Existence of God – 13
We have said what omnipresence is not; let’s see if we can hone in on what it positively is.
What do we mean, for example, when the person we are speaking to is staring off in the distance and we say, “You look like you’re 1,000 miles away.” (Or, “Earth to Suzy!” – but this is more obviously out of fashion).
Or again, think of the phenomenon of video conferencing. One party may be in New York, the other in San Francisco (or Tokyo, or Berlin). Yet we see and hear them – are they present? How would you explain your answer?
If so – take it back one step. Imagine you are only able to talk on the phone. Is the other party present to you?
Now both of those require communication, so let’s bring it back yet another step. Say you have an infant, and the child is now fast asleep. You walk in to enjoy the moment (and to make sure the baby is still breathing). Are you present to the child, who is unaware of your physical presence, and is not communicating with you?
So “to be present” seems to include (but not require) communication; it seems to include (but not require) physical proximity, or a representation of one’s self in physical proximity to the other; it seems to include (and perhaps require?) awareness of the other, even a kind of active observation. Perhaps other things besides.
You may even be thinking back to the last post, and saying to yourself: Well, I can be in multiple places at once. I might be in Peoria, and in a video conference with people in Johannesburg, Calcutta, and Detroit.
Perhaps you can; the wider the net, the easier to make my point.
Because we see that, while you can project a representation of yourself all across the world (think of television stars appearing on millions of television screens at once), this is a kind of loophole. Such images do not represent our full presence, our true consciousness. That, almost by definition, is a yes or no question – Are you fully present here? – and if it is “yes” in one place, it is “no” in every other place.
So, presence might be seen as a function of consciousness – whatever your consciousness attends to, there you are present.
I have one grizzly challenge to this idea, which may only serve as a distinction. Let’s say you are stationed at a military base in a foreign country. You are on the phone with your spouse, and so “present” to your spouse. Your consciousness attends to that person, and not, say, to the grumbling person behind you waiting to use the phone.
Suddenly there is an airstrike, and you are killed. How can we maintain that you were present somewhere else, yet vulnerable to death here, at the base?
It would seem that your body is the “host” of your consciousness. Your consciousness might attend to anything at all – a person across the ocean, a person across time (if you are reading the biography of Alexander the Great, for instance) – but it depends, in the ordinary sense, on your body for its function. The body is an “accident” of your consciousness, in the philosophical sense, and so is vulnerable to physical “accidents” of time and space. (Your body is, itself, the “base” of operations for your consciousness).
The distinction here shows us how the author is free to be omnipresent; and it becomes all the more clear, I think, how this can be possible for God.