Sodomy Versus Intelligent Design

26 07 2010

There’s a proper tool for everything, and there’s a proper use for every tool.

In the field of microbiology we use a special membrane filter made from nitrocellulose, a highly flammable paper made from ordinary paper, sulfuric acid, nitric acid and heat.  This produces a few minutes of expensive entertainment, as it bursts into an impressive fireball over a Bunsen burner.  Unfortunately, this piece of flash paper is not produced for the thrill of pyromaniacs, but for the dull purpose of capturing and growing bacteria.  Once it gets wet, it isn’t nearly as fun to burn.

The slim smooth paper filter is very carefully made at the factory to ensure that its pores are just small enough to capture the bacteria, while letting liquids and growth media through.  Now, one might imagine it to be something like sifting marbles out of sand with wire mesh, but this is entirely inaccurate.  On a microscopic level, it more closely resembles a sponge.  The bacteria get trapped inside of it, among the labyrinth of fibers.  The filter can then be placed upon agar, and the growth medium can seep up into this sponge-like matrix and surround the microorganisms, keeping them wet and well-fed.  Had they been trapped on the upper surface, like fish in a net, the medium would never reach them, and they would die of dessication.  Life on top of the filter would be like life on the moon.

Getting the nitrocellulose filter to the right porosity requires a method that borders on insane ingenuity.  One liquid is first dissolved in another, and then the paper fibers are added.  Next, the liquid solution is very carefully dried in a tightly controlled environment.  One liquid evaporates faster than the other, which means that their relative concentrations gradually change.  Eventually, one liquid will become too concentrated to remain dissolved within the other, and it will fall out of solution, forming microscopic droplets suspended homogeneously.  The paper fibers, which are also floating in the mix, are pushed out of the way of these suspended droplets, as the droplets continue to grow.  When the droplets reach the desired size, both liquids are removed, and the paper fibers settle and stick together.  Between the fibers are empty spaces left by the droplets.  Hence, on a microscopic level, the paper is like a sponge, full of air bubbles.  The bacteria wander into it, where they become trapped.

Now, the nitrocellulose filter is perfect for capturing microorganisms meant to be grown on agar, but if one wants to wash them back off of the filter in order to burst them open and study their DNA, then one has a problem.  They do not easily wash off, because they are embedded snugly within it.  Therefore the polycarbonate filter was invented.  This type of filter is essentially a very thin piece of plastic with precise holes bored into it.  To do this, the manufacturers expose the plastic film to nuclear radiation for a precise length of time.  The radiation particles punch tiny holes into the surface, which are then etched to a larger size by soaking the membrane in a strong acid for an exact length of time.  On a microscopic level, it looks like a sheet of plastic that someone attacked with a hole puncher.  The bacteria are filtered out, and they stay on the surface of the filter, because they are too enormous to fit into the holes.  This makes for an easy task of washing them off of the filter to be studied by other methods.

Now, the proper use of each filter is well-established.  Each was very carefully designed for a very precise purpose.  Yet, for the sake of convenience, there are those in the field of microbiology who are, at this moment, attempting to show that the nitrocellulose filter can be used in the same way as the polycarbonate filter.  The wrong filter is easier to handle and easier to come by.  They believe that they can wash the bacteria off of the filter and out of the filter, to the extent that they could count the organisms accurately.  Somehow, I suppose they might just manage to make the data support this idea, if only by dogged determination.  By their reasoning, the key to making a nitrocellulose filter work just as well as a polycarbonate filter for this purpose is to, literally, beat it harder.

