23 October 2009

A Lowly Perfection

"Why are you standing here idle all day?"

So inquires the owner of the vineyard - Matthew 20: 6-7 - of the famous 11th-hour workers (whom very shortly he is going to pay the exact same wage as his full-timers). And their reply?

"Because no one has hired us."

I can't say I've had much experience of Nature, or Nature's God. But how like the God of the Bible is that vineyard-owner! How like One who is always making a big deal out of absolutely nothing. How annoyingly like Him, to take what is (based on all available evidence of past performance) hopelessly inert and unusable and unemployable, and not only glorify it needlessly, but make it actually useful, perhaps even - for its brief span of time - integral(?), to the whole operation.

But then every span of time is brief relative to the whole Operation; every beginning is a tiny rumor or whisper of shoreline relative to the Ocean of Time surging behind it. And no one, to my knowledge, has yet measured that ocean, either in depth or in surface area. But now suppose evolution should prove to be a Divine no less than a human truth. What late-comers to the vineyard will that make of us proud, wage-sensitive, indignant humans! Imagine a bunch of 10+ hour workers haggling over their time-cards with a Worker who has put in, at last count, something like eleven hundred quadrillion hours.

And yet what strange, to all appearances largely unproductive work He has been about. Think of all those megabillions of years of Universe in which not much of anything seemed to be happening - or happening so slowly that the pageant of Life by comparison seems no bigger than a single footnote in the Oxford English Dictionary. Again, how like this Biblical God - and how subtle, and humble, of Him - to make Mount Everests out of molehills. How like this God, to take the most unpromising, featureless, futureless rudiments of what we so patronizingly call "Nature," and from out of them, coax results of such exquisite, tapestried, unimaginable promise as even the creature Man is still known to be on occasion. It all makes no sense. One might as well make something from nothing; a keen, battle-hardened soldier out of a bumpkin who laps up stream-water like a horse from a trough; a missionary out of a streetwalker; a martyr from a tax-collector. Why would any self-respecting deity want to make himself look so ridiculous? Besides taking so bloody long getting on with it?

Then again, if we're going to say we believe God (and not just in Him, whatever that means), then perhaps we ought to consider the possibility, not only that He knows what He does, but that - even then - He knew what He was doing. No doubt He had His reasons. Just this once, do you suppose we might give Him the benefit of a doubt? Maybe, after all, there is nothing in "Nature" so idle, so adrift, so accidental, that it cannot be made purposeful. And maybe there is nothing truly natural - even in us, or in any living thing - that is so malfunctioning, nothing so genetically deranged and deformed and disfigured, that it cannot at some eleventh hour be made perfect. Though not necessarily by us humans, just yet. Or at least, not in our present state of derangement.

No comments:

Post a Comment