The saying “to build a better mousetrap” comes from an age old problem, dealing with unwanted rodent visitors. The one that snaps on the mouse’s head works pretty well. It is hard to improve on dead when it comes to a mouse. Still, the saying remains. It means that kind of innovation which finds better and more clever ways to do things. The better mousetrap is a euphemism for a great invention.
The better mousetrap I saw today, is that brush which stands up in the sink, with a clever suction cup attached to the bottom. It will always be visible because it remains vertical. You will not cut yourself on a knife plunging your hand into the water to find your scrubby. It means you will not have to stick your hands into the guck at all because the brush is standing there ready for retrieval. Someone thought of that, who had his hand in gucky water and did not like it. He contrived a solution, made a patent, and followed through with production. He likely made money, and he deserved to. Such a picture is at the heart of free enterprise, and more related to economics and the idea of adding value, than today’s hocus pocus of derivatives and other investment vehicles that regular people will never understand.
Written into this idea of improvement, is the tide which lifts all boats. Also that man is a steward of the wild and unpredictable. He seeks to tame it, and is therefore at odds with nature. This is not a bad thing, as the green police would have you think. It means that we end up with something even better than nature. We learn to build in beauty, to be efficient, and to observe and catalogue things that work. All that we enjoy in today’s world is a statement in opposition to the chaos we naturally inherit. It springs from a pyramid of innovation piled up throughout the history of the world. We are the recipients of a great deal of trial and error put to the test, and the beneficiaries of someone else’s work. Looking around, we should be amazed every single day, at all the things that function on our behalf. Our hot water heater blew up the other day. How much we take things for granted. You only realize what hot water means when you cannot bathe for two days. Those things already set in place, allow us to have a stress free, comfortable day, with little necessary work.
We were discussing man-made innovation at dinner last night, burger. My daughter’s boyfriend was assessing Beyond Burgers. It is the only kind we eat anymore, not because we are against meat, but because we really like them. That they are healthy and nothing has to get killed is an added bonus. Someone made a vegetarian out of me simply via a greater invention. I look at the soy hockey pucks we have “enjoyed’ in the past as inferior substitutes for burgers. They did not convince me of anything because they were so very bad. Good burgers required a bit more study, and a bit more scholarship. Money had to be invested. What the Beyond Burger got right, was the sensations that envelops the whole process of eating hamburgers. There is pink from beets, which make your hamburger “bleed” while it cooks. There is a smoky taste, and the basic texture and feel that mimics meat when you bite into it. There is the juiciness of self-lubricating oils (from coconut) which replace the cholesterol version in real meat.
Why do we work? It is to make life easier, and to find better ways to do things. Consider this: if you were to go back into time, you would most likely find yourself in what Thomas Hobbes describes as a life which is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”. Most of world history was like this. We have made some improvements since. Our life today really requires very little work set against what people experienced throughout history. Most of the past was a battle to eat, stay warm, and to keep yourself from being murdered by your fellows.
I was watching a YouTube of a Finnish guy who was building a log cabin from hand tools. He used a draw knife to remove bark, and an axe to hew square edges of a log the old fashioned way, called “joggling”. You stand on the log, pray for good aim, and chop notches from the log beneath your feet to a chalkline, spaced out. Then you go back and remove the wood between the notches in a true and straight line. It is a lot of work and you had better be in shape. The maker of the cabin apologized at some point. He really wanted to install old fashioned shingles made by hand, but decided against it. He wanted to live in the cabin, and first of all to house his tools there. Hence, he had to take some shortcuts afforded by modern technology. Winter was coming. He went with conventional shingles and tar paper, and saved himself a bit of time from having to do every little thing by hand. He was very sorry, but not sorry enough to make real shingles.
We should not apologize for being set against nature. We are on the side of God here. Nature left to its own devices is really, decay and rot. Things going to hell in a handcart. If you doubt this, go away for a summer and leave your garden untended and see what happens. You will be greeted with a lot of work when you come back, if you want order and beauty. Order and beauty spring from a conquest against nature. As Christians we get an image of nature as flawed, from the story of creation told in the book of Genesis. Whether people believe the story happened verbatim is an almost unnecessary detail. God created order out of the void. It is a convincing enough picture of a great truth most people will encounter in a lifetime.
After that, man is handed creation by God, told to work, to care for it and to improve it. God himself worked building creation, and he rested when his work was complete. Work is good. We should expect to have exciting jobs in Heaven, where things run on time, in order, and with beauty and grace. We will enjoy creation in a new way because God himself will have perfected it.
The Green Agenda sees man as an imposition on nature. Man, not nature, is the enemy identified. Man must be punished with things like a carbon tax, for existing and breathing air, for having a carbon footprint. The advocates of the green agenda do not place a great value on human life. They may for example, excuse murder because they conflate what human beings do to animals as murder. Their vision of the world involves a few people surviving who really deserve to. I am sure they mean themselves, and not me. I feel therefore justified in ignoring their incursions because what they really want is my eradication. They are trapped in a materialist view of the world where we are still fighting over resources, and somebody has to go in that zero-sum equation.
So yes, people of good faith, and people of faith should be in favour of work, of innovation, and feeling free and easy about the good use of God’s creation. We should appreciate the hand of God that is a vision of caring and stewardship. More than that, the work that we do should follow his vision for truth, beauty, and order that comes from work. You want to give thanks? Roll up your sleeves and make the world a better place. You want a road map for that? Crack open the book of Genesis and see some great truths made plain. You are a steward of creation. Whether you are a good or a bad steward, comes down to the quality and sincerity of your labour.