One might imagine someone attempting to prove that a wrench could be used to pound nails into wood just as effectively as one might use a hammer.  With enough care, practice and force, they might even produce data to show that it is possible.  Yet, no matter how possible this may be, nothing can overcome the fact that they use the wrong tool for their purposes.  A man using a hammer to hit a nail has his own purpose for the hammer, but the man who made the hammer also had a purpose for the hammer.  When these two purposes are not the same purpose, then the tool is being misused.  No matter how well a wrench serves the purpose of a hammer, it simply was not made to be one.  No science can overthrow the intention of the one who made it.  Likewise, the scientist who attempts to use the sponge-like nitrocellulose filter in place the sieve-like polycarbonate filter may be able to prove that his tool works, and it may work well enough if he beats it hard enough, but it will always be a misuse of the tool, no matter what his data means to him.

If the matter had been about using one rock over another, then there would be no such misuse.  The rock was not made by anyone for any purpose.  Its purpose is given to it by the one who picks it up and strikes a nail with it.  One rock might happen to be better than another for this purpose, but this is nothing like the difference between the hammer and the wrench, because, unlike the rocks, the tools have an intelligent design.

Now, the Darwinists, who, like the microbiologists mentioned, believe themselves to be wholly rational beings, free of bias, would say that the human body is without an intelligent design.  This means that its misuse is entirely impossible, like the misuse of a rock is impossible.  The circumstance of misuse only arises from the difference in the user’s purpose from the creator’s purpose.  If there is no creator, then there is no created purpose.  To this, we apply the subject of the human orifice.  Logically, the body should be full of various holes and invaginations, so that the lucky few that do happen to promote the furtherance of the species may continue, while the others, at least, do no harm.  In that case, the rectum might be equally suited for sex, if so wished, as it is for defecation.  If it has no created purpose, then it cannot possibly be misused.

However, of all of the various pores and openings within the human body, every single one of them serves a purpose.  Not one has been found without a purpose.  While the Darwinist would say that a hundred arrows were shot blindly through the air, and a few managed to hit the target, what we see is the aim of a marksman, with every arrow hitting the mark.  There are no unclaimed orifices waiting to be designated a role by the perverse human whim.  The saber-tooth tiger didn’t target cavemen who happened to have an extra navel.  The pioneers didn’t have more trouble escaping the appetites of grizzly bears if they, the people, happened to have an extra deep dimple in the middle of the abdomen.  Natural selection couldn’t care if you look like Swiss cheese, so long as you can still run, fight and reproduce.

One opening in particular, the anus and its associated rectum, serve a very delicate, if dirty, purpose.  When the rectum is stretched by the presence of fecal matter, it signals the need to eliminate waste.  The descending colon prepares for discharge, and the action may even take place involuntarily if the offending irritant is not reversed by sheer will.  Now, some would have us believe that the use of this organ is as flexible and open to interpretation as the use of a rock, having no deliberate design.  Consequently, the rectum can become injured and permanently stretched, resulting in a lifetime of incontinence.  The signal to defecate is permanently activated by the ruined device.

Had we not believed in the intelligent design of living organisms, we could not say that any organ was necessarily meant for any particular purpose, much to the delight of those who would invent their own uses.  The rectum would eventually evolve into a womb, and we would be obligated to discharge our feces from our mouths.  This, for many, would be an improvement over current circumstances.  But while the Darwinist is mentoring future generations to spout crap from their mouths, I’d prefer to make the observation that organs are tools, just as a hammer and a wrench are tools.  They serve a purpose, which is part of their design.  One was made for one purpose, and another was made for a different purpose.  In making this rather obvious assertion, we simultaneously draw two conclusions: there was an intelligent designer (otherwise there could be no cross-purposes), and misuse of an organ is not of equal value to its proper use.

What this means is that neither homosexuality nor any other sodomy are even remotely comparable to real sex.  They deserve no comparable treatment, and they merit no legitimacy.  One way is right, and the other uses, while creative, are merely misuses.  One way fulfills the body’s intended use, while all others, while useful to the purpose of the owner, are just a misuse.

