Dec 30, 2012
One of the great Sunday pages of the Peanuts comic strip by Charles Schulz shows Linus walking outside while it is snowing. He looks up, he catches snowflakes on his hand… and goes wild when he sees that two are identical. He rushes to show them off, but before his sister Lucy, or Charlie Brown, or anyone else, can see them, the snowflakes have melted. Good grief.
What would have made that discovery special, of course, is that we are told that no two snowflakes are exactly alike; of the uncountable snowflakes that fall, or have fallen, their crystalline, geometric appearances are all unique.
This seems miraculous, when we think of it. It IS miraculous. There is no logical, structural, organizational reason it that it must be so, but it is. God could have made snowflakes standard-issue; or of two basic designs; or any finite number. But He chose Infinity for that category in nature – a unique way, to my way of thinking, to reveal Himself. A unique way, but not rare: there are many things in nature that are astonishing in their variety. Consider:
Rainbows arrange themselves by the color spectrum, but we never see the same display in the same place, and they vary in full arcs, portions, double arcs, in different intensities.
We never see clouds that are identical in the same sky, or miles apart, or years apart – even moments apart. They constantly change.
Despite the best efforts of breeders, no two flowers are ever alike. Compare roses, plumerias, tulips, not to mention wildflowers, and you will always find differences of coloring, size, intensity. A rose is NOT a rose is NOT a rose…
The distinctive colorization of birds, even the patterns on peacocks’ tail-feather displays, distinguish them from other species, but are always different – from nuances to brilliant features – from bird to bird.
Famous markings on many animals, like leopards’ spots; giraffe markings; stripes on tigers, zebras, and tabby cats, are like trademarks we instantly recognize. Yet from animal to animal, no two are alike.
And with humans: we each have only two eyes, a nose, a mouth, and hair on our heads – a small number of features that constitute our appearance – yet among the world’s 7-billion souls there are no doppelgangers. The idea that we all have a “double” somewhere is a fiction.
God’s infinite variety is wondrous.
We can choose the same patterns in all our ways, but we humans tend not to. When you think of it, when we create (that is, invent) things, almost immediately a march toward standardization commences. Someone comes up with, say, a Model T Ford, or a Hostess Twinkie, or an iPod… and right away the factory assembly lines stamp out clones by the millions.
Humans tend toward the same in their goods; uniformity in their practices; conformity in their ideas. Do tastes in fashion change? I maintain that is merely a seasonal adjustment in a new set of orthodoxies. The same with musical trends, slang phrases, interior-decorators’ colors, widths of lapels and ties: on the surface we want to be different, but we rush to the same, same, same, individually or in our groups.
Years change – which is what brings me to these thoughts – and time marches on. At New Years’ times we feel obligated to look back and look forward. We look at the same old world, and behold the things that really don’t change, magazine cover stories to the contrary notwithstanding. Some things shouldn’t change; in other areas we are stubborn. It is frightening to consider how little human nature has changed when we think about the wars and brutality and oppression and abuse and the things we do to one another. Sin.
But God, the Unchangeable, declines to stop changing the physical world – the miracle of creation – in which He, in unfathomable mercy and kindness, has placed us. Creation is for His pleasure, but it pleases Him to please us.
And surely there is a message beyond an amazing God choosing to create eye-candy for His children. If we would only notice it more often. Every bit of creation – every different element and aspect – is a manifestation of a God whose love for us is as limitless and infinite, and distinctive, as the numberless snowflakes and rainbows and flowers.
My prayer for us all in 2013 is not only that we stop and smell the roses, but that we stop and BE the roses.
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Like roses among thorns, a profound message can grow in the weed patch of pop music. Such was the case in the late 1960s, another troubled time, when a pair of songwriters approached the jazz icon Louis Armstrong with a spiritual but not sectarian song, certainly not jazz, “What a Wonderful World.” The first rule in the creative process often is that there are no rules, and a classic recording, a perfect marriage of lyrics and meanings and vocal style and personality, was their result. It is worth a listen in this New Year, especially for the spoken introduction by Satchmo (“Pops”) before he sings.
Click: What a Wonderful World