The Awful Rowing Toward God

Claude Monet’s spring garden at Giverny

I recently read a thoughtful treatise on evolution, which is, strictly speaking, a highly regarded theory of biological adaptation and survival through mutable processes. However, the theory had been stretched in the essay to include the workings of the moon and stars, political parties, economics, transistor radios, the function of dwellings and the fear of flying, presumably to make the point that it appears there is no God. That the “dead hand” of evolution is more about results than progress and biological processes decree that life is cheap. As presented, that assertion does not negate for me the universally recognized existence of the divine.

Evolution, survival of the fittest, is a process whereby the more offspring produced, the more likely a genetic aberration, which helps assure an organism’s fitness for the future — the best adapted thrive, the least die out. The essay cites the example of the protozoan (a huge organism by biochemical standards) that survives for a nanosecond longer than other cohorts in the same puddle by shifting to a darker, wetter spot. It executes a futile response, however, absent reproduction and progeny that would take the same protective action in the future with ever increasing efficiency, theoretically leading to improved rates of survival. Natural selection is the only known cause of adaptation, but not the only known cause of evolution, random mutation or gene creep, are others. Evolution is based on quantity of similar organisms for natural trait selection from the largest possible gene pool. The more there is of a species, the better the chance for survival.

Mixing scientific and theological theory, the essay suggested evolution might have easily conferred the gift of awareness, thought, and personal purpose on sharks or dinosaurs or field mice, as on a particular branch of the primates. But, I suggest it’s possible the molecular building blocks for self-awareness are ever present in amino acids, universally shared in complex organisms. I suppose, using the notion of conference, awareness also could have been added to tulips and daffodils. This ability could be carrying forward in these species right now, waiting for the moment when the right biochemical combinations coalesce to enhance survival and the biochemical ability—to yearn for, appreciate and celebrate awareness of self and the divine—God consciousness, it’s a mystery that knocks us to our knees and drives us forward in reverence. Who knows?

From Anne Sexton’s poem:

 “The Awful Rowing Toward God”

like a pig in a trenchcoat I grew,

and then there were many strange apparitions,

 the nagging rain, the sun turning into poison

 and all of that, saws working through my heart,

 but I grew, I grew,

 and God was there like an island I had not rowed to,

 still ignorant of Him, my arms and my legs worked,

 and I grew, I grew,

 In the essay there was this question: What does evolution show us about the notion that God made us in his own image?

Answer: Since all species are continually evolving, surviving and dying, who knows the image or intentions of God? Who says God is static? Who says an awareness of God exists only in humans? Evolution is cruel and messy, yes. As Anne Sexton said, it’s an “awful rowing” toward our own genetic destiny. It occurs because of the drive for survival, which is the biological imperative to achieve stasis, procreate and satisfy the perpetual yearning for the divine: Our raison d’être.

If you regularly visit the Word Garden, you know I don’t often indulge in theosophical rants. I sincerely respect each person’s right to their own beliefs and don’t feel at all qualified to speak about the mysteries of God. This post stems from reading a provocative essay first thing Sunday morning, a time I normally reserve for quietly contemplating a Higher Power and writing to you. Your reactions to this post and comments on the Divine are most welcome, but know that this is a very sensitive subject for most people and comments will be moderated before posting.

Published by Kate Campbell

Writer, editor, photographer, novelist, short story writer, poet.

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