Seeing The Extraordinary Within The Ordinary
Chapter 1 What Is A Miracle?
Do you believe in miracles?
To answer this question we must define what we mean by “miracle.”
The word is used so often, sometimes for such trivial events that it has become a cliché.
On a superficial level, some people consider a miracle to be simply an unexpected event or a wonderful surprise; for others, however, a miracle is the belief that G-d has intervened supernaturally in their lives.
People may disagree on whether events in their lives are indeed miraculous or can be explained naturally.
Some see miracles as a true affirmation of G-d in their lives; a more skeptical person might think of a miracle as an unrealistic hope, something one clings to in the face of life’s harsh realities.
The question of miracles is really a question of how we understand G-d and the role he plays in our lives.
By analyzing the anatomy of a miracle and understanding your feelings about miracles, you can learn much that will help you find deeper meaning in your life.
So what do we mean by “miracles?”
If we agree that miracles is a beneficial occurrence that cannot be explained by the laws of nature, then we must first ask the question: What is a natural event?
Why wouldn’t any natural event that awes and excites us, be considered a miracle?
Truth be told, we don’t really understand the “laws” of nature.
Yes, nature operates according to a design that we have come to accept as normal.
But while this makes life more predictable and, therefore, more comfortable, it doesn’t necessarily make it any more understandable.
When we know for instance that the sun will rise tomorrow morning, we feel a sense of order and control, but we still have no idea as to why nature was created this way; Just because we label something “natural” doesn’t mean that we understand it any better than we understand a “miracle.”
The difference between a miracle and act of nature is only in frequency.
Imagine that the sun were to rise only once in our lifetime.
Everyone would rush out to see it, proclaiming it a most miraculous event.
But since we experience a sunrise everyday, we see it as just another ordinary part of our lives.
This is an inherent human trait – we become so accustomed to something that no matter how extraordinary it may be, we take it for granted.
We constantly need a new rush of excitement to arouse our interest.
Someone will say “if only I saw a miracle, then I would believe, then I would change my life!”
What are we waiting for – the parting of the sea?
Miracles are happening around us every moment!
Life itself is a miracle; consider the sheer wonder of human birth.
In fact, we do often refer to birth as a miracle, so why then do we so easily forget that every person on earth is the product of a miracle?
Since we are so distracted by the daily struggle to survive and by our responsibilities and obligations we tend to ignore the miracles around us.
The very noise of life drowns out the underlying sound of what should be most real to us.
It is not that we don’t believe in miracles; we simply stop taking the time to appreciate them.
To see a miracle means to appreciate the uncommon within the common, the extraordinary within the ordinary.
When you can recognize the extraordinary within the ordinary, supernatural occurrences are not that impressive to you.
Your faith – and life – is not dependent on such miracles, for you have a mature relationship with a reality that is higher than yourself, and you realize that the ultimate miracle is our very existence.
Just contemplate the awesome design and balance within any one family of the animal, vegetable or mineral kingdom, to say nothing of the beauty of the human body or the elegance of the solar system.
The Divine miracles of nature are not to be found in its once in a lifetime event, but in its relentless regularity.
Whereas every creation of man is ephemeral every part of nature is boundless, permanent, and inexplicable – in a word miraculous.
Chapter 2 Do Miracles Really Happen?
Miracles in Nature
Because so many of us take for granted the many wonders before our eyes, G-d does on occasion perform miracles to shake us from our reverie, to elevate us to a higher plane of awareness.
Sometimes a miracle occurs to rescue us from a dire situation.
Since G-d created the universe and its laws of nature, it would follow that He can alter or suspend these laws as He sees fit.
But such miracles are infrequent, especially today.
“G-d doesn’t perform miracles for no reason” our sages tell us, and “we ought not to rely on a miracle.”
Why is this the case?
Because this world was created with a natural order so that we could civilize it and make it a dwelling place for G-d; this is accomplished not by going beyond nature but by imbuing nature with that which is beyond it.
A miracle momentarily opens the door between the natural world that surrounds us and the spiritual world within.
G-d’s intention is not to supersede the laws of nature but to give us a greater appreciation and awareness of the miracle of our daily natural lives.
There are two types of miracles – one that openly defies the laws of nature, and one that manifests itself within these laws, initially giving off the appearance of a totally natural event.
We have read and heard much of the first type of miracles – the parting of the Red Sea, for instance, or when someone makes a full recovery from an illness that doctors had considered terminal.
The second type of miracle is no less wondrous – the bloodless fall of communism, for instance, or the world’s retreat from the brink of nuclear war.
So there are in essence three levels of miracles: those that are clearly visible and indisputable, those that take on a natural shape but are clearly miraculous, and the miracle of nature itself.
