They weren’t on the road very long before Evan Kimball fell asleep in the back seat.  He curled up in his coat in the corner while staring out the window, and then that was it.  Gone.

            “That was quick,” Daniel Calhoun said with a chuckle.  “It’s my fault really, I’ve been bugging him all day.”

            “That’s why I took a nap,” Ethan said, steering through traffic.

            “You’re not pissed I woke you early, are you?”

            Ethan stared straight ahead, navigating a lane change.

            “If I was, it’s a little late to be sorry, isn’t it?”

            Dan shrugged.  “I just get carried away.  I can’t help it, I’m pumped!  But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel bad later.”

            “I really didn’t care one way or the other.  But Evan was trying to tell you not to disturb the floor; people could have been studying.”

            “If they’re studying on a Friday night, then they deserve to be disturbed!”  Dan grinned.  “We don’t have class for a whole week, they can still party until Monday and then do their lame homework.  Yeah, Reading Week!”

            “If you cheer again, I will let Evan strangle you for waking him,” Ethan smiled.

            “There you go!  Man, you just need to lighten up sometimes.  This will be good for you.”

            Ethan nodded, “I hope so.”

            After a few minutes of driving, Dan glanced at the sleeping Evan.  “Okay, seriously, I need to ask you something.”

            “Oh?”

            “Why was I invited on this trip?”

            “Why would you ask that?  You’re our friend.”

            “Yeah, well, other than Evan and Alex, I didn’t think I was all that close to anybody.  I mean, you and I have been hanging out since last year, but it’s not like we were buds in high school.”

            “Well, consider Alex your ticket in.  He’s the one who convinced his uncle to give us the chalet this week.  But why would you even worry about it?”

            “I just feel so lame hanging out with Jay and Evan when they’re talking church stuff with Neal and Owen.  I mean, they’re pretty hardcore about it.  The only reason I ever went to their stupid church was to be in the band with Alex and Evan.”

            “You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to.  I don’t think any of them are pressuring you to be devout.”

            “No, I don’t mean it like that.  I just mean, how does anybody believe in that stuff?  There’s science!  Come on, evolution and astronomy show that the Bible is full of crap.  I don’t even understand why you go to church with them, I’ve seen the books you read.  Dawkins, Stephen Jay Gould, quantum mechanics stuff, you love science.  I’m surprised it’s not your major.”

            Ethan was quiet for a few moments.  “You’re right, I do love science.  It’s orderly, and makes sense of a lot of things.  It all breaks down from one source.  The light of the Big Bang, separating from the singularity and forming stars and planets, the very molecules of our bodies are made of stardust.  Physical and chemical reactions, everything comes down to mathematics, the ‘how’ of the universe is almost explainable.”

            “Right.  So what’s with church?  Frigging praying and faith, it’s a bunch of magical thinking,” Dan scoffed.

            “Ah, but the interesting thing about quantum mechanics is that everything boils down to clouds of probability.  Possibilities.  Light influencing light in random ways, a push here, a pull there.  Everything is made of light, even our thoughts are electrical energy that have a quantum effect.  Some things I’ve been reading indicate thoughts are a quantum event, having a physical impact on the world.  So ‘magical thinking’ might work sometimes.  We can convince our bodies to be sick when we’re depressed, and we can heal them through optimism and happiness.  That’s just one example.”

            “Sounds like New Age bullshit to me.”

            “Perhaps.  But I’m talking real scientific studies.  Scientists put people in sensory deprivation chambers, and told them to think about an image.  Someone else was put in a chamber next to them, and were told to report what they started daydreaming about.  In a statistically significant portion, the daydreamers saw the same things the ‘projectors’ were thinking about.  The odds improved if the daydreamer was an extrovert, seeking outer stimulation.  It’s like they snatched the other person’s thoughts out of the air.  Introverts thought about their own dreams.”

            “I don’t get what you’re saying, man.”  Dan’s brow was furrowed.

            Ethan smiled.  “I mean that, we’re all walking, talking balls of light.  Like icebergs floating in the ocean:  we’re made of the same material, but look distinct.  We believe we’re distinct.  But we’re just islands in oceans of light, with self-awareness.  But I think religion is an attempt to become aware of us being a part of the ocean too, universally connected.”

            “New Age crap again!”  Dan said.

            “Maybe it sounds like it, but it’s science.  We’re all part of that original singularity in new forms.  Like ice and water, the same thing.  So, if we’re self-aware islands of light, it’s easy to jump to the idea that maybe the ocean itself is aware, and that’s what church calls ‘God.’  Maybe.”

            “So you believe?  Like, Jesus was real?”

            “I don’t ‘believe’ anything.  I have ideas, things I wonder about.  ‘Belief’ implies to me certainty, and I’m never certain.  I wasn’t there, I haven’t met Jesus, it’s a story that I can’t prove.  But I try to learn from it, like any story, because of what it tells me.  I still like reading Superman comic books for the same reason.  Stories are symbols for real world possibilities.  And I’d prefer to think about compassionate people, heroic people, than about hurting others.  The stories have meaning, regardless of historical accuracy.

            “And, if the Gospels are real, I’m open to that possibility.  I’m willing to learn.  I’d like to think that I’m a Christian because I was born in a Christian town, and that if I was born in India, I’d be Hindu.  They’re different languages about the same universe, and so is science.  They are pathways to truth, without being the Truth itself.  I have no problem reading on evolution and then enjoying Zen koans or the Torah.  I have had my own spiritual experiences, and on some days I think they’re just in my head, and on others I find myself with faith.  I figure I could meet angels and wonder if they’re outward manifestations of inner needs, or a real encounter.  I’d never be sure, because of the slippery nature of our minds and the quantum probabilities of the universe.”

            “Whatever man, that’s way too much heavy thinking for me.  At least you’re not hardcore like Jason, jumping at shadows and clinging to a book.” 

            “I like books, too.  Even the Bible.  Books can change the way we think, the way we look at the world.  Science can tell you how the universe works, but books and stories try to find why it’s here.  I think that’s more important to me, so that’s why I’m majoring in English Lit and taking philosophy courses.  But I’m also taking some science as electives.”

            “I think this is the longest conversation we’ve ever had,” Dan said.

            “At least, one that didn’t involve you talking about a girl’s ass for twenty minutes.”

            Dan laughed so hard he woke Evan.

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