There was a story about a Chinese farmer in the Sung dynasty. He had to carry water daily from the near by river to his house. He had two barrels to catch the water and then carry it home with a pole on his shoulder. The trouble was that one of the barrels had a slow leak so that half of the water was gone when he got home. He tried to fix it but was not successful. As he did this task many times a day, he was very frustreated. After a few days, however, he noticed that flowers and grass began to glow on the path where the water was spilled. He switched the leaky barrel from side to side and created a beautiful pathway. What he did not know is that some of the flowers we see today may have come from the seeds of this farmer.
This is why I believe in the statement:
“What we do in life echoes in eternity, good or bad!”
Today, I want to share with you how people have helped me throughout my life.
When I came to California in 1950, to study in an aircraft mechanic school. I was a typical modern Chinese student. I worshipped science and considered all religions superstitions and crutches were for the weak. My major problem was that my dormitory did not serve food on Sundays. Since I had no means of transportation, I had to walk miles for food.
Then a gracious American lady, Mrs. Grannas, invited me, a stranger, to her home for Sunday dinner with her family. She first picked me up for church, and then we drove to her house for dinner. I did not become a Christian, but I did receive a “certificate of faithful attendance” from the church. I truly appreciated her kindness, and the Sunday dinners were heaven-sent.
Later that year at a Christmas party, she gave me a small Bible. I was very disappointed. I thought I at least rated a tie! For some strange reason, I kept the Bible with me, though I never read it. I am sure that she was disappointed with me, but six years later, God answered her prayers.
(When I finally did accept Christ, I wrote to Mrs. Grannas to thank her for her kindness many years ago. Unknown to me, she was facing a family crisis at the time and felt she was a failure. My letter encouraged her, and she went to the Philippines and helped run an orphanage! What she did there will echo in eternity! Blessings always boomerang! But I’m getting head of myself.)
My MIT Years
Even though I didn’t believe in God, by a strange change of destiny, I now call a miracle. I was accepted at MIT to study Aeronautics and Astronautics (now called Aerospace Engineering). I was again given a new tomorrow.
Throughout my first five years at MIT, (’51 to ‘56), I was a confirmed atheist. Many Christians tried to witness to me, but none succeeded. I was very 牙刷 (toothbrush – in Cantonese, it means one is a know-it-all, very proud of himself). I was also taught while I was in China, that a man should be 顶天立地 (standing on earth with head hitting the sky).
I was so excited when I arrived at MIT in 1951, I went to the book store (called the COOP) to buy my foot-long slide-rule. (Needed for all scientific calculations; there was no PC or iPad in those days). I clipped the slide-rule on my belt and felt like the newest gunslinger in town! Then the textbooks weighed heavily on my hand. I wondered how I could understand all that… well, one page at a time.
Since I have not taken a formal course in English, I always have problems in spelling and grammar. I wondered how I could complete with all those top students from all the high-class Prep schools.
Fortunately, I was introduced to the FF fraternity by brothers Larry Ho, Billy Lee and others. I got to know many senior brothers who help guided and encouraged me through the difficult times.
Throughout my first five years at MIT, I held true to my belief that science had all the answers. Many Christians have tried to influence me, but my ego was strong so none succeeded.
In the meantime, different people often gave help to me in my needy hours. I was surprised that most cared for me without demanding anything in return. I often wondered why.
To this day, I am particularly grateful to Mr. C. T. Loo, who provided the C. T. Loo Fellowship, which allowed me to finish my education.
During my senior year at MIT, I was involved in a minor traffic accident. Without legal representation, the other party’s lawyer literally took me by the feet and shook every penny out of me. I was totally broke. Without the fellowship, I would have had to drop out of school and work as an illegal immigrant!
Some people would say that I won that fellowship in fair competition with other applicants. Nevertheless, I’m truly thankful and indebted to someone—a total stranger —who was willing to give unselfishly of his own resources to empower a needy young man with a “new tomorrow.” Mr. Loo also helped many other students finished their education. Indeed, what he did in life, echoes in eternity!
