people understand how to graph linear equations and solve for x. I felt as if God had looked at my innate talents, and told me to use my least favorite ones. As it turned out, I learned a lot more about my classmates than that they needed help with algebraic word problems. I met high school students who wanted, or needed, to pass algebra so they could graduate and get out of San Pablo. I met college-bound students who were only there to fulfill enough requirements to transfer out at the soonest possible moment. But perhaps the group that made the deepest impact on me was those single mothers wanting to go to nursing school and struggling to pass algebra. Not because they merely wanted to move on to college, but because they needed it to survive. At this point, you may be wondering what my point is. I seem to have completely divested myself of any reason for attaining a higher education, and have made an extremely good argument for me to drop out now and become a high school teacher in the slums so that at least some will have an opportunity to live better lives. But things are rarely ever this simple. The same God who led me to the math lab at Contra Costa College, the same God who made me a Comet, also gave me the opportunity to be a California Golden Bear. This same God allowed me to come to Berkeley. Herein lies an uncomfortable tension that I, or maybe more correctly, we, live in. We are given staggeringly heartbreaking glimpses of the poverty and violence by our Heavenly Father. We are given, by the same Heavenly Father, sublime visions of how His community gathers around the hurt and broken, and heals them. We get to see both the wonders of Heaven and the terrors of Hell, and we happen to live in between. I will leave you with two thoughts, neither of which gets rid of the tension. On the one hand, we cannot ignore the vision of Hell that we are given. We cannot help but be moved to reach down and give a cup of water to those in need. My time in the math lab moved me to want to help. Great need exists all around us, and we must not stand idle. We cannot let poverty and lack of education destroy our cities. We cannot ignore our classmates and peers who are search-
ing desperately for meaning in their dorms, labs, and lecture halls. We cannot ignore our friends who desperately need us to listen. And in most, if not all these cases, God doesn’t need the academic abilities that we have learned while we were at Cal. We are not grand and glorious saviors; we are but humble vessels. God wants us, not our skills and abilities. Our listening ears, eager feet, and willing hands are all that is required. Kepler’s laws do not show us how to love our neighbor. Art history does not tell us how to listen with patience and kindness to a roommate who just broke up with his significant other. All we need to do is be these things. No diploma required. On the other hand, what of the gifts God has given us? Why has God given us the skills to design buildings that will withstand earthquakes? Why has God given us the intuition to write sublime poetry? Why has God given us the desire to know all we can about His marvelous creation? What then shall I do? Shall I sell all I posses, give the money to the poor, and follow Christ, as the rich young ruler is told? I cannot give you a clear answer. I can’t even come to a clear conclusion myself. I live between Heaven and Hell. I look toward Heaven and see my Heavenly Father’s boundless love for me. And my heart breaks. Then I look toward Hell, seeing with the eyes of Christ that were given to me, and my heart breaks. Christ compels me to love the lost found in Hell’s desolation. I do, perhaps, know one thing. God first loved me, and when I look around me, in lab, on Sproul, on the steps of Doe, I know He wants me to love those around me. And wherever I am, whether at ccc or UC Berkeley, I am to love those around me. We can love, whether we stay in our dorms or make the trip into inner city Oakland. But we must love, because He first loved us. For these two things make up the Law: love God, and love your neighbor. Wherever you happen to be. •
drew o’kane is a fourth-year astrophysics major from El Cerrito, California. Fall 2008 | To An Unknown God
To An Unknown God's fall 2008 print issue, on the theme of social justice.