31 January 2012

Signs and Wonders

As I was driving to work this morning I was listening to the traffic report.  When it was over, an insurance company commercial involving a talking Aussie gecko came on.  I only vaguely paid attention, but there was a reference in there to velvet ropes and bouncers.

And I paused.

Velvet ropes.  I thought, "You know, if someone said to me right now, 'Make velvet,' I wouldn't know where to begin."  How it gets its pile, how it is held together, how they can make ropes out of it for theater queues, all of that and more is complete terra incognita to me.

And that's just the start of it.

I live in a world pretty much completely not of my own making.   I don't know when to plant and harvest (a few tomato plants in the garden hardly count).  I don't know how to mine ore and extract metal.  I don't know how to grind glass into lenses.  I don't know how to make anything but the simplest of machines and tools, and even then I need some ready-made parts.  I don't know squat about electricity (again, turning off the breaker and putting in a new light fixture doesn't count for much) or plumbing for that matter.  

The chair I'm sitting on, the cup I'm drinking from, the phone I just took the call on, the plaster on the wall I'm looking at, the bound volumes on the shelves around me – all of these are so many wonders and marvels that boggle the mind and stagger the senses.  What an utterly fascinating, interesting world!  What astounding feats of mind and muscle and mechanics!

I remember when I was a kid riding in the back seat with my sister heading back to St. Louis from visiting the grandparents in Michigan.  As we were driving through SW Michigan, I saw the cows in the fields and started making the connection from cow to farmer to milk truck to processing plant to distributor to grocery store to family car to table.  (I'd list myself at the end, but I'm not too fond of milk products at all.)  I remember thinking how people at each step of the process, not really intending a particular outcome (they weren't aiming for our fridge), and each doing exactly their own thing, made possible a system that made life possible for all of us.   As I expressed all that, my father chimed in from the driver's seat, "What's the big deal?  They all got paid."

I made a mental note to look harder for those adoption papers when we got home….

I don't know if it's a fruit of practice or just my particular constitution, but I find myself day by day and year by year becoming more and more fascinated with this world, with us, with everything in it.  All of it together is so incredibly wondrous in its wholes and in its parts.

All of it together, in some way I can't begin to describe, is none other than myself.  In and among and through it all I am never lost, never alone, never ill at ease.  Through freeze and thaw, from seed to withered flower and rotting fruit, by what is called "good" and by what is called "evil," it's all nothing other than myself.

I don't know how to make velvet.  That's OK.  I don't know how to make me, either.

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