"Here, as everywhere, the Unfulfilled Intention, which makes life what it is, was as obvious as it could be among the depraved crowds of a city slum. The leaf was deformed, the curve was crippled, the taper was interrupted; the lichen eat the vigor of the stalk, and the ivy slowly strangled to death the promising sapling."
|A tree falls in the woods|
Thomas Hardy, if you couldn't guess. The Woodlanders, if you haven't read it.
Be warned - if you read on, the word that I've, Sun-like, asterisked out is revealed in all its awful terror. If you don't like the use of the word I've bowdlerised above, stop now. Although, if that's the worst thing in your world, you're doing OK really.
It's the fundamental theological problem that all those who believe in a good God have to wrestle with. If God is good, why is everything - on a universal, theological scale, bolloxed?
In the old days, we used to blame Adam. Except the real fundamentalists. They blamed Eve. Letting a woman make decisions - and then give instructions to her husband. No wonder it went wrong.
But I don't believe in a historical Adam and Eve, and people once got really angry with me for suggesting a quantum Garden of Eden where, by eating the apple, the naked dudes in the wood back-created the whole fallen Universe with 13 bn years of history. Or, actually, they got angry with Peter Kirk. But that's another story. And I do still wonder at why a beautiful world goes so wrong.
I mean, Ebola virus. Or the way Tony Blair's desire to be a world-conquering hero ended up in the dismemberment of a country and vast number of people. Or the way the Moon is gonna crash in on us in 87 years.
I made the moon up. But you know what I mean. Natural disasters. No plant is perfect. A child's delicate hand, destined to be an old person's hand with arthritis. The internal combustion engine - a brilliant idea, doomed to pollute the world. And all the time, the slow, slow threat that the Sun will expand beyond the orbit of Mars and evaporate the seas.
And since I can't blame Adam - or even Eve - and because ivy was throttling trees before humans walked the earth - I can only place the blame with the one who was there in the beginning, and blame God.
There must be a fundamental reason, if God exists - and I never have any reason to doubt that - why everything is bolloxed. And I don't know what it is. It could be that we're not meant to hold onto this world too hard, while we wait for our new one. We need to remember that everything is temporary, so we don't make gods of what we hold. A sunset is gorgeous, and time-bound. A house is a home, but after thirty years needs repointing. A beautiful woman is the next decade's fading beauty. Marlon Brando isn't always on the Waterfront. Sometimes he's in Apocalypse Now. Even Stonehenge will fall down in the end. But if that's the lesson we have to learn - why do we have to learn it so hard?
And why create this beautiful, doomed universe in the first place? Why do Thomas Hardy's characters wander around Wessex, crushed by the weight of disappointment that falls from the empty skies? Why do we waste our sweat and energy and tears in schemes that are crucial - and yet which are meaningless after a few weeks or years?
"Vanity, vanity, all is vanity", says the Philosopher. I shall sit in the quiet of my summer house, and watch the doomed moon set over the doomed horizon, as the doomed glow of the doomed New City of Milton Keynes illuminates the doomed north-western skies. On a universal, theological scale - everything's bolloxed. But there's an eternal beauty to be found in there somewhere. And that eternal beauty, and the daft conviction that God once joined in the state of this world, became subject to the fact that everything is bolloxed - that's what makes me hope it'll all be right in the end.