In graduate school, I discovered a shocking truth: the more I learned, the more I realized that I do not know! Even today, each new discovery leads me to a deeper mystery.
Though science has made tremendous strides, we are usually stuck when we ask a few basic questions such as:
Q: Why is the grass green?
A: Because it contains chlorophyll.
Q: Why chlorophyll?
A: It is needed to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen. It is part of our ecosystem.
A: It just is.
After earning my master’s degree, I was offered an excellent job in the research department at Honeywell in the aeronautical division in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
For the first time, I had a good amount of money. I bought a new car, a new stereo system, a TV, a hunting rifle, a shotgun, and everything else a young bachelor would want (all on credit!).
I did well in my work. Yet, my life felt empty. Some unknown things were missing. I was challenged by these questions: What is truth? What makes something right or wrong? What is the meaning and purpose of my life? Is tomorrow just more food and drink and work? I felt like a person all dressed up with no place to go. I hunted for the answer to four important questions:
- Is anybody up there?
- Does anyone care?
- Why am I here?
- Where am I going?
My Search for God
As I searched for the answers, I found Sir Isaac Newton was a great scientist and a devout Christian. He was an excellent, part-time preacher. Some people asked him, “Why, when faced with such a wonderful gospel message, do some people still reject God?”
He answered, “Sometimes I’ve absent-mindedly tried to light my candle with the extinguishing cover on. It wouldn’t work. It is not that the candle doesn’t work, but something I did blocked it from lighting.”
Everyone has his own blocker.
My ego was mine. With my education and intelligence, I proudly presumed my intellectual ability probably ranked in the top percentiles of the U.S., if not in the world. Yet the more I studied the beauty and design of nature, the more my own work shrank to insignificance. Being in awe of the complexity of nature, we’re faced with a great dilemma. To say that “nothing” or “time” alone has built the world takes a great deal of faith in “nothing”, a true superstition! (The second law of thermodynamics would also have to be thrown out!)
Many scientists believe we came from “the big bang”, a cosmic accident. But what caused the big bang? Where did all the hydrogen and gravity come from? My questions continued.
Looking at the beauty and wonders of nature, one must ask the question: Are these all evolve from nothing or by “intelligent design”.
Surprisingly, I was introduced to God through the study of babies. When I found God in 1956, I was a bachelor. An older engineer tried to witness to me. I again out-argued him. He threw a book at me and said: “If you are so smart, tell me how this is done!”
It was a book that presented pictures of a baby’s development from week to week prior to birth. Unfortunately, that old book can no longer be found, however, we can get some up to date pictures from Google. In the 9th week, the baby is fully formed, it weighs just one ounce!
From the study of biology, I knew about sperm and egg cells. Once they unite, the fertilized egg cell starts dividing the way all cells do. However, how did some of those cells become the liver, kidneys, brain, skin, and bones?
Furthermore, how does the baby know the correct areas to place these organs in the body and connected them, so they work together properly? Do you know that the baby’s heart starts beating at the fifth week after conception, and there’s no blood yet to pump? We did not know much about genes and DNA in 1956. Today we know much more about them, and yet the mystery deepens. (See “The Language of God” by Dr. Francis S. Collins. Director of NIH (National Institute of Health) – He turned from an atheist to a believer by studying the complexity of the human genes and DNA).
As a scientist and aircraft mechanic, I knew how to build an airplane. One must carefully design it, build the parts, and fit them together carefully. One must connect all the wirings and test them to make sure that they work together.
How does a baby know to do that? Some well-meaning Christian friend told me the Bible says: “We’re wonderfully made.” And then he quoted me the scripture: “For you (God) created my inmost being you knit me together in my mother’s womb” Psalm 139:13. Ha! There must be a scientific answer.
|After much study, I had to admit and said: Lord, “I surrender!”|||
I got off my high horse and opened my mind to studying the Bible. By chance, (now I call it Divine Providence), I was invited to a Chinese Christian Fellowship meeting by my friend Fred Shaw (Hsiao). CCF was started by an old widow, Mrs. Torjeson. Her husband, a missionary to China, was killed by the Japanese during World War II. Mrs. Torjeson single-handedly and successfully raised four small children while starting this organization. Though she was a slightly built, poor widow, she was a tower of strength. Largely through her efforts and love, and that of others in her organization, I was challenged with questions and found my answers in the Bible.
