At a certain point in modern times, it was decided that God, the Creator of heaven and earth, should stay out of the business of running the world he created. Supposedly, men could do it much better without him.
All this was done, mind you, with a certain amount of tact and propriety so as not to overly offend God or those who believed in him. It was decided that God would be given the title of the maker of a clock, where the clock was a great mechanical universe. As “clockmaker,” all God had to do was wind up the original clock and leave. Men would take over from there.
That is what happened at the dawn of modern times. All were suddenly consumed with the frenzied action of the Industrial Revolution. Progress and technology were installed upon God’s empty throne and people everywhere worked to transform the world by constructing huge networks of big machines and devices that would control and conquer the nature God had created. Soon giant systems, huge factories and management practices churned out an astounding array of abundant goods and services as never seen before. People looked upon what they had done and proclaimed that the future would permit unlimited growth and happiness.
People too became enmeshed in the production processes of this great machinery. In fact, the machine became the model for getting things done. No field of human action was exempt from change, so as to impel people to act like machines or computers. Everything was simplified, planned, and engineered to adapt to the machine and subsequently minimize individuality and maximize efficiency.
In their daily lives, people were encouraged to imitate the efficient action of machines by adopting standardized methods. This can be seen in the development of bureaucracy, teaching methods, advertising and public relations procedures. In this way, the person was transformed, so to speak, from an organism to a mechanism inside this great scheme of things. With every material need supplied, it was supposed that this new planned way of life would make everyone happy and pave the way to a bright new future.
The only problem is that the universe is not this giant mechanical clock. It does not function with the rigid exactitude required by a machine. Despite all efforts of control, natural disasters unpredictably happen. The universe does not fit into all the neat categories determined by science. A world of wonder and unfathomable mystery exists, which is full of meaning and purpose that cannot be expressed by formulae and spreadsheets.
A much more important consideration is that people are not mechanisms. They are living and unique beings. As such, they are capable of pondered choices, unending creativity, and varied rhythms not found in machines. Life is spontaneous, unpredictable and nuanced, full of vitality, poetry, and passion.
These realities clash with the clock-world where all is reduced to the mechanical properties of mass, utility, and movement in space. People find it difficult to live in a universe stripped of all metaphysical meaning, symbolism, beauty and purpose. Nothing makes sense when all is supposedly an endless flux of aimless and blind causation. In other words, the mechanical clock-universe that God did not make is unintelligible to the intelligent creatures that he did create for himself.
It is no wonder then that modern systems have not worked according to plan. Technology and science have done much to improve life but have not solved all the world’s problems or delivered paradise on earth. Machines have made life more comfortable but they have also been turned against humanity and caused much devastation. Huge mechanical wars broke out and others now loom on the horizon. Materialistic ideologies like communism and socialism have arisen with the goal of constructing “perfect systems that liberate,” but end up enslaving.
But worse than the failure of modern systems is the great sadness that has descended on so many of those living in the mechanical universe that God did not make. Despite unprecedented opportunities for entertainment, pleasure, and excitement, happiness from these proves elusive. This materialistic universe cannot address the profound spiritual void inside the soul of postmodern man, now causing so much frustration and desolation inside the stress of today’s hurried living.
The lesson should be clear: a more organic approach should at least be tried. Sadly, each new crisis in the mechanical universe that God did not make only begets greater mechanical “solutions,” calling for more and even bigger systems and programs. No doubt, massive government programs and economic stimulus packages will take care of everything! The right mix of more technology, progress, and luck will supposedly make people happy again.
The frustration with this system is reaching a high point in America and the world because the machines are now breaking down. More to the point, people, families and societies are breaking down. But instead of addressing the real issues, there are still those who delude themselves into thinking that solutions can be found by merely tweaking the mechanical universe that God did not make.
“Bring in the technocrats, central bankers and experts!” They cry. “The right team will fix the machines and return everything to order so we can live comfortably once more.”
Alas, a return to order can only happen if things function according to their nature. This would call for a return to a marvelous concept of the universe full of metaphysics and beauty that reflects the Creator. It would involve treating people as beings endowed with immortal souls. This would fill the spiritual void that haunts postmodernity and would give lives meaning and purpose. Then, beings created to pursue a spiritual heaven could overcome the frustration of today’s frantic attempts to construct an earthly paradise.
This can only be done by calling upon the absent “Clockmaker” in prayer and returning him to his throne as ruler of the great and marvelous universe that he did create, and knows well how to govern with his loving Providence.
Editor’s note: The image above, titled “God the Father,” was painted by Cima da Conegliano in 1515.