What this also means is that there is a God who intended for the body to be used in a certain way.  How he feels about the misuse is a matter of theology.  Whether or not we care about how God feels is a matter of religion.  But, whether or not there was an intended use for the thing remains a matter of physical, empirical, truth.  Some would flaunt the intentions of God, forgetting that this is the same one who designed the food chain, not the person who designed your teddy bear.

As with the matter of the filters, no convenience is too small to bias a scientist to find a way to “prove” whatever he wants to prove.  As with the hammer, you could use a hamster in its place if you simply pound it harder, but it will never be the proper use of the proper tool.

And as with the rectum, you may invent whatever uses you will for it, the thing has only one legitimate use.  Don’t expect me to applaud you and give you wedding gifts when you use it for another, even if you think it effective.

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Not Every Apple Has a Worm

22 07 2010

Welcome to my home.  I would love to offer you a cup of coffee, but I am unable.  It would be brewed from a Mooka Express, dark and heavy, laden with a syrupy sweet creamer.  Granted, you could have it light or dark, whatever your preference.  I would love to offer you a cup, but I’m afraid you’ll have to serve yourself this time.  I cannot see you.  I will not hear you.  I am unable to do anything for you, except that I might talk to you.  For this, I am grateful.  The experience is not unlike praying to God, I might suggest.  Here you are, in my home, flanked by books and a computer, overlooking my living room, where my wife rests on the couch, reading.

I invite you into my castle in the lingering twilight, waiting for the various stained-glass  lamps to turn on by their timers, because I want to show you an example of what a life might be.  It is not an ideal life, by any means, but it seems to exceed the limits that some seem to put on their own expectations.  When I was first married, my father told me what many others have said, that marriage has its ups and downs, that marriage is a lot of work, but it’s worth it.  Some would have said that marriage isn’t worth the effort.  Not one single person ever told me that there was any chance that marriage would be a wonderful, easy cornucopia of joy.  No one said that I could, even remotely, hope to have years and years without a serious disagreement.  They only told me that I’d eventually grow tired of my wife, and that we’d need a television to keep us entertained.  My brother told me that after two years a couple is no longer considered newly wedded.  After that, I assumed we were to merely settle into a comfortable but dull coexistence.

A blogger whom I respect even said, outright, that couples who never seem to have troubles suffer from a shallow relationship.  It’s that dark problems and heavy disagreements can never arise between two people who are never really close to each other.  The implication is that in order to have a healthy marriage, one must occasionally be miserable.

Had I relied solely upon my parents’ stormy marriage, I might have believed these suggestions.  Had I relied on my brother’s disastrous and nearly fatal marriage, I might have never been married.  The fact is that I simply did not fall in love and commit myself to this other wonderful person because I have at the back of my mind the sadistic need to be lambasted periodically by the one person who has the real power to absolutely destroy me.  No one marries because they want more hardship.  We all marry because we want to fill our lives with bliss.

I want to show you that my marriage has been happy, in a way that the world would call unrealistic.  It has not been a lot of work, and there have not been any serious bumps in the road.  I do not say this to brag.  I say it because if you don’t think it is possible, then you will never achieve it for yourself.  I want every marriage to be stable and dripping with mutual love and adoration.

To counter the arguments made by the nuptial pessimists, I thought to suggest what one might do to arrive at a lasting, happy marriage.  I must admit that I am at a loss.  Marital advice is thrown at us from every corner, mostly by people with failed marriages.  They are the people whose marriages have been to Hell and back who have the most advice to give, but none of these people can conceive of one without trouble.  To them, the spark of romantic love always turns to a devastating inferno.  Happy people are too busy being happy to write about it.  That’s why most poems are sad.  Therefore, I’d like to show you a marriage that has, after a reasonable span of years, not lost what it set out to accomplish, which is the mutual and uninterrupted increase in happiness.

If you say that this is impossible, then I would kindly ask you not to insist upon it.  Nothing hurts joy worse than the belief that it can not exist.  More importantly, if a nobody like me can make a marriage work, then anyone can.

