Shavuot and the God who Changes Everything

Black SwanOur God is a God of black swans.

“Black swan” is a term popularized by former Wall Street quant Nassim Nicholas Taleb in the book titled by the same name.  He describes a black swan event as having three elements: (1) An outlier event outside the realm of expectation, (2) that has extreme impact, yet (3) seems normal, predictable and explainable in hindsight.  Classic examples of black swan events are the advent of the internet in the 1990s or the September 11 World Trade Center attacks.  No one foresaw the emergence of a worldwide system of interconnected computer networks that would revolutionize human learning, commerce and communication.  No one foresaw jihadi terrorists hijacking a plane to use in a kamikaze mission on buildings in New York and Washington.  (And let me emphasize this: despite the self-serving bloviations of the intelligentsia and punditry after the fact that these phenomena were inevitable or that they were the expected natural historical developments, no one saw these things coming.)  But when black swan events do occur, they change everything. Moreover, the most important and most impacting changes in human history happen in the form of black swans rather than some slow, foreseeable gradualism.  Think about the biggest social, technological or geopolitical events in the last hundred years, or even in your lifetime, and consider how many of them could have been predicted when you were born, or even a few years before they occurred.

Our God is a God of black swans.  Indeed, he is responsible for the biggest black swan occurrence of all, the existence of the everything as opposed to non-existence.  The fact that the universe came into being at all is the most outrageous, most unbelievable claim in Scripture, more than a whole planet populated with Balaam’s talking donkeys or a whole ocean of Cana wedding wine.  Someone can balk at the idea of the universe being six millennia old.  I’m amazed the universe can be sustained for six seconds–yet here we are.  Every other miracle in the Bible is but an addendum to this very bizarre, quite unexpected, very freaky occurrence.  A universe where something is possible is a universe where anything is possible. Continue reading