Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition


I spent some time today reading over old entries from my other blog.   In this other blog, I post about my life generally, especially my adventures of a year in Mexico, in renoing and selling one small house, in building and finishing another, and then, at present, in fixing up an old camper to live in while renting out the new house. The blog functions as a kind of journal for me to look back on to remember all the happenings and phases as they were current. It’s a sordid tale of muddling through; of many twists and turns in the road, of dead ends, u-turns, direction changes.

Reading over this public journal today, I was shocked by my complete lack of foresight. How did I manage to get it so wrong so often? I seemed to constantly be announcing plans that fell through, ideas that didn’t come to fruition, goals I didn’t attain. And yet, in spite of the twists and turns, dead ends, u-turns and direction changes, there has been overall forward motion. Barriers that I remember seeming impassible and impossible in the moment that crumpled me to the floor in an alternately raging or whimpering, hissy-fitting, snot-flinging, little, melted puddle of utter defeat (I wish I were exaggerating) somehow gave way in the end. The year in Mexico happened, the first house got renoed and sold, the second house got built and finished and rented, and the camper is presently being quite comfortably lived in.

I sense a plot lurking away in those journal entries somewhere. I just can’t see the gist of that plot yet because I’m still in the thick of it. The story hasn’t come out where it comes out yet.

My blog reminded me about the time in mid 2017 when, after the year in Mexico, I returned to Canada futureless and adrift. I remember the terror of (metaphorically) staring at the screen that was supposed to be playing the “coming attractions” trailer for my life to discover that the projector had malfunctioned, and the “coming attractions” showed nothing but a blank screen. I didn’t foresee the next three years and all that would happen. I didn’t foresee anything. I didn’t have one, single idea what I wanted to do (never mind should do) or in which direction I could move (never mind should move).

And yet, three years have passed since that time, and things have happened. I did things. I found some direction or other or quite a lot of them to move in.

I don’t know what happens next. But something will. And it will be surprising. Surprise is the one sure expectation.

I think a lot of people in 2020 would apply a certain Monty Python catchphrase to this year. While not exactly the Spanish Inquisition, 2020’s unfolding was equally as unexpected as Monty Python believed the Spanish Inquisition to be.

2019 seemed to be a rough one for a lot of people based on my very non-scientific survey of social media memes. The new meme is laughing at ourselves over our 2019 petty gripes in light of 2020’s bombards.

I also had to laugh a little over one of the posts I’d written on my life-blog regarding 2020 as it appeared over the horizon. I entitled the post, “The Year of Perfect Vision.” In it, I expressed some optimistic sentiments at the cusp of the new year although I had no idea what that year of 20/20 vision would yield for me or for the world generally. But then, that’s been the case for 2019. And 2018. And every year I’ve been alive. As it has every year for every person who’s been alive. We don’t see the future. Period.

I was driving home from a friend’s house yesterday when I ended up stranded in a chain of road-construction traffic that took a solid half hour to forty-five minutes to wallow through. All summer-long, a bridge on the way to the friend’s house has been subject to some sort of project that’s closed one lane of it. I’ve been to the friend’s house many times this summer, and it had previously never taken longer than five minutes to get across the bridge, so I certainly didn’t expect the Amazon-basin-python-like snake of traffic stretching for a kilometre or more to greet me as I approached the bridge.

With all the unexpected time to kill in the car, I had too much time to ruminate. Naturally, I wondered what was going on. I wondered what was causing the obscene length of the line of traffic that normally was just a car or two. As I inched towards the bridge, I looked out the car window, having time to really take in the familiar surroundings that I seldom notice in passing and wondered where the dirt road I could see out the driver’s window led and why I’d never been down it. As I neared the bridge and could see what was going on, I wondered what the men at work were actually doing to the bridge. Why did one of them have a blow torch, melting bits of the giant piece of white plastic covering half the bridge? Why was there a giant piece of white plastic covering half the bridge? Where did these men come from? What company did this kind of work? How did people even figure out how to build or fix bridges or why bridges  need covering in giant sheets of white plastic that need melting with a blow torch?

As it sometimes does, the vast expanse of my lack of knowledge suddenly struck me in the pit of the stomach. Out of all the knowledge possible in the universe (or outside of it), what a molecule of it I possessed! And yet, how large that molecule sometimes looks to us arrogant, little atoms.

(One of my wonderings was solved today when I learned through another friend that the mountain pass that leads to the bridge that leads to our little town was blocked for hours by a semi in flames on the summit. But of course, I was immediately curious to know why the semi was burning, what happened to the driver, did he make it out, etc. And I’m no wiser there. No matter what question gets answered, ten more take its place.)

So maybe 2020 really is serving the purpose of bringing things into clearer focus. It may be stripping quite a lot of us of the illusion that we know so much more than we really do; that we can see into the future with reasonable accuracy; that we know what to expect of the movie of our lives because we think we’ve seen the previews. The truth is, nobody expects… well, whatever it is that really ends up happening. Spanish Inquisitions or worldwide pandemics.

We venerate those who admittedly have a larger molecule of knowledge than ourselves. We tend to forget that a larger molecule is still a molecule. I remember shaking my head in amazement, when I first heard about it, at the forlorn ambition of cracking “the theory of everything.” More like, “the theory of a slightly larger molecule of knowledge.”

Hopefully, another gift 2020 can give us (if no other kind of cure) is the cure of our prevailing religion of scientism. Can we finally acknowledge that what we call “science” is really made up of scientists, and scientists are human? That “science” does not possess the divine omniscience we’ve assigned it? With all the authoritative scientific edicts contradicting each other weekly, here’s hoping many blind worshippers at the altar of the laboratories, paying homage to their priests in the white coats, will find their vision clearing. It’s good to learn from those who’ve obtained that slightly larger molecule of knowledge. It’s bad to worship them.

The greater realization of my minuscule collection of knowledge also helps set to rest for me an objection to God’s existence I referenced in a post on this blog some time back. I asked, “If God is all-loving and all-powerful, then why evil? Why does the world look the way it does? What’s wrong with the world?” and said that I find it the most powerful objection, intellectually and personally, to what I believe. But if there is an infinite God (as I believe there is), then He is, by definition, also all-knowing. It helps put the objection in perspective to imagine the atom that I am with my molecule of knowledge standing up to challenge the infinite Creator of the universe on His handling of that universe. The ol’ “God’s ways are not our ways. As the heavens are high above the earth, so are God’s ways higher than our ways,” line does not sit well with most of us when faced with immense evil and suffering. And yet, could be God just might know some things I don’t. Could be I don’t see the end from the beginning. Or even two minutes into the future. Could be I’m not qualified to run the universe as I see fit.

All in all, I think 2020 will be good for the world. I think it can help to chip away at our arrogance bit by stubborn bit. I think it should remind us that we’re not in control and we don’t know everything there is to know. I think, if there’s one piece of wisdom to take away from 2020 that can help grow our molecules, it should be that there is a God … and we ain’t Him.

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