Granted, the most important step, I think, was in choosing a suitable companion.  I understand that not all marriages are matches made in Heaven.  I understand that not everyone is like me, but, more importantly, not everyone is married to my wife.  I can only control one half of the relationship, but therein lies the first step toward a healthy marriage: not attempting to control the other half.

But though we cannot help what comes to us, we can only help what we do with what comes to us.  If every marriage began in love, then every marriage has something to return to.  It can always be restored to an earlier point.  Ideally, it can always be restored to the beginning.  The reason that we drift from this is simply because we have the innate tendency to get used to our own lives.

Take, symbolically, the little girl with the doll house.  The doors in the little structure move on hinges, and she is delighted.  The furniture can be rearranged, and the little lights can be turned on or off.  Clothes hang in the closet.  The mother stands in the kitchen, and the father sits on the sofa with his newspaper, and the girl is delighted by everything and every detail.  She loves her house as it is.  In fact, she loves it more when it is built to imitate real life.  When she reaches adulthood and marries, she might have a house of her own, which she is delighted with, at first.  When was the last time you opened a door and remarked, “Wow, the doors even open and close!  And the lights even turn on and off with this little switch, here!”  Never?  The fake has been usurped by the real, but while we were impressed by the fake, we are unimpressed by the real, because we are overly used to it.  A very important key to a happy marriage is to live like a couple of kids playing house.  Play is fun, even when it’s an errand.

Feminism has wrecked our society.  In an attempt at “equality,” wives have gone to work, just like their husbands.  As a result, the cost of living, namely the cost of home ownership, has increased.  Now, one would seem to need two incomes to survive.  But while the husband comes home from work to enjoy himself, the wife comes home to continue working.  The home seems to be the workplace of the woman, even when it ostensibly is not.  In attempting to be the man’s equal, the woman works twice as hard.  I can only imagine the resentment that must build with time.  We can say that the husband should do his share of the work around the home, but the fact is simply that in most cases the wife will be the one to clean the house, prepare the food and raise the kids, more than the man ever will.  She does it, because she cares more about these things than he does.  I must say that one major contributing factor to our mutual happiness is that my wife does not work outside of the home, except to volunteer occasionally for charity.

In saying all of this, though, let us not forget the importance of faith.  If husbands would love their wives as Christ loved the church, then our marital problems would be half-solved.  Our love could not be broken, even by death.  If we displayed the fruits of the spirit, if we loved each other selflessly, then we could not go wrong.  We would never have a grudge to hold.  If we prayed for humility, and if we submitted ourselves to the will of God, then we would not dominate or belittle each other.  If we both hold true to the passionate love of the same God, a determined love of his righteousness and a shared awe of his glory, then we share the most important thing of all.  Everything else is negotiable.  Every material item is a fleeting piece of matter.  Every physical want is just a passing gas.  The only thing that matters is the one thing that we can always agree upon.  We are both tied to the same anchor.

Not every apple has its worm.  The cynic would love to dig into every relationship until he finds the problems that the couple works so hard to hide.  Sometimes they work at hiding their troubles more than they work at preventing them, but not every relationship is laden with such things.  There is no perfect relationship, as there is no perfect car, but there can be a spotless, lovingly maintained one that looks like new, even when it is decades old.

I wish the best to you and yours.

Sincerely,





Signet of a Suzerain

10 07 2010

[fiction]

In the drawing-room stood two men, both bald with the same effect of a fully receded hairline.  One was relatively tall, and the other was more than just relatively short.  The tall man was moustached, with spots of aging on his bare head.  The short man was clean-shaven, with a scalp as fresh as a baby’s buttocks, as though he had spent his entire life out of the damaging rays of the sun.  The tall man seemed fairly bored, and the younger man was obviously excited, not to mention guileless, rubbing his hands together and speaking enthusiastically with a mildly piercing tenor voice.

