Wednesday, March 4, 2009
An Elemental Understanding
I was terrified as I sat in my Biology class last Thursday night.
"I'm not going to lie," the professor said. "This is a very, very, very hard class. But, you have to pass it or you can't move on, so, we'll just do the best we can to make it fun."
Turns out, it isn't really Biology, per se. It's a combination of Inorganic Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, and Biochemistry. Ah, there's that 'Bio' part. What a con job. But, like he said, this class is required of all Nursing students. And there we all sat, trembling.
I didn't do so hot in Chemistry during high school. Maybe it was the teacher, who forgot what it was like to not understand things on a molecular level. Maybe it was his distracting comb-over or monotone voice. Maybe it was his cowboy boots. Maybe it was me, immature, distracted, and lacking scientific confidence. Whatever it was, I still harbor my fear of Chemistry. One characteristic of me is that I do not like to not understand something. But my fear has been real, and persistent, all these years.
And now I must face it.
I've been studying. A lot. Seriously. A lot. The professor said that A students have read the chapters and worked out all the problems before they come to class. Good to know. So, I've gotten right down to it.
And I pray about it often. I really believe in the power of the Holy Ghost to bring enlightenment to one's mind. I believe that my understanding can be quickened and my capacity increased. I also believe, as I teach my children, that if I do not study on the Sabbath, but save that day for worship, then my sacrifice will be accepted, and my efforts magnified the other days of the week. I'm counting on it.
Well, I crawl along at a snail's pace. I read each section of the chapter; I read every caption; I study each diagram and picture; I take copious notes; I work out each problem.
Last week, the conversion factors, dimensional analysis, and scientific notation with significant numbers about kicked my butt. Have you ever seen that little skit on Sesame Street with the long-haired musician sitting at his grand piano, trying over and over to play his piece, and then in frustration he exclaims in despair, "Oh, I'll never get it! Never! Never!" and then he slams his face down on the keys? That's kind of how I felt.
And then, yesterday, the Periodic Table made me cry. But not like you think. I mean, it literally took my breath away, and I sat there in awe as I read from my book. "No way," I whispered out loud. "You've got to be kidding me. This is unbelievable!" (like I was the one discovering it all!) I felt my heart skip. No one had ever told me. Or, I never wanted to know before, so I didn't hear.
I first learned how electrons are organized within the atoms. In shells, then subshells, then orbitals. But all with such precision and reason. Then, I learned (with ease!) how to write electron configurations for any element, based on its atomic number. And then, when I learned how the electron configurations repeat themselves in a regular manner among the elements and how beautifully brilliant the periodic table is, I was stunned. Stopped dead in my tracks. I won't even try to explain it all here, because, well, it's all so fresh in my mind that I would just bumble it all up, but seriously? God is amazing.
I felt as though I learned to understand a small piece of the language with which He created the universe. There is so much order, so much beauty in it, that I can't comprehend how anyone could think for a moment that it all happened spontaneously. No way.
I sat there, staring at the periodic table with new, misty eyes. I wanted to rejoice out loud. I wanted to start sobbing. I wanted to jump around the room! I wanted to sing! It all filled me to overflowing. All I could do was write "WOW" in big capital letters in my notebook. And laugh out loud.
Because not only do I marvel at the intricacy and perfect symmetry in the patterns of God, realizing that really, I'm just some electron in some orbital, in some subshell, in some shell, spinning around some nucleus of an atom of an element in this vast Universe of His creating, but yesterday?
It all made sense. No fear.