When my wife and I were shopping for our first house, the inspector pointed out a tree on the property. “The branches are rubbing against the roof,” he said, “and that’ll shorten the life of your shingles. Further, the roots will eventually undermine your foundation. If you buy the house, you should cut it down.”
Well, we bought the house, and shortly later I bought me a chainsaw. A very manly one.
It came with a fairly hefty manual, which, you’ll be surprised to know, I read.
Lots of things to remember with a chainsaw. For starters, it has a two-stroke engine, so you have to mix oil with the gas, at a very specific ratio (32:1, to be precise). Second, there’s a compartment there where you need to put a different oil, with low viscosity, for the bar and chain sprocket, to keep things moving along.
And then there’s a section in the manual about kickback. Apparently there are ways you can manipulate the chainsaw that will increase the likelihood that it will come back at you, and you’ll be essentially kissing the business end of the thing, which I’m told can lead to negative patient outcomes.
So I read all that.
Now here’s the thing.
I’m an American. I have my rights. One of the most precious is the right to property, which some political philosophers (Locke, no?) tell us underlies all the other rights. When I plunked my money down on that orange counter, that chainsaw became mine, and I have a right to do whatever I want to with it.
If I don’t want to put oil in the gas, I don’t have to. If I don’t want to use special oil in that other compartment, I don’t have to. And if I want to manipulate that growling beast in ways the manual discourages, I can do that.
It’s my chainsaw. I have my rights.
But I think you’d agree that I’d be an idiot to exercise those rights. I’ll shorten the life of the tool and consequently end up spending more money than I need to, to keep myself in chainsaws. And even more significantly, I could shorten the life of the operator—and even mar this strikingly handsome face.
That would be a loss for everybody.
When the engineer tells you how he designed the machine, you’d better listen to him. Only a fool cares more about his rights.
I think you can see where I’m going with this.
When the designer of your mind and body tells you what the specs are, you’re nuts to cast off those constraints.
As just one example, our culture has set out to redefine sex and sexuality, as to its purposes, its significance, its definition, its safe and appropriate uses.
You can do that if you want to. Really, you can.
- You can deny its interpersonal significance and make it a lonely, solo experience.
- You can deny its safety limits and embrace random and exhausting and faceless promiscuity.
- You can deny its marital limits and take your partner(s) places they’d rather not go, but won’t necessarily deny you.
- You can create children with no means or plan to give them a meaningful life.
Yes, you can.
And when you’ve done that, you’ll have what we have in our culture—
- The poverty of single-parent homes
- Life-changing—and sometimes life-taking—diseases
- An increasing sense of frustration, unfulfillment, and discontent
- Fundamental distrust between men and women, each viewing the other as the exploiter, and everyone confused and worried about what’s OK and what isn’t, all the rules unspoken, and every encounter presaging danger of future betrayal
- And sex without joy.
You know, the designer made it fun on purpose.
He gave it to us as a splendid and magnificent gift.
But we’re using it in ways that not only minimize its effectiveness and usefulness, and deprive us of much of its joy, but may well end up killing us before it’s all over.
I can hear my skeptical friends now—“You know, you’re assuming there’s a designer.”
Without going into all the reasons I think that’s a well-based assumption, let me just observe that our culture is assuming there isn’t a designer.
How’s that workin’ out?
Read the manual. Respect the design specs. Use it well.
Don’t be an idiot.