You can’t call yourself a Catholic until you’ve thought that God’s design had some strange colours, shapes and patterns. It’s hard to figure why some people call it Intelligent Design.
Nature abhors a vacuum cleaner
by Michael McGirr
When it comes to people, God has a lot of experience. But when it comes to God, people don’t know the half of it.
There are two types of church. One has the story of God all written out, printed and bound. The other wants God to keep telling the story in person, adding new bits all the time. The first has an answer for everything. The second has everything for an answer.
The earth has moved this week in the small community of Inner Springs.
Doug Trench, proprietor and sole operator of Trench Earthworks, has been in a rare flurry of activity. Doug has been digging foundations and preparing the ground for three or four new homes which he has been contracted to supply.
Most of the homes in Inner Springs are of the relocatable variety; it is a sure sign that somebody is here to stay when they buy a portable home and put it on temporary foundations. When my neighbour, Cardinal Shallots, moved into a flimsy old water tank and called it the Cistern Chapel, people knew he’d be hard to budge.
The small number of brick homes in town tend to belong to families who arrive from outside, brimful of idealism about living in the country and then find that simple living is a highly complicated business. They stay for a couple of years and then retreat in confusion, brimful of idealism about living in the city.
The basic rule of thumb in this community is that the more temporary something looks, the longer it will last. This applies to marriages as much as anything. There are plenty of couples in town who teamed up as teenagers, were grandparents in their thirties, can never remember much about their own wedding but have stuck like glue the whole time. The local wisdom is that big, fussy weddings are a prelude to big, fussy divorces. A glossy wedding is a sign people are precious, take themselves too seriously and that spells trouble for long term love.
Doug Trench’s grandfather fought on the western front and Doug honours the Anzac legend in his work. Whenever he clears a property, he leaves it looking like the Somme on a bad day. Doug is a devout man and a churchgoer. He believes that prayer can move mountains. He believes that a bulldozer can achieve the same result, only faster.
Indeed, Doug prays like a bulldozer, snorting and grumbling under his breath while he tries to push God into place. The rosary grinds between his fingers like caterpillar tracks as he pushes on and on through life’s terrain.
When his wife, Lou, got cancer, it was like another pile of rubble that just had to be shifted. He did everything for his wife except hold her hand. The night she died, he spent the whole time on the phone to America trying to find out about wacky new treatments. Lou took a dramatic turn for the worse but the hospital couldn’t get through to Doug at home to tell him to come in because the phone was engaged all the time.
He dug Lou’s grave with his own backhoe, knocking over three headstones as he waged war yet again on the stubborn clay. He buried Lou deep, just like he had buried his parents, his brother, their daughter. On the day of the funeral, the undertakers ran out of rope before the coffin had found its place of rest. Doug was pleased. It wasn’t really prayer that moved mountains. He did that himself.
Doug has kept himself busy since Lou died. He now has several strings to his bow. He is the owner and boss of both Trench Demolitions and Trench Developers. In a good season, Doug can charge one customer for the demolition and removal of an old house, put it on the back of a truck and sell it to somebody else.
It is customary in Inner Springs, when a marriage splits up, for one party to get the house and the other party to get the land. Usually the wife gets the house. This can lead to awkward situations.
When Gloria Carroll finally left her husband, she rang Doug and took the house with her. But she had nowhere to put it. It spent six months on the back of a trailer until Gloria could find a recently separated gentleman to her liking.
There was an even worse situation back in time when a woman left her marriage for another woman. The couple then had two houses but no land. Eventually they were able to buy a block but it was so small they had to put their houses on their sides to fit them on. The walls became the floors. The ceilings became the walls. There were chimneys pointing across the fence at the neighbours; TV antennae poking out like hairs from a nostril. It was clear to all that such arrangements were unnatural. Nobody could tell which way was up.
Doug Trench used to be a mere builder. He is now a creationist as well.
Doug distracts himself these days from his troubles by trying to work out a method of creation according to biblical principles. Every house he works on is an act of creation. The good side of this is that every project has to be finished inside seven days. The bad side is that every new house has to start not with the foundations but with the lights.
Doug’s current practice is to hang the light fittings from a scaffold and position the house around it.
‘If it’s good enough for God when God made the earth, it’s good enough for me when I’m shifting the earth.’
Doug also puts the water tank in the ceiling because the Bible says that the waters were separated from the earth by a dome in the sky. So far, his customers have only just managed to survive the inevitable flood.
It is hard to attach the label Intelligent Design to these ideas. Yet Doug is, as always, sure of his ground. For him, Intelligent Design is proof positive of the existence of God. Doug will move heaven and earth to get to that proof. So far the results have been, well, not very intelligent.
My neighbour, Cardinal Shallots, has been telling me that there is a computer company in Dry Reach, our nearest regional centre, which is called Intelligent Design.
‘You know,’ he says, ‘some Christians think that creation is a computer. That it follows programs installed by the creator. That you push certain buttons and get certain results.’
‘Isn’t that the case?’ I asked.
‘Not really. I think sometimes that God’s design is foolish. God likes it that way. God won’t be bulldozed into anything.’