea of up and down just doesn’t exist for the creatures in this world. It’s just impossible for them to conceive of other degrees of freedom. They would sense four independent shapes but cannot possibly imagine that they are actually connected together, that they are in fact digital extensions of one hand that is a limb on one body.”
Daddy was humming as the pieces fell into place.
Mummy asked: “How do you think one flat friend would describe to another flat friend where the shapes came from?”
I liked this question. “That’s what I was going to ask. I suppose they would say that they came from forwards or from backwards. For them, Heaven might be forwards and the other place would then be backwards.”
“Like ‘backsliding’,” suggested Daddy.
“Very good. Nice one, dear,” exclaimed Mummy, patting his knee. Daddy’s knee seemed to offer Mummy a comfortable mode of communication.
“Now if we do the same trick for our world, where we have not only forwards and backwards, left and right, but also up and down, then imagine what happens when a thing from the next dimension, the fourth dimension, descends into our plane …”
“You said ‘descends’,” cried Daddy. “It wouldn’t be ‘descends’, would it? It would be …”
“Yes?” I looked at Mummy questioningly.
“Don’t ask me,” she protested, “my brain just jammed trying to conceive of a four dimensional arm.”
“You’re right, you can’t,” I said. “I’ve tried but it’s impossible. Our brains just aren’t built for imagining higher dimensions. And we don’t have the words for it either. So we call it ‘up’ and ‘down’, ‘descending’ and ‘ascending’. Now back to my question: what would we see if a higher dimensional object would descend through our plane?”
Daddy frowned for a moment and then he said: “I suppose it would have a shape like a ball or a square or a fat sausage.”
“You have a one track mind, you do” laughed Mummy. “You’re always thinking of food.”
“Yes,” I said, “It would have to be a physical object like that. But we would have no way of knowing where it came from or what it really looked like. We would never know if a large number of these shapes were actually part of the same body or not. What’s more, we can never be sure that we are not ourselves actual projections from higher dimensions.”
“You mean,” said Daddy, “that there is no way of knowing whether we are just fingers on the end of a four dimensional hand. That’s weird.”
“Yes,” I continued, “we could all actually be connected in a higher dimension and only appear as separate beings in this plane. We could all be one.”
“Wait a minute!” Daddy jumped up with a look of surprise, “Wait a minute, I’ve just got the answer.”
“The answer to what dear?”
“The answer to the question, ‘How do you think one flat friend would describe to another flat friend where the shapes came from?’ The answer is – A Miracle! That’s what they would call it. That’s what we would call it. A miracle - the sudden appearance of something that had no detectable origin or cause.”
“Bravo!” I said clapping my hands. I let Dad glow for a while before continuing. He didn’t seem tired anymore.
“Can I go on a little bit more?” I asked, knowing that Daddy hated missing the evening news on TV.
“Sure,” he replied. “No problem, as long as you can get up on time tomorrow.”
“Keep going, sweetie,” Mummy said, “I’m actually enjoying this.”
“OK,” I said. I was happy because I had never shared with anyone about all this before. “Now imagine a four dimensional creature looking down, or whatever it’s called, at us. What do you think that it can see?”
They looked puzzled.
“Remember what we could see about our little, flat friend here,” I said, holding up the paper.
“It would be able to see what we had for supper,” exclaimed Mummy, looking a little disgusted.
“And very nice it was too,” Daddy added with a grin.
“It would be able to see the blood flowing through my veins. It would be able to see right into our house. We would have no privacy at all,” continued Mummy.
“You’re right,” I said. I had long since observed that privacy was a big issue for grown-ups. “Now let’s go one step further. What about a fifth dimensional creature? It would appear in the fourth as four-dimensional objects and when it looked down it would be able to see into the fourth creature and into us. And the same happens from the sixth dimension and on and on until…”
Daddy picked up: “Until the infinite dimension. We’re back to infinity! ‘To Infinity and Back,’” he joked.
“From that height,” I said, “everything is connected. Everything is one. And everything can be seen.”
“Even our thoughts?”
“Even our thoughts. And all our actions. Everything. And do you know what it all looks like?” I asked excitedly. They shook their heads. “Daddy, could you please give me my Russian doll over there. The one that you bought me on your business trip to the Moo Cows.”
“Moo Cows?” Mummy said, “Where is Moo Cows?”
Daddy laughed, “She means Moscow. It’s the capital city of Russia. Here you are.”
Moscow, what a funny name; I must remember that one correctly. I took my big fat Russian doll. It was a beautifully painted woman with a colorful dress laced with gold. She had blond hair and sparkling eyes and a big fat tummy. I grabbed her head in one hand and her base in my other hand and twisted. She parted in the middle to reveal – and I always loved this part - another doll inside. This one was of course smaller than the first. It was a man with a big smile. He also had colorful clothes. I twisted him open and extracted another doll. Their eldest child. Opening up that doll revealed another one. I kept going until finally I held in my hand a tiny, tiny little baby doll. It was so small that I could hardly see any details on it.
“It’s so cute!” I loved this little one more than all the others. I showed it to Mummy and Daddy. My bed was covered with half bodies. “Now watch this.” I said. “Let’s say that the smallest of them, this little, tiny one, is our dimension. We sit inside the next dimension like this.” I searched around and found the tiny halves of the next biggest doll and popped the baby into its insides, closing the two halves together. “Don’t forget that it’s not really like this, because each of these dolls are of the same dimension. But I think that you get the idea.” I then quickly put all the other halves together until the beautiful mother doll was back smiling joyfully at me. “You see, there is only one Mummy doll and everything else exists and is fully inside it. She is God.”
“She means it metaphorically, dear,” Mummy explained.
“I know that. I’ve just never heard God called ‘she’ before.”
“Oh, you’ll get used to it,” I said coolly.
Mummy smiled and added: “I think the correct term for what you’ve just done is nestling. All the dolls are nestling inside big Mummy God.”
Daddy looked at his watch. This was the first time he’d done so all evening, which was strange since I knew his habit of frequently glancing at it. “Oh no! The news. I missed the news. I hate missing the news. Now I’ll have to stay up and watch the midnight news.”
Mummy was less bothered. “I think that we can get an early night tonight. You know what they say: ‘Today’s news is tomorrow’s trash.’ Good night dear. Pleasant dreams.”
“Goodnight Mummy, Goodnight Daddy.”
“Goodnight, sweetie,” said Daddy, giving me a kiss on the forehead, “and thanks for the lesson. I have a feeling though that there’s more to come.” I nodded my head. “Come on Mummy God, time for a good book.”
Goodnight Mummy God. Goodnight Daddy God.