Lying in bed with mild bug, aching, head and stomach ache, nothing serious, so feel vaguely sybaritic (and guilty). Good old Protestant work ethic kicking in again. Also, so accustomed to carrying on regardless with sick kids etc. It must be one of the unexpected benefits of growing older – to be able to be ill in peace. Balances the unexpected disadvantage of finding, after years of rising at 6 and looking forward to one day being able to sleep in (like my adolescent kids did), that one's body clock has changed and one wakes up at crack of dawn.
The Protestant work ethic has dogged me all my life, flailing me ceaselessly. It's all part of the package that includes cold baths and original sin. I used to be so scared as a child of the unforgivable sin. No one told me what it was, so I lived in dread of unknowingly committing it and being assigned to hell. Hell, incidentally, to me was never fiery hot, but like a cold dungeon where one perched on a stool all alone. Nowadays. I have updated it to eternity in an airport with constant, incomprehensible announcements.
It is only now that some deep part of me robustly cries NO. I can't believe in a creator who makes something inherently flawed and leaves it to self-correct. No self-respecting potter would make a leaky jug or a cup with half a handle, let alone expect the benighted pottery to mend itself. No one creative willfully makes something second rate. We do our tireless best, spend long hours perfecting our work before setting it free.
Of course, my painting or music may not, and probably wouldn't be, to your taste and no one might buy it, but to have any integrity it has to be my best vision.
So how can an all knowing, perfect creator (our understood definition of God) deliberately create something faulty and declare it “in his image”?
So I have a choice: I can believe in an atheistic model, where life is chancy at best. Where we are an accident, nudged by evolution (which certainly doesn't always take the most straight-forward routes). It's a bleak, lonely universe and we struggle to make the best of it. We cram our bucket lists, try not to think of our eventual decay while trying to beat the roulette wheel of life. And wonder why on earth we are here.
Or I can put my money (hopes and emotions) on a purposeful universe. I can accept that I can't understand its weird and often wilful ways. It is huge, encompassing, minutely beautiful. I am in awe of a butterfly's wing, which can only be fully appreciated as a deliberate work of art. It can't have the same beauty if a random accident. Just as a painting done by a chimp on a bicycle cannot have the same artistic merit as a picture done with skill and imagination
I am not a literal creationist, but I do believe there is a an intelligence underlying our universe. An intelligence that can be explained mathematically, but I also believe that it all started as an idea. “In the beginning was the Word.” The Word exploded – Big Bang? – and we evolved slowly, patiently through the ages. God, after all is always described as eternal. I always felt that we are a necessary complement to that seminal idea.
Jim Al-khalili expressed it perfectly in his TV series Order and Disorder. According to him, everything is basically information, for example coded as DNA or sound, broken down for recording. He says, (and it hit me so hard I wound back the recording to write his words down) “As abstract and ethereal as information seems, we know it must always be embodied in a physical system.” Yes, the idea or Word has to be made manifest, has to be embodied in our world and us.
He takes it further: “Every aspect of the physical universe can be thought of as a blank canvas which we can use to build beauty, structure and order.” Wow! I said in an earlier entry that believing we are making manifest makes our every act important.. No longer must we feel we are plodding along, battered by fate, or that our pain is a lesson, that we are in essence sinful.
No! I, because I can't impose my beliefs on you, can trust that we are building something wonderful and every act of compassion or courage is a Lego brick in an immense creation. We can build beauty through our lives and through our love. A true tone, echoing down the ages.
Order and disorder – the series: link
Order and Disorder – episode two – Communication. The episode that turned the lights on in my head: link