SOUDER: A turtle, 2 snails & Einstein: Everything is relative -- or is it?

-A A +A
By Chuck Souder

A couple of months ago my 9-year-old son brought a book about football home from the school library. It was a book about the greatest plays in the history of football, and one of the games that it highlighted was the Nov. 20, 1982, game between Stanford and the University of California.

Many football fans already know what happened (and everyone should look it up on YouTube to watch it), but for those who don’t, I’ll recap it for you.

With 4 seconds left in the game, Stanford, leading, 20-19, kicked off to Cal. With the Stanford band already coming out on the field to celebrate the victory, a stunned but excited crowd watched as the Cal team, after a series of five lateral passes, scored the winning touchdown—running into several band members in the process and finishing in the end zone with a spectacular, head-on collision with one particularly unfortunate band member.

Well, over the course of a several days, my son excitedly told the rest of our family all about this game and all of the other dramatic games that were documented in the book.

Because my wife and I actually remembered the game from when it happened, we both spoke about it from our perspective. After hearing us both recount our versions, our 10 year-old daughter said, “Mom, you make it sound sad, but when Dad says it, it sounds funny.”

That is the difference in perspective from a former musician and a former athlete. 

Perspective is a funny thing.

I heard about a turtle that was robbed by a pair of snails. When the police arrived to get his statement about what had occurred, the turtle replied, “I’m not sure—it all happened so fast!”

As they say, everything is relative.

But is it? Is everything relative?

Einstein’s famous theory is called the Theory of Relativity—not because everything is relative but because there is at least one thing that is not. Einstein’s theory says that in physics, the speed of light is an absolute limit; nothing can travel faster.

Therefore, everything else is relative to this absolute standard. Because of this, he almost called his theory the Theory of Invariance.

When you think about it, of course, it is impossible for everything to be relative. Even the famous atheist Bertrand Russell admitted there must be something that is constant in the universe.

He wrote, “A certain type of superior person is fond of asserting that ‘everything is relative.’ This is, of course, nonsense, because, if everything were relative, there would be nothing for it to be relative to.”

Put another way, if nothing is nailed down, there is nothing to nail to.

Several years ago as I was sitting outside a post office in Louisville, I observed a man in the process of building a gazebo.

He had the frame nailed together loosely and appeared to be trying to make sure the gazebo was level. Unfortunately, he wasn’t having much luck.

You see, he had four holes dug, into which he put the four supporting legs of the gazebo. However, none of the legs had been anchored into a hole. So, after putting the four legs into the four holes, he checked to see if the crossbeams were level.

When they weren’t, he took one of the legs out of its hole, added a little dirt, and then re-inserted the leg and re-checked the crossbeam. Can you see the problem?

I watched as the poor man added dirt to each hole, then took some dirt out of some holes, then added dirt again to others. And guess what finally happened?

Well, I’m actually not sure because I left the post office before he gave up, but my suspicion is that unless he changed his methodology, his project was doomed to failure.

Why? Because until the legs were anchored into the ground, it was going to be extremely difficult to make the crossbeams level. 

What about you? At the start of a new year, do you feel like that poor worker outside the post office?

No matter how much you try to add a little here or take away a little there, your life still seems out of balance? The only way to keep from simply going around in circles (like the gazebo builder) is to make sure that your life is anchored to something solid, something that isn’t relative to your changing emotions, perspectives or life circumstances. 

Einstein determined that in the physical realm, the one thing that was invariable was the speed of light. It is my suggestion to you that in the spiritual realm, there also is only one thing that is invariable—God and His Word.

As it has been since the beginning, this is the great dividing point in the world today—those who are anchored to the authority of God and His Word, and those who rely on human reason (which constantly changes) to determine truth.    

Remember, everything is not relative—there is an Anchor in the universe. And you don’t have to be Einstein to figure that out. 


Chuck Souder is on staff at Shelby Christian Church. He can be reached at csouder@shelbychristian.org.