The taller man was a philatelist, a collector of stamps, who had the fate of ending up in possession of a rare gold coin for which he had no interest.  The shorter man was the numismatist, a collector of coins, who had a personal cache of coins worth about a hundred dollars by their face value, which were, due to their antiquity, worth about a thousand times as much by modern reckoning.  There, before them in a lighted glass case stood a mysterious gold coin, by modern standards roughly made, delicately displayed on a clear acrylic stand.

The numismatist clapped his hands together, said, “I….” and followed his pause with the clicking of heels, as though the thought had passed all the way through his body from hands to feet, merely stopping by the mouth for a brief visit.

“You don’t know what to think of it, do you?” said the philatelist, knowing full well that the coin collector was too proud to admit that he had no idea what he was looking at.  If he had been presented with a stamp that he didn’t recognize, he probably would have retrieved a picture book and attempted to solve the mystery on the spot, but the coin collector was out of his element and could not have found a book on coins at that moment, even if there had existed any book in the world describing this coin, which there hadn’t.

The numismatist paused with a frozen mask of excitement, which broke after a second, when he turned to his friend and asked, “What is it?”

“The coin is one of a kind,” said the philatelist, “No writing exists for it, because there is only one of it, and the only people privileged enough to study it have not been coin collectors.  Novices don’t tend to get their findings published, especially when they aren’t at least hobbyists.”  He pointed to the coin and explained, “This coin has been imprisoned within the private estate of one rich fellow or another for several centuries.  The story of the thing is as much a commodity as the coin, itself.  You must understand that a coin is usually a symbol of wealth.  Real wealth is an abstract thing.  The coin, itself, is nothing.”

“Oh, but I beg to differ!” the other protested.

“And I knew you would,” the philatelist cut him off, “Which is why I thought you would appreciate this thing more than I.  Real property is useful for practical purposes.  The coin is just a liaison between what I give you and what you give me in return.  We might think of it as a potential possession, a temporary substitute for what we really want.”

“But….”

“Yes, I know you beg to differ.  However, before it became a priceless historical treasure, it once was just a smashed lump of metal that symbolized wealth.  This coin, however, was the currency of a special commodity.  It was a symbol of power.  You might call it a diadem, of sorts, or perhaps a signet.  When the Roman Caesars paraded about with fasces held aloft, those bundled axes were the public symbols of power and authority, but in private, this coin was the definitive symbol.  Only the people highest in rank even knew about it, and the thing took an almost mythical significance.  Had the Caesar merely dropped it on the ground and a senator retrieved it immediately, it’s not clear but the senator might have become the new Caesar immediately.  Granted, the right of ownership of the coin was no different from the right of succession, so there’s some dispute as to whether the coin followed the power or the power followed the coin.  In the beginning, there were three of them, one for each member of the Triumvirate.  After the death of Crassus, Julius Caesar had his coin fused with the other.  As you can see, this coin has a double edge, being really two coins joined.  The one belonging to Pompey was lost in battle, we believe, though there are some in the family who have suggested rumor that it eventually ended up in the possession of the tsars of Russia.  As far as I know, this is the only one, or two, depending on how you look at it, left.”

The little man clapped his hands together and mumbled, “Amazing.”  The taller man waited for the chain reaction to pass to the little man’s feet, but when nothing was forthcoming, he nearly resumed his story before being interrupted by a click of the heels.

“Well, I don’t know the full details of this coin’s history, but I understand that it eventually ended up in the hands of one named Frederick Barbarossa, who thought that it lent him the authority to retake the full territory of the old Roman Empire.  His attempted crusade to Jerusalem was merely the excuse for his eastward push.  Naturally, he sacked Constantinople as a matter of due course, because he deemed it a natural part of his domain.  He figured that because he owned the coin, he therefore had a right to the land.  After the old fool managed to drown himself in a lake, an insightful general took from his person this coin, before they threw the corpse in a barrel and pickled it.  I suppose some would consider it a shame to have buried this in a barrel under the Dome Of The Rock, where the king’s body was placed.

