Sitting Where We Sat

A squirrel in the woods – doing whatever it is that squirrels do to avoid getting shot and eaten by Catholics tired of fasting – sounds sporadic and jittery and disordered; a pitter here and a patter there. A man walking through the same woods – doing whatever it is that certain men do to acquire the inspiration to write essays – sounds rhythmic; a clump, clump, clump, clump that a symphony could be set to. That, as far as I can tell, is the difference between men and squirrels.

As man’s feet go, so does his heart. Wake, work, play, sleep. Lent, Easter, Advent, Christmas. My birthday, my baptism, my Friday, my weekend. Clump, clump, clump, clump. We are made for order. But, HEY WAKE UP! Here’s the fantastic thing! Our order is actually as wild and spontaneous as the squirrel’s! For if God truly created out of nothing, then the rules he set down are his own reckless invention, as arbitrary as Calvinball. The laws of physics are drunken decisions. The colors that surround us are careless kersplashes of divine paint. To put it well, God did not make us ordered and symmetrical, with two legs and arms and eyes, because symmetry is pleasing, no: We find symmetry pleasing because God made it so, and we are made in the image and likeness of God. God did not create the world in seven days because it was a good way to organize the week. He created it as he pleased, and we like it because we were created to be of like mind. 

If this can be realized, then routine becomes adventure. How amazing it is – say the clever scientists – that at the very root of nature and matter there is order, there is the Fibonacci sequence, DNA pairing, the two’s and four’s, positives and negatives that make up the heart of it all. How amazingly sensible it is – says the foolish Christian – for it is all from the same God. If this can be realized, then a glance at our schedules, at our morning alarms, afternoon lunch breaks and evening walks – all this should not bore, but excite! All this should lead us to worship…hang that thought, all of this routine IS worship, because we imitate – not the order – but the wild, untamed decision of the Designer, who says, “It shall be thus! Because I bloody well say so!” And if one were to really, really realize this, he’d probably be the Happiest Man Ever, and thus carted off to an asylum. He’d cry, “Glory! Here comes the bus! Again, and the same time as yesterday! What shameless impudence, what divine imitation; fearlessly mimicking the ordinance of the Master of the Universe, that things should happen in sequence! And hooray! I’m sitting where I sat!” What a paradox, that the true recognition of routine is the cure for boredom.

Which is a capital crime, if only because it denies the fact that life itself is lively. Everything that happens, every morning cup of coffee and Sunday Mass, has utterly no reason for repeating itself besides the will of God, and should thus be taken with all the joy of the first time, and all the gratitude of a gift received. I hold that, were the heart of the universe anything the atheistic scientists used to speculate it was – cold and random, infinite and unpredictable – then I would lose my faith. But it is ordered, and so disorderedly, and by such a God.

But – to begin the disclaimer paragraph, a feature without which I would be hung – I do not advocate the “by-the-clock” lifestyle, the boring life without holidays. I advocate the realization that the wonderful decision to eat lunch in a tree, or to jump in a lake, these are just as wonderful as eating your lunch at a table, or jumping into bed. That life really is Calvinball. Show me a man who has no routine, who changes his times and location and purpose every new day, and I will show you a man in despair. But show me a man whose routine excites him, and I will show you a man fully alive. Show me a Church that advocates the use of ritual and order, of fasting and feasting, and I will show you the Bride of the Mad Designer. Show me the decision to ritually give up pleasant things for 40 days, and I will show you a wild, untamed 40 days.

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