Friday, July 30, 2010

Pondering the Divine Mystery of the Mosquito

I am due to make a blood donation to the Community Blood Center, but have been reluctant to call because I am currently donating about a pint a week to the mosquitoes. Worse, when I am finished making my donation to the mosquitoes they never offer me a cookie and a cup of juice.

In what is possibly the worst summer for mosquitoes (well, actually for me – the mosquitoes themselves appear to be having a very good summer) I have ever experienced, it is only natural to question the judgment of the Almighty Creator of Heaven and Earth. God made all living things, the Good Book tells us, and pronounced each one “good.” This means that responsibility for mosquito bites can be laid squarely at the feet of the Almighty. Were I in charge of creation, I would have taken a pass on biting insects in general.

If I had designed the created order, each day would have a high of 76 degrees and each night the low would dip to 63. Wisconsin, in other words, would be San Diego. Babies would never develop ear infections, children would never step into traffic and be injured or killed, good people would not develop cancer, tornados would not strike trailer parks and there would be no such thing as light beer. My version of created order would likely not work very well in the long haul, but it would certainly be more pleasant. For me.

In theology we call this the problem of theodicy: in this good and beautiful world there will always be natural disasters and human evil. In order to have the rain that grows our crops, we must accept the risk of hurricanes, tornados, hailstorms and all the rest. In giving us the freedom to choose to love God and one another, God accepted the risk that some people would reject that gift and embrace the path of greed, violence and hatred. Without freedom there can be no creation, and with freedom comes risk. And mosquitoes. The wise person slaps his or her leg and still rejoices in the overall goodness of life and beauty of the world.

Jonathan Richman has a song called “Nature’s Mosquito” which goes in part:

Now little mosquito is there not
some reason for you that I just can’t spot?
“Well, there is; well you’re right sir!
God loved me when he made me, that same as he loves you, so
I’m nature’s little mosquito!”

Sometimes it helps me to sing this song when I am swatting and pondering the mystery of creation. And sometimes it does not.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Squirrel Wars, Part Two

Although I sometimes write here about themes of great depth and meaning, I am most frequently asked how things are going in my war with the squirrels. Glad you asked. As you may recall, the squirrels had taken to chewing apart the cords of the lights that once adorned the tree on our patio. When I recently returned from a trip I discovered that they had finished the job and chewed up the extension cord running to the tree for good measure. I also discovered that rabbits had dug under the fence around my vegetable garden and eaten my entire crop of peas and beans, but that is another story. The common lesson is Never Go Away.

Being a man of the 21st century, I went on-line to seek a solution to my squirrel problem. I read tales of woe from persons who had squirrels do thousands of dollars in damage to the electrical system of their cars. I read of unfortunate people who had squirrels break into the attic and chew apart the house wiring. I pondered a creative solution offered by one gentleman, who suggested that I surround my entire property with bricks, and then sprinkle the bricks with cayenne pepper. The bricks would arouse the squirrels’ curiosity, and he would come to investigate. He would accidently sniff the pepper, sneeze, and knock himself unconscious on the brick, after which I would grab the squirrel and place it in the yard of someone I did not like. Reluctantly, I concluded that while the plan was intriguing, it was not entirely practical. The more I read, the more discouraged I became.

So I climbed up into the tree and removed all the lights. I was able to splice the eight former strings of lights into three that worked, and placed them back into the tree. Meanwhile, I ordered ten strings of “commercial grade” lights, which are sitting in a box in the basement. Commercial grade lights are no more resistant to squirrels than any other kind, of course: these are rodents who are happy to chew apart high-voltage power lines. My hope was that the squirrels would lose interest in chewing my wires, then I could place the new lights in the tree.

After two weeks, the squirrels have not touched my spliced, duct-taped lights. I know why. They are well-aware that I have new lights in the basement (the Squirrel Intelligence Network makes the Russians look like amateurs) and are attempting to lure me into serving them a tasty feast of new lights. I may risk one string, but I am pretty sure what the result will be.

Meanwhile I am contending with a plague of robins. Yes, robins; we are overrun with them, and they have taken possession of the small fountain under the tree with the spliced, duct-taped lights. They do not allow the smaller birds to drink from it, and splash all of the water out of it several times a day. They tell me that it is my responsibility to refill it, over and over again. Clearly I need to retire soon: chasing squirrels and rabbits and preparing the bath for the robins is a full-time job.