Baby talk


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Baby talk

By Bobby Neal Winters

I sat with a Muslim friend of mine at the homecoming football game last night. As the sun went down, I heard him tell his wife it was time to break their fast as he brought out one of those small fabric coolers with a zipper. He unzipped it and exposed its contents of soda pop and whatnot. From this I discerned that it is the season of Ramadan that time of year when those of the Islamic faith fast during the daylight hours.

The stadium has new lights that are placed behind the stands instead of in front, and as a result we could see everyone around us with great clarity. In the row in front of us, there was a baby. His mother was holding him over her shoulder and he was making faces at us. I made faces back. I had no choice because it is the way I am made. We are designed to teach children to talk, and communication through facial expression is a part of that.
Looking up from the child’s face at the sky above the southern half of the stadium, I saw the moon was in its first quarter and from that I knew that Ramadan was about a week old because the Muslims mark the beginning of their months at the new moon.

Those of us who’ve looked at the night sky have seen that the new moon flees from the sun after sunset and will get farther and farther away until it is full. After it becomes full it will begin chasing the sun until morning until it is new again. Such is the way that it is and ever has been since Man knew to look to the sky. It is regular and we can use it to keep track of time. The Muslims use this to calculate their religious seasons and Christians use it to calculate Easter.

We all live in the same world.

I number among my friends and acquaintances those who are Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist. We can’t all be right, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be civil. We are all simply trying to find our way back to God, back to where we belong. That place where we belong is harmony with God’s Creation and part of Creation is what we call the natural world.
God is talking to us all the time, everyday, just like I was making faces at the baby at the ballgame. God speaks his language and we listen and babble back. As with a parent talking to a child, the child is to learn to talk like the parent and not the other way around. When we look at history and among the peoples of the earth we find there those who through the course of listening to God’s language found pieces of the truth. These come to us in the form of sayings. In my spiritual journey, I find I like the quotations that come from someone like Chief Joseph that are trotted out from time to time. I like the old sayings from elderly women with gnarled hands and wrinkled faces. These are bits of wisdom that have been extracted from lifelong discussions with God.

When these bits of wisdom are in isolation, they are what I would call paganism. I mean something different when I use it in this way than when I talk about pagan behavior at a wild party. The word ‘pagan’ comes from the Latin word meaning ‘farmer.’ Paganism was the religion of the farmers. The reason paganism has a stink about it is that truths in isolation tend to be overemphasized and this leads to idolatry and idolatry leads to the death of truth.

But if you quilt enough of these bits of truth together in competition with one another there is hope in seeing a larger truth, a truth that extends beyond our lonely selves. “For now we know only in part and we prophesy only in part...”

In any case, this is all too big for me. Better to spend time with friends and family under a quarter moon during a beautiful autumn night.
(Bobby Winters is a Professor of Mathematics, writer, and speaker. You may contact him at or visit his website at