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between-our-steps-01-10-18-doubleOver the years on the farm, I have learned that if something gets jammed, it can be un-jammed. When things break, they can be fixed.

For example, we jammed the hay baler badly just before finishing first cut. Once the jam was cleared, the machine still wouldn't pick up properly. Closer examination showed that a pick-up rod was out of place. We could see that a bushing had broken and would have to be replaced. But how we would get the rod back, we could not imagine: there was no wiggle room.

But, we knew that what breaks can be fixed. After fiddling unsuccessfully, we remembered that the rod was not a single piece. At each end was a solid metal piece that fit inside the hollow rod and was held in place with a bolt. With the bolt removed, these two pieces would slide giving lots of room to maneuver. And if lined up right, there was a hole in the frame of the baler where the piece could be slid in from the outside. This part of the baler is designed to be fixed.

Working with technology, we learn that, with patience, ingenuity, and new parts, stuff can be fixed. But I worry that in our society, we may have learned this too well. When we look at things in nature, we think any problem we see can be fixed.

I remember hearing about a plan to ensure that less hail fell on the city of Calgary. They were going to seed clouds that could produce hail so that it fell before it got to the city. I worried that there would be farms in between the mountains and the city, crops that could be damaged. This fall, I heard about plans to dissipate hurricanes. But I wonder what would happen to the storm's energy if it was interfered with.

We know that we don't always know how things work, but we expect someone does. Living where we do, we can look at wind speed and direction, the temperature, and predict where snow squalls will develop. We can't predict hurricanes, but we believe that there are meteorologists with more data and experience who can. We don't know exactly how a Candu reactor works, but we know there are people who do, and people who know how to keep them running.

Because we believe anything can be fixed, even if we don't know how yet, we go ahead with projects even if we can't see all the results. With nuclear energy, we don't yet know how to deal with the waste, but we keep producing it.

We expect in time to resolve what we don't yet know. We don't know why some cells stop reproducing normally and create cancer cells instead. We can identify some triggers, but not the reason. Sometimes, we can intervene and stop that process, but not always. And when a medical problem can't be fixed, we are taken by surprise. We feel angry, upset, confused.

When we deal with things people did not make, it is important to remember that nature is more complex, more mysterious than a machine. This is one of the things that the world's creation stories teach us. Some stories include sacrifice. Some speak of huge effort. The Hebraic story speaks of mystery and power.

The book of Genesis describes a moment when everything was formless, a mass of moving energy and matter. Then God called light into being. Next, God instructed matter to take form. Only then did light gather into stars and sun. Later still, water gathered in place on the surface of the earth. God looked at each step and said, "It is good."

Curiously, this description resembles the current scientific creation hypothesis known as the Big Bang. Matter and energy had no form, until suddenly an explosion sent light, energy, and matter flying. Slowly, matter and energy gathered into stars and planets. Much later, oceans and seas formed on our earth.

No theory can say why this happened. And no story of beginnings can be proven. But these stories/theories remind us that there is a mystery and a power beyond us in the world. And perhaps when we remember this, we will be more careful where and how we try to "fix" the world.
Cathy Hird is a farmer, minister, and writer living near Walters Falls.


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