I’m visiting Los Angeles, a city where I lived in the 1970s. The traffic is orders of magnitude worse than in those years and the delays are appalling. Of course, there were many exceptions and memory is often rosy about the past, but the general rule was that it took about twenty minutes to get from anywhere to anywhere, while now the same trip frequently requires more than an hour.
There’s no spiritual value in complaining about traffic or bemoaning how society has declined (whether it has or not). However, we can learn a lot when we consider the phenomenon of today’s traffic versus yesterday’s in terms of systems.
Within a relatively few years, local, state and federal authorities created a massive infrastructure of roads and highways to manage what at the time was a wholly new method of transportation, the private automobile. While almost as soon as it was finished it started to become inadequate, it worked pretty well for many years. As the years passed, however, for a variety of reasons, the demand greatly outraced capacity, leading to the daily mess that is so familiar here as well as in the urban centers of most developed (I’m always amazed at the contrast in Israel which, having little to do with it’s Jewishness, but rather with it being a rapidly-developing nation, has an infinitely better, albeit not perfect, road and transportation system than when I lived there) countries.
The lesson, of course, is that no matter how wonderful a system might be when it is first unveiled, in order to maintain a reasonable level of functionality, not even talking about improvement, it must be constantly monitored, maintained and, as necessary, enlarged and advanced. This single system-level component, just like all the other subsystems and subsystems of subsystems, requires ongoing supervision. Just to maintain even the slightest level of efficacy actually does depend on continual but controlled growth and expansion.
I don’t have a lot of patience with the atheist crowd who maintain that reality is merely the product of random and arbitrary events. I have not an iota more for the “God as “absent/currently-retired watchmaker” Who somehow created the infinitely complex phenomenon we call reality and then walked away to another project or to no project at all.
Rather, our tradition teaches that not merely is God neither dead nor absent, but that He is, in a way totally beyond any of our comprehension, continually monitoring, maintaining and manipulating every aspect of our reality. Perhaps the biggest “belief” challenge is not whether or not the universe was created by a “power” named “God”, but rather that God, in ways far transcending our imaginations, remains actively and eternally engaged with every element of our reality.
Things come and go in our world as we move from the age of one dominant species to another, from one dominant culture to another, but in terms of the overall system which contains all the subsystems, the entire creation, reality does persist, our world does persevere and it continues to exist. That very fact requires that the initial “system” continues to receive the Divine Flow that animates all of existence. Unlike our deteriorating street and highway system which are failing from years of neglect, demonstrating the absence of any further engagement, our world, even though it swings from side to side, triumphs, thus revealing God’s never-ending engagement, hashgachat pratit.