Of all known forms of life, only about ten percent are still living today. All other forms--fantastic plants, ordinary plants, living animals with unimaginably various wings, tails, teeth, brains--are utterly and forever gone. That is a great many forms that have been created. Multiplying ten times the number of living forms today yields a profusion that is quite beyond what I consider thinkable. Why so many forms? Why not just that one hydrogen atom? The creator goes off on one wild, specific tangent after another, of millions simultaneously, with an exuberance that would seem to be unwarranted, and with an abandoned energy sprung from an unfathomable font. What is going on here? The point of the dragonfly's terrible lip, the giant water bug, birdsong, or the beautiful dazzle and flash of sunlighted minnows, is not that it all fits together like clockwork--for it doesn't, particularly, not even inside the goldfish bowl--but that it all flows so freely wild, like the creek, that it all surges in such a free, fringed tangle. Freedom is the world's water and weather, the world's nourishment freely given, its soil and sap: and the creator loves pizzazz.
Dillard is thrilled by the wonder of creation, the intricacies of atom, molecule, chloroplast, caterpillar, and cumulus. She doesn't see the universe as some organized and planned-out event, a divine wedding or birthday party. No, the universe is a riot of evolutionary leaps, evidence of a Creator in love with creation. There's God, sitting in front of His canvas, laying on the paint like van Gogh. Thick swathes and dimples of ocher and umber and canary.
God has been busy all week in the Upper Peninsula. Looking out the window right now, I see huge swoops and scoops of white, like some frozen seascape. It's beautiful and humbling at the same time. Winter storms have a way of reminding me how small and insignificant my contribution to creation is. This post, for instance, is not going to cure cancer or stop global warming (which exists, despite Republican statements to the contrary). Perhaps my greatest part in God's chaotic scheme is my kids. I have taken part in life-creation. That's God's thumbprint on my life.
I'm watching my son playing in this frozen landscape right now. He's climbing to the top of a mountain of snow, carrying great white boulders. He stands there for a moment, and then he tosses them into the air, watches them tumble and roll to the ground. In some way, I think my son gets God a lot better than I do. When I see snow, I think of shoveling and muscle ache. When he sees snow, he thinks of sculpture and play, climbing and falling. Wonder and awe.
Tonight is all about ballet for me. Watching my daughter practice and perform. Another one of my contributions to the universe. Music and movement and youth and beauty. And I had a small part in it. Setting aside her teenage tantrums and stomping, she also gets God a lot better than me, although she is developing a more adult sense of complacency daily. It's harder and harder to make her joyful.
So, here's Saint Marty's advice to anyone reading this post: stop and look. Recognize the work of the Mad Scientist in charge of the universe. See the beauty and wonder. My son and daughter do this. So does Annie Dillard. And the poet Quincy Troupe.
by: Quincy Troupe
birds ski down the day's inscrutable smile
wheeling, banking their diaphanous
sawblading voices, their sword-like sleek feathers
cutting through the day's upper reaches of silence
their convoluted language cacophonous
& raucous, as a lynch mob
in old georgia, the rope-rasping burning of their syllables
hangin their twisting meanings around us & these blooming
dark hours stormy with chaos april brings--
spring leaping suddenly upon us
like a black panther clawing or breath
but is filled with so rare & mysterious
a beauty, it thrills us to death
Confessions of Saint Marty