For example, I discovered my pride was a sin. Yes, I was like an ignorant, prideful man who refused any spiritual instruction, yet all the while, knowing deep down, I knew that I did not have the answers.
Someone once said that the Bible is an acronym for: Basic Information Before Leaving Earth. Interesting!
Once I opened my mind and heart, I made my peace with God and started my spiritual journey and adventure. Countless Chinese students from the university also discovered Christianity at the same place. Truly, what Mrs. Torjeson did will echo loudly in eternity!
Recently, I took on an “Almost an Impossible Task”, that of trying to understand how our brain work?
Yes, our brain is one of the most studied subjects in the world. In recent years, we have developed tools that allow us to measure all the activities of the brain and know which part is responsible for what function, yet, we still don’t know how it works. For example: The brain weights less than 4 pounds and yet it uses 20% of our blood. It contains 100 billion neurons, one thousand trillion synapses, more than all the stars in our galaxy! How do they all fit into a 4 pound brain and worked together? Tell me if you can.
Here are a few simple examples:
1. Our amazing brain (mental integration )
Try this experiment with me: Turn on your TV set and watch a program. Now, block your right eye with a book held a few inches from the right eye that completely blocks out the TV images.
Now open both eyes, you can see right through the book! Amazing!! Now, with both eye open, you can also read the book! How? The brain can integrate and understand the information from both eyes and put the pictures together mentally. Incredible!
Now, try another experiment, put your opened hand in front of your nose and separate your two eyes. You see different pictures with each eye. Yet if you open both eyes, you see the whole picture as if the hand were not there. Amazing! This is called “mental integration.” Your brain or mind can put the two different pictures together as one! And you can judge distance (parallax) as well.
There is a movie called: “The Winning Team” starring Ronald Reagan, before he became our president. It is a story about the famous baseball pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander, he was doing very well until he got hit on the head by a baseball and experienced “double vision”. He lost his “mental integration”. He saw two pictures with his eyes and could no longer pitch. Fortunately, he regained his “mental integration” after some rests and was able to finish his wonderful career! If you have not seen this picture, get the DVD or watch it on You-tube. (Co-star with Doris Day!) Well worth watching!
2. Hunters and prey
Have you ever noticed that animals that are hunters have their eyes in front (e.g.: humans, Lions, tigers, dogs, eagles and owls), while the prey animals (cows horses, deer, birds have their eyes on the side of their heads.)
Side eye placement allows for greater peripheral or side vision. This enables the animal to see predators approaching from the side as well as from behind. That is why it is extremely hard to sneak up on a bird.
It is interesting to note that the birds can see everything (almost 360 degrees) via mental integration, but how do they judge distances? I saw a sparrow flying very fast toward a fence; I thought for sure it would hit it. Yet, when it got close, it flapped its wings backwards and stop and landed on the fence. How does a bird judge distance? Do you know?
Answer: It does this task by moving its head constantly from side to side or up and down to get depth perception. Amazing!
It is even more amazing to know that all that beautiful flying and coordinated maneuvers are done and controlled by electrical impulses from a little brain no bigger than a bean.
If you have interest in this area, please join me in this research. No one knows yet how our memory and creative thinking work. Share with me your findings. My email is email@example.com. Thank you!
|Dr. Lee is a retired rocket scientist. He earned his Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering from MIT. He worked more than twenty years in the aerospace industry. He was also an engineering professor at the University of California at Irvine. He was listed in Who’s Who in the West 1970– 1971. He has served as chairman and CEO of several companies. He was elected as “Entrepreneur of the Year 2004” by the ABAOC. He wrote several motivational books: “Build the Rainbow of your success”; and many other books, His latest book is: “Building Smart Kids in Challenging Times” |
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