Daily Reflection
August 7th, 2008

Mike Cherney

Physics Department
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The readings today lead me to think about my work. These days it has me at the French-Swiss border. I am working on an experiment to test the fundamental interactions of matter. My project is carried out in a series of warehouse-sized buildings at the foot of the Jura. A few dozen physicists are on the ground level with the detector 50 m below the surface. We struggle to make a large system function as a single whole. Each of us is responsible for a piece of the project. Most of the pieces that we bring were constructed by collaborators, many of whom are hundreds or thousands of miles away. We struggle to integrate what we have using limited documentation. We work together using our experience and our commitment to a common cause.

I find my view of the world is shrouded in complexity. In my work we face problems where our measurements, our encounters with the world, reveal a single aspect in detail. We attempt to understand the whole by testing the predictions of small consequences of a larger, more descriptive model. My son’s observation this week was that most physicists are occupied writing computer programs. We control detector systems; we collect, process, and analyze data; all of this is done with computers.

In considering my current efforts, I can see an analogy to the law and its complexities in the Old Testament. I realize the current complexities are not the source of my meaning. I gather my meaning from the fundamental ideas that are in my heart. I will admit there are people who enjoy the complex details and enjoy arguing about minutia. I find that I function best when I am in touch with what is in my heart. This is true for my science as well as my faith. I enjoy my experience of the world. I enjoy what it brings. I enjoy discovering when things are as I anticipated. I also enjoy learning where things are different from what I expected requiring a rethinking of my assumptions. I find the Holy Spirit brings the same aspect to my faith life. (My impression is the authors of today’s first reading and psalm response had a somewhat similar sense.) I feel a glow when the Spirit draws me in the direction in which I should be moving. I enjoy the moments when I feel confirmed that I am on the right course. I am also touched when I experience the epiphany leading to change. In today’s Gospel it is clear the apostles did not always get the big picture. We see the Lord’s process of shepherding our hearts.

My prayer today is for openness to the Spirit. I pray for the satisfaction that comes with the awareness that I am on the right path. I pray for the guiding discoveries that force me to rethink my direction when I may be getting off the mark. I pray for the meaning that grows out following one’s heart. I pray for the Spirit that touches and directs our hearts.

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