“Nature is, above all, profligate. Don’t believe them when they tell you how economical and thrifty nature is, whose leaves return to the soil. Wouldn’t it be cheaper to leave them on the tree in the first place? This deciduous business alone is a radical scheme, the brainchild of a manic-depressive with limitless capital.

Extravagance! Nature will try anything once. This is what the sign of the insects says. No form is too gruesome, no behavior too grotesque. If you’re dealing with organic compounds, then let them combine. If it works, if it quickens, set it clacking on the grass; there’s always room for one more; you ain’t so handsome yourself. This is a spendthrift economy; thought nothing is lost, all is spent.”

Annie Dillard

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

My brother Steve is making friends with randomness — kind of.

This morning he mentioned to me that during his hospitalization for his stem cell transplant — four years ago — a butterfly came to the window of his hospital room everyday.

It was a snatch of beauty, experienced in a tough season, and it helped carry him through. The bright, fluttering wings —  it was mobile brightness and beauty much needed in a shadowy moment.

Was it providential?

Was it random?

He and I both think the fly flies somewhere in the cracks of the flyway.

God isn’t up there — or somewhere — pulling the puppet stings for every small event in the universe, sending out insects, calling in winds, pronouncing sneezes.  Surely God isn’t sending butterflies to sick people, but not all of them. Not everyone gets one.

I am sure God can do what he wants, intervene when he wants, intrude if he wills — and he does —  but I really can’t imagine God as a universal micromanager. He couldn’t possibly be that bored, that controlling or that tyrannical. He may know every sparrow that drops, but he doesn’t map all their paths, fly them into windows — which they are prone to do — or continuously fly them past all invalids, and the valids too, in need of a sign.

First off, and perhaps last too, God already has sent stuff our way simply by making us and making so freakin’ much of it —  of stuff.  God is Annie’s “manic-depressive with limitless capital.” He made extra, he has gone overboard. He’s a virtual sybarite! He’s a holy, unrestrained debauchee. That much is fairly obvious. Look for yourself.

God made millions or even billions of everything — grass blades, flies, bacteria, spores, mushrooms, rabbits, ideas, daisies. They multiply and die like crazy, the flora, the fauna, butterflies, Madonnas.

Why? Why so much of everything? Well, in this way we an keep running into stuff, randomly, or not, the natural wonder at the right moment, the white tailed deer along the road, the fish jumping in the lake as the sun sets over the shy lovers.

God made enough of everything for the coincidental, for the happenstancial, for the random, for the vigorous and voracious vagaries to just keep showing up. He made so much it just keeps flooding the stage.

God planned plenty for us, from the beginning —  but the plan included not controlling everything. Don’t we have a will? Hasn’t he given us freedom? Is there no instinct? Can’t we make horrible choices? Don’t some things happen by chance? Can’t we reject him?

God seems to be into letting stuff choose, letting something choose, free will, instinct, volition, agency, even chance  — especially once the show was launched. I’m sure of this because anything less on his part would lack confidence, skill, humor, power and foresight.

“Nature is profligate” because God is profligate. God was, is and always will be recklessly extravagant.  It comes from being so resourced.

It means stuff happens.

When it does, is it for you?

Of course it is.

  1. wendaya61 says:

    Interesting and beautiful post. I experienced most of what you wrote about when we first drove through Washington on our way to our new hometown. I remember being awestruck by the majesty of all that green forest standing under a white haze that shimmered with light. At that moment I was in awe of God’s creation, imagination and extravagance.

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