Spring will come soon. With it will arrive pollen and seeds and budding flowers. Yellow dandelions will turn puffy and white and insects will burst by the thousands from egg sacs as new fish break water for the first time in the pond. Nature’s bounty is spectacular and Man is right to marvel at it. But the other half must also be looked at. All the multitude of that which did not grow is to easily forgotten in the show.
Think about the last time you walked beneath an oak tree. How many acorns were on the ground?A thousand? Two? I have never counted, but as a child I would gather acorns for fun and I remember filling up a great many jam jars of the droppings from a single tree. It never occurred to me until much later how inefficient it all is.
All those acorns, all those thousands lying on the forest floor… but from how many would a new tree actually grow? Almost none. About zero.
Like all of nature the Oak approaches the world with a shotgun. It flings a scatter shot of potential offspring from itself and hopes for the best, crossing its branches, knowing full well that almost all its effort will come to nothing. How could it not? Reality is complicated and almost everything dies.
Think of the pollen. Year after year the flowers and trees spray fine clouds of yellow mist into the air and almost none of it reaches its target. Like a man’s semen or a fish laying her eggs, trillions of reproductive possibilities may be created over the lifespan of one organism. Perhaps only one or two ever take.
The sky is filled with stars and they each ringed with planets. How many have life? One that we know of. Maybe a handful more somewhere far, far away. The sky gives its rain and much of it falls on rocky places and is wasted, never used. The sun beams it’s light out in all directions, only the smallest fraction ever detected by an eye or used to ripen a grape growing upon the vine. Almost all of the species that have ever lived are now extinct, nearly every organism that has ever existed is dead. She is a wasteful mother, Nature. Efficiency is not her game. It can’t be. Death, her foe, is much too strong.
Reality is complicated. It’s easier to be dead than to stay alive and easier still to never be born. The oak tree cannot run the calculation of infinite variables that the universe requires and determine which acorns it should make, with which genes, at which time of year, and in which season, in order to successfully reproduce. Reality is too complex for that. The future too unknown. Death is always too standing too close to the door. Evolution figured out long ago that the only winning move is to try every possible combination. That’s the best you can hope for. Try everything. Hope one or two of them work.
Within the males of a species Nature has decreed that every single kind of spermatozoa, with every possible combination of the father’s genes, should be made and then fired like a blunderbuss at the nearest waiting womb. Whichever wins the race can have a shot at being alive. That is the only metric that Nature has found to matter. When a womb will even be available cannot be predicted, so animals make sperm all the time, knowing before hand that almost all of it will go unused.
Life progresses forward by trying every possible thing. Evolution is a giant billion year game of trial and error. Reality is too complex a game to play otherwise. It’s far, far too easy to die.
So it is with you. You don’t know what will work. You don’t know what will fail. And the younger you are the more certain both those statements are. Sure bets fall through and people make unexpected fortunes. The future cannot be predicted and those who try often end up destitute or alone. Like diversifying a portfolio, a man’s experience, his skills, his knowledge of the world and his abilities to make money should be many and varied if he is to succeed. The way forward, the only way a creature can deal with the infinite complexity of time and space around him, is to try everything, and then keep what works. As St. Paul said, “test everything, hold to what is good.”
The spiritual realm is no different. I find it hard to trust a Christian who has not dabbled now and again in other religions. In the same manner that I find it hard to take seriously a man who has his whole life belonged to only one political party or ascribed to only one ideology or held only one view of the universe. Such men have tested nothing. They’re holding to what is comfortable, if that also good happens to be good that’s just coincidence. They don’t know. They haven’t tried anything else.
A man’s religion is dead if he has never seriously wrestled witch scientific reductionists, nor wondered if his neighbor’s religion might not actually be the true one, nor ever thrown his holy book in disgust across a room. Without Doubt there is no Faith. Faith is good, yes. But it should not be blind.
Jacob became the patriarch of Jesus over his firstborn brother Esau because he was the one willing to wrestle with God. Esau had his birthright stolen and he did not fight to get it back. Jacob, underhanded and deceitful as he was, was the sort of man to wrestle with God in the dark until the sunrise, for that he is blessed, even if also injured.
Reality will hurt you, make no mistake. But if you are to conquer it you must move forward into the dark and wrestle with whatever you find there. That is God you see. You always meet him in the darkness.
Try everything, hold to what works. That’s the way Life triumphs over infinite complexity. That’s the way the Spirit finds its way to God.