“Some time after that, it found its way into a Prussian nobleman’s hands, and from there it ended up in the possession of Kaiser Wilhelm.  Naturally, wherever the coin went, the story followed.  Otherwise, I would not be able to tell you this story, and we’d be dealing with a mysterious coin of unknown origin.  Likely, I would have traded it in for something I could actually spend at the store.”

“You wouldn’t!” exclaimed the numismatist.

“Of course I would,” rebutted the philatelist, “How many perfectly good stamps go to waste for the practical purpose of postage every year?  For the same reason, I’d rather use a coin for its intended purpose than have it lying around collecting dust.”

“It’s a precious relic!” exclaimed the numismatist.

“It’s money!” replied the philatelist with matched enthusiasm.  “What good is it if I can’t spend it?”

“But this isn’t money,” objected the little man, “It’s the mark of a king.  It marks the seal of a royal decree.  This is a piece of history.”

“Even so, it is useless to me,” said the taller man.

“Then sell it to me!” said the coin collector.

“It will cost you several thousand dollars,” warned the stamp collector.

“I have stamps!” offered the little man, pulling out a wad of mishandled used stamps.  “To me, they are just pictures printed on stickers, but I’m sure they must be worth a trade.”

“Unfortunately,” said the philatelist with a touch of contempt, “those particular stamps are just a bunch of pictures on stickers to me, too.  I don’t have much use for recent printings of generic postage.  I would much rather sell it to someone willing to pay with modern cash.”

Eventually, the terms for the transfer of ownership were made between the two, amounting to the cost of a new car.  During that time, outside by the numismatist’s car, his chauffeur and the other man’s butler were having a discussion on the matter.  Naturally, the question came up as to the matter being discussed in the drawing-room.  The chauffeur asked the butler what he knew of the matter, to which the butler replied that the little man was being sold a story.

The driver’s face registered a certain shock, and he pushed his hat back on his head.  “Surely you don’t mean the poor little chap is getting taken, do you?”

“Well,” said the butler “My employer tells me that the coin is nothing but the object of a story, and that it is really the story that is being sold, in this case.  He tells me that it is nothing but a flat piece of metal with a vague design.  If it weren’t for the tale that went with it, your master would not have thought it worth anything.”

“But, he’s an expert on coins!” remarked the chauffeur.

“Hence the need for the tale,” replied the butler.

“This is wretched!” exclaimed the chauffeur.

At this, the butler began to feel that he had possibly jeopardized his own employment.  “Listen, please don’t let on.  If word gets out that I spilled the beans, I’ll lose my job.”

“But this is unjust!” exclaimed the chauffeur.  “My boss is getting ripped off by yours, and you expect me to do nothing about it?”

The butler was beginning to sweat profusely, and he raced through his options, scrambling in his mind for a way to save his career.

Just then, the two wealthy hobbyists left the building, talking about this prize.  The philatelist was just then making a final statement.  “Now, I’m not superstitious, but the legend with this coin is that it tends to pass through the hands of great people, anointing them to positions of power whither it goes.  Though it never made me a king, I might ask that if you should find yourself the head of Europe some day that you would kindly remember the one who helped you get there.”  He paused for effect, and then grinned at his own dry humor.

The numismatist burst into giggles and shook the man’s hand, thanking him for the sale, the noise of which just managed to cover a muttered string of obscenities from the chauffeur.  The butler took note of the chauffeur’s response, though, and he turned as white as a sheet.  The little man hopped into the car with his prized possession and admired it for the first few miles of his return home.  It was then that the chauffer broke the news to him.  He told his employer that the butler had warned him that the story surrounding the coin was just a fabrication concocted to sell this worthless mintage.  In a matter of a few minutes, the poor man went from pure joy to a fit of depression.