Why these three levels?
To unite the natural world with G-d.
This requires three elements: the language of the lower natural world, the language of G-d; and an intermediary, something that serves to translate the miraculous language of G-d into our natural world.
The miracle of nature is by far the most common – and the easiest to overlook – for it is constantly occurring around us and inside us.
But imagine that you stepped into the modern world from the eighteenth or nineteenth century.
Look at the computer that can organize such massive amounts of data or the artificial heart with which a surgeon can save a person’s life:
Would there be a shred of doubt in your mind that these were miracles?
And yet they were produced not by some overt supernatural intervention, but by the very hand of man, using the skills G-d gave him to operate within the laws of nature.
Practice and Theory
Living a meaningful life means finding meaning in everything you do and encounter, beginning with the natural world.
The effects of nature color your entire being, you are bound by the demands nature puts on your body – the need to eat, to sleep, to seek safety and shelter.
The solution is not to surrender to the laws of nature or view them as boundaries that constrict our creativity and drive; instead we must see them as a Divine blueprint, which in and of itself is full of miracles.
Yes, nature provides a formidable challenge.
How conventional would it be, for instance, if humans could fly.
But consider the feeling of unfettered release we felt when the first airplane took to the air, or, even more miraculously when we first reached outer space.
Using nature’s blueprint – the wings of a bird – we re-created the miracle of flight for ourselves.
And yet, only a few short decades after we held space exploration in such awe, we already take it for granted.
All our significant experiences in life remain wanting if we ultimately find no deeper meaning in them, if we are not able to go beyond the natural order to which we so often feel prisoner.
How can we break away from the formidable grip of nature?
By understanding exactly what nature is and what it is not, by recognizing that the laws of nature were not placed before us like a barrier, but given by G-d so we could reveal the extraordinary within the ordinary.
To do so we must learn to look at the world with fresh eyes. To observe the beauty of nature and stand in awe of its designer.
Nature is one our best teachers, there is something to be learned from every aspect, no matter how matter how humble.
In a bee’s honeycomb, we see pure efficiency; in the pull of the tides, wee see the cyclical nature of time, in the root system of a tree we see the instinct for self-nourishment.
We must learn to look more closely at our daily experiences.
You will soon see patterns developing; it will become obvious that your footsteps are being guided by Divine providence – when you meet someone, when you take a trip, when a new business opportunity presents itself.
Every moment of your life contains the opportunity for a miracle; it is up to you to stay receptive, to reveal the sublime within the everyday.
(A note from the editor
Einstein famously and quite accurately and correctly taught:
There are only to ways to live life, one as though all is miraculous, the other as though nothing is miraculous.)
Chapter 3 What Should We Learn From Miracles?
In just the last few years, we have experienced countless miracles based on new technologies and further advances in science.
To be sure, these revolutionary developments can all be explained rationally, and yet, when we examine the larger picture, we see a pattern developing: Mankind is coming ever closed to a deeper and deeper unity.
The world continues to grow smaller, thanks to developments in communication and travel.
Technological advancements give us more time and energy to pursue nobler goals; Many of the physical obstacles that impeded spiritual and personal growth in previous generations have fallen away.
Consider the collapse of the Iron Curtain and the crumbling of communism.
Yes, after years of oppression and corruption, it may have seemed inevitable that the Soviet Union would fall, and yet who could have predicted that it would happen so suddenly and so peacefully?
The world is consistently evolving toward unity, toward recognizing the Divine rights of all mankind.
Every field, from science and medicine to business and communication, is experiencing major breakthroughs at breathtaking speeds.
We must see such developments for what they are – not merely random events to be used for self serving purposes, but individual steps toward a path of righteousness, a path leading upward toward a life of meaning and redemption.
Yes, we can explain away many events, even “miraculous” ones.
But then again, a good mind can explain away anything.
Just like you have a choice in everything you do, you can use your mind to either seek out the miracles in life or deny them.
Only you can know the degree of sincerity with which you are trying to understand your life and instill it with meaning.
If you look honestly at your life, you will recognize the miracles within nature and the miracle of nature itself.
You will recognize the Divine providence in all your activities.
You will learn to appreciate the miracles of your own life – the successes you’ve had and the very miracle of life.
Thank G-d for these miracles; don’t take them for granted.
You will realize that the world around you is experiencing miracles within miracles, a revolution from within.
It is time to acknowledge that the world is hurtling toward redemption – and that it is your choice and your choice alone whether to be part of it.
Inevitably we will / are entering a time, when the greatest miracle of all, namely, a new type of nature, when we will experience miracles in every part of our life, shall be the new reality of humankind.