Light and matter are both single entities, and the apparent duality arises in the limitations of our language. It is not surprising that our language should be incapable of describing the processes occurring within the atoms, for, as has been remarked, it was invented to describe the experiences of daily life, and these consist only of processes involving exceedingly large numbers of atoms. Furthermore, it is very difficult to modify our language so that it will be able to describe these atomic processes, for words can only describe things of which we can form mental pictures, and this ability, too, is a result of daily experience. Fortunately, mathematics is not subject to this limitation, and it has been possible to invent a mathematical scheme — the quantum theory — which seems entirely adequate for the treatment of atomic processes; for visualisation, however, we must content ourselves with two incomplete analogies — the wave picture and the corpuscular picture.
When inequality of conditions is the common law of society, the most marked inequalities do not strike the eye; when everything is nearly on the same level, the slightest are marked enough to hurt it. Hence the desire of equality always becomes more insatiable in proportion as equality is more complete.
Among democratic nations, men easily attain a certain equality of condition, but they can never attain as much as they desire. It perpetually retires from before them, yet without hiding itself from their sight, and in retiring draws them on. At every moment they think they are about to grasp it; it escapes at every moment from their hold. They are near enough to see its charms, but too far off to enjoy them; and before they have fully tasted its delights, they die.
To these causes must be attributed that strange melancholy which often haunts the inhabitants of democratic countries in the midst of their abundance, and that disgust at life which sometimes seizes upon them in the midst of calm and easy circumstances.
The Gospel is bad news before it is good news. It is the news that man is a sinner, to use the old words, that he is evil in the imagination of his heart, that when he looks in the mirror all in a lather what he sees is at least eight parts chicken, phony, slob. That is the tragedy. But it is also the news that he is loved anyway, cherished, forgiven, bleeding to be sure, but also bled for. That is the comedy. And yet, so what? So what if even in his sin the slob is loved and forgiven when the very mark and substance of his sin and of his slobbery is that he keeps turning down the love and forgiveness because he either doesn’t believe them or doesn’t want them or just doesn’t give a damn? In answer, the news of the Gospel is that extraordinary things happen to him just as in fairy tales extraordinary things happen. Henry Ward Beecher cheats on his wife, his God, himself, but manages to keep on bringing the Gospel to life for people anyway, maybe even for himself. Lear goes berserk on a heath but comes out of it for a few brief hours every inch a king. Zaccheus climbs up a sycamore tree a crook and climbs down a saint. Paul sets out a hatchet man for the Pharisees and comes back a fool for Christ. It is impossible for anybody to leave behind the darkness of the world he carries on his back like a snail, but for God all things are possible. That is the fairy tale. And together they are the truth.
In our violently statistical, researching age, it is extremely useful to have on hand several bales of data to feed the asses.
But neither the readiness of God nor the needfulness of the neighbor is enough. I suspect that the doing of justice requires that the strong, vengeful one (who could be almost any of us in our society) must finally touch his or her own pain. It is when we touch our pain that we begin to notice the pain of others and the ways in which our system generates and requires such pain.
It is in the awareness of our own pain, not unlike the pain of the others, that “the song of the underneath” begins to be our song. And as we sing this song from underneath, we take on new energy for the prophetic summons. It can happen that when we sing our pain, the song of pain can be extended and we begin to notice the others who are hurt, sometimes even by us.
And when that singing can include the others who are fellow sufferers and often our victims, the voices of the night lose their terror and their power over us. When the song has reached the heart of the pain and lingered there, it can be changed into a new song. It cannot be changed easily or lightly, but only by entering the pain. But when it happens, then policies for justice, for entitlement, for redressing the disproportion, can be formed. …
Such a transformation is healing and joyous. But it is not romantic. It requires of us that we face fully the disproportion that needs to be acknowledged, submitted and relinquished. Prophetic faith holds out the insistent hope that people like us can make such a move.
The reason we have focused so much on metaphor is that it unites reason and imagination. Reason, at the very least, involves categorization, entailment, and inference. Imagination, in one of its many aspects, involves seeing one kind of thing in terms of another kind of thing—what we have called metaphorical thought. Metaphor is thus imaginative rationality. Since the categories of our everyday thought are largely metaphorical and our everyday reasoning involves metaphorical entailments and inferences, ordinary rationality is therefore imaginative by its very nature.
Epistemologically, Micah breaks from the fixed world of tightly controlled memos. In their place he offers poetry. For those who live best in a world of memos which control, poetry does not seem very efficient. But that, of course, is the point. Justice will not come in a society that is excessively efficient, so that even the mode of knowing offers a challenge.
Whoever commits a fraud is guilty not only of the particular injury to him whom he deceives, but of the diminution of that confidence which constitutes not only the ease but the existence of society. He that suffers by imposture has too often his virtue more impaired than his fortune. But as it is necessary not to invite robbery by supineness, so it is our duty not to suppress tenderness by suspicion; it is better to suffer wrong than to do it, and happier to be sometimes cheated than not to trust.