“It’s not even real?” the numismatist whined.  “I should have known.  Here, I call myself an expert on coins, and I let myself be taken by a fancy tale!”  He knew that he would not have the assertiveness to cancel the check or fight for his money and his dignity back.  Instead, he chalked it up as a learning experience and rudely tossed the coin upon a bible that lay flat on his dresser at home.  There, it rested untouched for many years, until the man eventually passed away at a ripe old age.

The estate sale was a fancy one, garnering quite a load of money for its furniture and valuable coins.  In that sale the aforementioned coin, the signet of a suzerain, was sold for almost nothing.  No one knew what it was, so no one could possibly know what it was worth.  They might have guessed that it was real gold, but one might have difficulty assaying the gold content of a coin while at an estate sale.  They could have guessed it was valuable by who owned it, but the story would still have been lost.  Indeed, it was the story that sold the coin, but the butler had misread his employer’s disdain for the thing as meaning that it wasn’t really worth anything.  The story had been quite true, and it had miraculously survived for nearly two thousand years, only to die at the hands of a disillusioned numismatist.  He had found his treasure, only to discard it as a trinket.  Consequently, the story behind the coin was lost forever.

[/fiction]


It is the burning desire of the modern human to pursue poetry, but it is the staunch habit of such people to accept only prose.  We all yearn for magic and intrigue, yet we only trust the dullest, most ordinary explanation of things.  We think we are more rational for rejecting the miraculous and accepting readily the common.  However, true rationality is a firmly supported line of reasoning leading to a conclusion.  Yet, we jump to accept the prosaic understanding without sufficient evidence, and we so quickly dismiss a history when it offers us too much charm or mystery.  This is the sickness of modernism.  It is pessimism that parades itself as Reason.

But, for practical purposes, we could say that apart from the story the thing really was just a coin.  In fact it was just a lump of metal, which just happened to be gold, an ore more abundant than tin and far more valuable just because people believed that it was valuable.  Take away the subjective belief, and all we’re left with is a dead thing that isn’t really useful for much.  Its practical value is not much.  Everything lies in what people believe about it.  A human can be reduced to a sack of chemicals.  A home is just a pile of bricks.  A planet is just a lump of dirt, and we’re all just a bunch of lucky monsters that chanced to form, that we might crawl over this clod and devour what we could.  This is the most prosaic way of looking at things, and our culture readily accepts it as the most logical truth, even if it is a baseless lie.  This is modernism: if something sounds magical, then it must not be true.

Therefore any history, no matter how true it may be, is threatened with certain death if it offers even a glimmer of something truly wonderful.





Systematic Living; the bird who would be caged

6 07 2010

A man named Leo once told me that he thought he would love to have a bird, but he thought it cruel to keep one trapped in a cage.  The beast was made to fly and be free, and here it is, stuck in a tiny little prison.  I asked him if he believed that caged birds were unhappy.  He believed that they must be.  I asked him if he had ever owned a bird, and he had not.  Then I asked him what he thought would happen if a person were to open the door to the cage and walk away.  He said he imagined that the bird would just fly right out.

Now, I’m not a bird expert.  I’ve heard that the zebra finch is very difficult to keep caged if the opportunity presents itself for the bird to escape.  I’ve never owned a zebra finch, but every other caged bird I’ve seen, including the few that I’ve owned, have been very much opposed to leaving their cages for any reason.  I’ve seen cage doors left open for hours, with the bird sitting as far from the door as possible, refusing to even consider leaving.  I’ve seen them fight like mad their owners when they were being forcibly removed.  Once removed, I’ve seen them return immediately to their cages.  In the best of circumstances, the bird might be content to merely sit atop the cage without going in.  When we imagine ourselves as the bird, we assume an eagerness to get out of there and never return, but to the bird, it is a home.  The cage is safe.  We use the cage to keep the bird in, but the bird uses the cage to keep everything else out.

