• Jeff Johnston

Do You Believe In Miracles?

Full disclosure: Passion is overflowing for me today!


I am not attempting to discount the tremendous UTILITY in the human desire to accept miracles, let alone personal miracles. Please don’t let someone like me rain on your parade. I don’t know if they actually exist any more than I do with bigfoot, aliens or ghosts. How would anyone really know for sure anyway? How do you prove a miracle? I apparently wasn’t invited to this sacred knowledge revealing party as it was being granted out to others. If your convictions are indeed unshakable I am sure this blog will irritate or possibly even anger you. If you are religious I ask you not to judge, just read or listen. Maybe it’s a miracle for me to think otherwise? I will suggest you wait till the end for a surprising twist, then judge me all you want!


I am attempting, as with all my blogs and podcasts, to increase the importance of curiosity and not simply take what someone says or tells you as the truth. Strong beliefs and opinions certainly don’t equate to facts and truth. Are facts and truths really more important than what YOU believe, especially if this belief system helps you out? I don’t know, you’ll have to be your own “judge.”


After The United States Olympic Hockey team upset their heavily favored Russian counterparts in the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympic Games, ABC Sportscaster Al Michaels triumphantly proclaimed, “Do you believe in miracles?” This became one of the greatest sports comments ever and to this day resonates within athletic fields and sports stadiums throughout the United States. I am pretty sure he didn’t mean it literally or did he?


Often when an “Act of God” or some amazing event happens where good fortune is bestowed upon someone, a miracle is conveniently injected as the only explainable option. I understand why this occurs. A terminal cancer prognosis improves, a horrible car wreck with no fatalities or a half-court buzzer-beater in basketball. There is an unquenchable thirst for us to have answers to almost anything that occurs in our daily lives, especially when randomness is less preferred over design. More importantly, we were somehow selected, handpicked to receive this good luck. Could it be, or is it possible that a more simple, mathematical answer could be at hand? Let me be clear, I don’t know the answer, yet I offer up, how could ANYONE actually know?


The Law of Large Numbers (a statistical measure), states; “With a large enough number of samples, any outrageous (unlikely in any single sample) thing is likely to be observed.” Wikipedia-Everitt 2002.


This also means that large numbers can deceive. A million to one chance happens, well, once in every million tries. The United States had 328,000,000 citizens as of 2019. That's 328 “miracles” waiting to be revealed to some very fortunate souls each day! We know this in advance yet when they occur we really want to believe a certain “intent” is behind them.


Littlewoods Law actually says, “a person can expect events with odds of one in a million at the rate of one per month.” Noted skeptic and magician Penn Jillette claims there are 8 legit “miracle” claims per day in New York, population 8,000,000. I am certain these 8 “lottery winners” will gladly take this good luck, however, a percentage of them will actually claim some personal celestial entity granted this wish for them. Dr. Littlewood (noted Cambridge Professor) claims a human will in 35 days have experienced about one million events. If the definition of a miracle is accepted this way, one can expect to observe one miraculous event every 35 days. We can clearly see our hand prior to the cards being dealt to us, a huge advantage I may add, yet we seem inclined to believe otherwise. Interesting.


What does all this prove, if anything? Like most things presented to us it really all depends on what our “belief” or ‘faith” structure is? My simple (secular) and ADD mind looks at it this way. Which is more likely?


1. The fact that there are billions of us on this planet raises the odds drastically that “miracles”

happen almost every moment each day with good and bad luck statistically guaranteed. A fact.


2. That miracles are granted, by design, to us as a reward or possibly a sign proving “things happen in mysterious ways,” and it’s on us to figure out why. A desire.


If #2 is true, then what/who determines how these miracles are dished out, and more specifically what is the INTENT behind them? For most of the world, this is somehow comforting, to me, it is absolutely terrifying to actually think something or someone has the power or the capability to manipulate the sanctity of the universe in such a manner. Like a celestial bully doling out “get out of jail” cards at will, or worse yet to reward or punish someone. Talk about total judgment! That would seem like Hell to me - if there is one.


Consider a boat sinking in the ocean with ten people aboard. Nine drown. The one survivor has certainly experienced a miracle, no doubt. I am very pleased about this and it’s unfortunate (bad luck) the other nine did not get so lucky. We certainly can’t know “why” this happened yet so often we claim we do. Did the nine who drowned just have the misfortune of running out of miracles, or were they chosen specifically to die that day. I have no clue and to be honest, I would rather not claim I did. For if this is true, it would petrify my soul, if even that exists.


Is it a miracle that ONLY 188 people died from opioid-related deaths in 2016, the same year our son, Seth died? Why didn’t more people die that year and why Seth? Was he just out of miracles and how does one specifically run out of miracles? Or worse yet, is there some hidden divine or spiritual reason this occurred and now I must discover this meaning bestowed on me by an otherworldly presence? I don’t recall granting permission to anyone to torture me this way so I won’t allow it for me. I present this narrative simply to demonstrate how I DON’T view all of this. Seth wasn’t out of miracles nor did he die for any specific reason. He died because he chose to put heroin in his veins and the dealer who sold it to him chose not to test it for fentanyl. I don’t need to complicate any of this for me by injecting an outside intent or to invent a “third party” reason. I came to realize, from the moment he died, I was to discover my own reasons and inject my own passions. Is it a miracle I haven’t joined him yet? Is our “free will” really as free as we are told?


We all are aware how facts and statistics can be construed to match up with whatever ideology or convictions we possess. Miracles, in of themselves, are awesome and I can say, by statistical definition I have witnessed many in my life. Yet at the same time, I pause and consider if there is a “why” behind them. As I wrote in my very first blog, “Things happen for a reason, right?” I don’t believe they do nor do I believe there are otherworldly reasons for miracles when they occur. We tend to construct the purpose and intent behind them, which I see no harm in doing in most situations. Is this wrong? Most of the time it isn’t. However, in the cases of Jim Jones (The People’s Temple), David Koresh (Branch Davidians), and Marshall Applewhite (Heaven’s Gate) there were dire consequences for those who did not challenge the status quo within their group.


Does this outlook make me less in awe of the beauty of nature, unappreciative of the wonderful world we live in? Does it make me a lost soul floating adrift, aimlessly in the universe, without direction or meaning? Just the contrary. My reverence for life and living is unshakable, that I will claim. Critical thinking has guided me my whole life and has helped me in dealing with trauma and explain random events when they occur in my life. Do I believe in miracles by mathematical definition and probability? Yes. Do I believe there is an intent or personal design behind them? No.


UPDATE: I can’t make this stuff up. As I was typing the last sentence I received a call from my good friend, Kenyon Murray. Kenyon is a board member and an advocate for my non-profit organization, The Choices Network, Ltd. We raise awareness and funds to assist adolescents and adults with making better choices, specifically aimed at alcohol, drugs, and mental health. Kenyon informed me we had the largest donation ever into my non-profit, a $5,000 contribution he was able to get from some very generous and compassionate clients of his. I am so appreciative of this! Maybe Al Michaels was right? Did I just witness a miracle?


Live Undeterred!


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