Monday, January 10, 2005

Is That All There Is?

Two days before Trey's and my trip to America for the holidays, I planted the five paperwhite bulbs we had bought. I arranged them in a white casserole dish and surrounded them with some river rocks I got at the 99 cent store on Manhattan Avenue. I was careful not to over-water them, and we embarked on our trip.

When we came back, there were leaves shooting out from the bulbs, about two inches high. It was as primordially exciting as when you start lima beans in clear plastic cups and paper towels in school. Every day the leaves would shoot up higher – Barbie height, and then, surprisingly, beyond, and when our first paperwhite flower popped out we were dazzled. Now all the paperwhites are blooming,
they are two feet tall, splaying themselves on the counter like models nursing hangovers on the beaches of Ibiza. Their fragrance is so overwhelming that when I cook I find myself worried the flowers have fallen into the pasta. I have to keep turning their dish so they don't splay too far – they keep craning towards the bathroom's open door, towards the bright bulbs surrounding the vanity mirror.

What could be more beautiful and useless? I felt tears come, saying to Trey, "They have to be so beautiful in order to be alive." What could be more desperately pragmatic?

Some would argue that the paperwhite's beauty and efficiency and elegance is of such a high degree that it can only prove the existence of an Intelligent Designer. That, like Tom Ford, like Gepetto, like a clockmaker, God arranged and designed the nucleotide bases just so -- to create paperwhites, coelenterates and everything and everyone else. Kind of like "Old McDonald!" -- "here a geode there a ferret everywhereacapybarrraaaaaa…."

My problem with this "intelligent design" business is how deeply Newtonian it is. It assumes that because the world is "complicated" that God must be -- well -- THE most awesome diorama-creator of all times!

But the most beautiful and metaphysical developments in science are all about the quantum nature of the universe, of how everything is relative and works together. Instead of bowing down to "the Creator" (and why do proponents of "intelligent design" then assume that this means that it was the Christian God who was behind all this? I mean, according to a recent announcement from one of our pals at the Discovery Institute, Christians invented science! [That's probably why they torched the library at Alexandria? Since they INVENTED everything scientific they didn't need to keep any records? YEAH!]

Let's all, for a moment, entertain the idea not that "God" is the gold medal winner of "Extreme Diorama!" but that God, not "the Devil," is in the details, as Dylan Thomas suggests:

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.
And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.

The force that drives the water through the rocks
Drives my red blood; that dries the mouthing streams
Turns mine to wax.
And I am dumb to mouth unto my veins
How at the mountain spring the same mouth sucks.

Call me crazy, but isn't it so much more amazing to be in awe of "the force that through the green fuse drives the flower" than of Invisible Fucking Grandpa? Does this make me a miserable materialist? That the inexorable drive of the paperwhites to live and bloom makes me cry with happiness? The world AS IT IS is the most awe-insipring thing we have. Each of us is flesh, and each of us has a deeply particular mind and essence. Why isn't that spiritual enough? Why do we need this "Triune" (ewww!) nonsense to appreciate the incredible complexity of being embodied? READ about cognitive science! LOOK at a capybara sometime! Is that not occasion enough for joy?

Someone also paved Manhattan Avenue, someone figured out how to make ceramic casserole dishes oven-safe, someone designed a machine to create the faux-doric fluting along its moderately-priced sides. Someone sells plastic mesh bags of river rocks for the aquaria of the
99 cent store shoppers. Someone prints them with pastel images of waterfalls. And yes, Dear Reader, someone went to the 99 cent store in search of marbles and judged the rocks a suitable alternative as crèche material for five rough, modest bulbs to place on the kitchen counter out of love for her husband. Someone can create the conditions for the paperwhite to grow – someone can love the paperwhite – paint its picture, even -- but I would never presume I could make a paperwhite, and I don't presume that God made it instead.

The human race has some serious daddy issues. Everyone needs to start reading a LOT more Jung, and paying attention to how we can all get along. Maybe God has made us in his image, in a way we have yet to truly fathom. But when we unconsciously cast "God" in OUR image, we are making a terrible, narcissistic mistake.

Ah, Peggy Lee – how I love you. You and I know what the “designer
impostors" will never know -- All that there is is everything, and more.

"Is that all there is, is that all there is
If that's all there is my friends, then let's keep dancing
Let's break out the booze and have a ball
If that's all there is..."

Don't you see? All that there is is enough.




Blogger Mr. H.K. said...

... What a lovely way to burn...

6:53 PM  

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