This seems insane to us, doesn’t it?  Who would prefer captivity?  Yet, we sacrifice freedom for security all week.  Let’s start with that mortgage, shall we?  We happily imprison ourselves in debt, assuring that we cannot simply leave our homes at will.  Rather, we are stuck in these abodes so long as we cannot find someone to buy them from us.  We become obligated to a bank, because we like to sleep in the same place every night.  Bad comparison, you say?  Imagine living as a vagabond, a nomad without a permanent home.  Such people have a great deal more freedom, minus the security.

Five days a week, we go to work at the same place, doing the same thing, day after day, after day.  We complain about our jobs regularly, until we lose them.  Then we complain about losing our jobs until we have a new one to complain about.  When we have one, we miss our freedom, and when we don’t have one, we miss our security.  Unrealistic would be the effort to find a new job every day, though many people do it.  I have seen them on the street corner, these migrant workers, waiting for a stranger to show up and offer them an arduous job for not enough money.  They have the freedom, and they prefer it over the security.  When offered a more permanent job, I’ve known of them to refuse in favor of the freedom to retire for a couple of weeks until their money runs out.

When we choose to work the same job every day, no matter how much we hate it, we make a choice to live systematically.  I know what I’m going to do tomorrow, because it will be about the same as what I did today.  The next day will be the same.  The day after that will be no different.  The repetition is painful, but I’ve got an income.  I don’t need to waste time looking for a new job each day.  When I come home from work, I return to the same home every day.  I don’t need to waste time looking for a safe cave or overhang to take shelter in each day.  As a result, my life is more efficient, and my systematic living has bought me greater prosperity.

What may not reason so well into this pattern is the tendency that so many people have of spending their free time in the evenings the same way every night.  For most, it’s a night on the couch in front of the television, watching the same shows each night, as actors pretend to live glamorous lives.  As the actors pretend, the viewers pretend with them, living vicariously through the television.  Yet, no one is actually living life.  When the rest of life is an empty repetition, one should wonder why we would waste the time, that precious little time, when we could do anything with complete freedom without sacrificing security.  What we do for fun need not be the same today as it was yesterday.  It doesn’t even help in the slightest.

What we do in our spare time doesn’t even need to be particularly fun.  It could be anything at all.  It could be productive or frivolous.  We are completely free to do something different with that fraction of each day.  Generally, though, we tend to repeat ourselves in the end, the same as we did in the beginning.

True, we have our preferences.  True, we have our hobbies.  I tend to think, though, that the real driving force is not our inclination toward what we do, so much as it is the security found in lazy repetition.

Our lives are generally repetitious, because we are a systematic people.  It makes us effective in what we do.  It makes us wealthier, and it improves our standard of living, generally.  We love the cage that we have built for ourselves, and we dare not leave it, even when the door has been opened for us.  My cage may be keeping me in, confining me to the drudgery of daily living, but it may also be keeping out the things that frighten me, the insecurities and uncertainties of spontaneous living.

There is a value in systematic living, and our society thrives on it.  However, there is also a danger to it.  When the stables are on fire, the horses are frightened and run into them for security.  They prefer the conflagration over survival, because the stables are a symbol of security for them, even when they are really an execution chamber.  When the government goes mad makes us do what we ought not do, we choose the security of compliance over the need for freedom and rebellion.  Thankfully, we are not there yet, but we will be eventually, and there will be cows among us who wander wherever they are herded.  Going along with the crowd feels safe, even if it deprives us of our freedom.

If God calls us to pull up stakes and travel the world to spread the Gospel, then this is at once a horrible shattering of all security and an unfettering of boundless freedom.  Would that we had the courage.

In the meantime, should we feel tempted to complain about this little Eden that we’ve constructed for ourselves, let us at least appreciate the security that we’ve been granted.  When this Eden is shattered, let us be thankful for the freedom we’ve been leased.  Either way, we could complain, but either way, we could be grateful.