Pity the person who looks at the night sky and sees only hot glowing balls of gas. If he starts to speak, you are likely to get a great deal of hot air, but little romantic glow. Knowing the composition of a thing is good, but it is at least as good to know what a thing is to mankind.
Stars are more than the sum of their parts and those who do not understand this live in a world too simple. Pity is the best response to someone who has been cheated out of wonder by seeing only one part of the world. This is the Gradgrind soul that discusses only astronomy when looking at the stars on a beach, but is tone-deaf to poetry.
And so there is a temptation to reject the Gradgrind soul by falling in love with mystery, but that is the road to sheer weirdness. The Gradgrind soul only wishes to colonize the stars, but the Weirdling soul worships them.
Gradgrind knows a few things, but understands nothing. The Weirdling tries to understand by knowing nothing.
Intentionally embracing weirdness is a bad idea.
Now critics will say that as a young earth creationist I myself have a high tolerance for weirdness and this is true. Weird people sometimes are interesting and some brilliant weird folk, like William Blake, changed the world with their mysterious ways. But Blake and other fortunate eccentrics did not set out to be crazy: sheer genius, Isaac Newton, and the times forced him to it.
There is a difference between the man protesting the madness of the world through madness and the Weirdling developing pet eccentricities to avoid boredom. A prophet such as Isaiah can run naked through the Holy City and men learn from this performance art. A Weirdling runs naked at the football game to get on television and nobody learns anything.
Weirdness can be a powerful tool if used carefully, but most people are simply weird.
Over the years, I have seen four warning signs that a person is going too far in their rejection of Gradgrind and are approaching Weirdling status.
First, the Weirdling longs to be seen as weird by the mainstream culture. Often the prophet who uses weirdness does this to protest the twisted and corrupt standards of mainstream culture. He uses absurdity to point to the absurdity of the “normal” citizen. The prophet regrets this abnormality and seeks to change it.
The very sense of the weird is what the Weirdling seeks. He enjoys eccentricity because it draws attention and would regret discovering that the mainstream understood him. The Weirdling does not want to change the culture, but feel apart from it.
Second, the Weirdling has nothing but his eccentricities. The prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel did unusual things during their ministries, but they also wrote sublime poetry and prose. The Weirdling only does strange things.
Read Blake and look at his engravings. At times he appears mad, but then he can capture beauty and power in a single etching or in a phrase. Many of us can rant and ramble like Blake did, but almost none can match the terrible innocence of his tigers and the innocent terribleness of his lambs.
The Weirdling is monomaniacal about his passion. A good teacher might use a graphic novel to make a point, but the Weirdling learns hundreds of details in every frame. Walt Disney and his team create a new art form in Fantasia, but the Weirdling trips out watching it hundreds of times.
Finally, the Weirdling makes mystery the end of his existence. Nothing would disappoint the Weirdling more than actually finding Bigfoot, Atlantis, or the Holy Grail. The more strange the idea the greater the interest the Weirdling has in it. He loathes logic, often prattling about “other” forms of reasoning, because it might reduce the “mystery.”
To the sane man, “mystery” describes knowledge found by means of negation. Plato describes it as being the “known by being unknown.” Apophatic theology is a useful example of a constructive use of the concept of mystery. Mystery is not opposed to logic and reason . . . in fact, it is known by logic and reason to the extent that it can be known.
A mysterious thing is unknowable to humans in its essence, but not inherently unknowable. We are simply not the right sort of minds to know directly, and can only know indirectly. The mystery makes a degree of sense, but sense cannot exhaust it.
The Weirdling hears this and starts asserting his belief in round squares or unicorns in the woods. Nonsense is the entire point of his beliefs. He does not desire information, facts, or explanations. He simply asserts his beliefs loudly.
Young earth creationism may in fact be false, but it looks for evidence and tries to explain facts. Creation scientists such as Kurt Wise agonize over the evidence, working hard to make sense of it. Their motives for their task make little sense to a secular age, but they are convinced that the assumptions of the secular age are bad.
They wish they were not eccentric, but are willing to be considered so.
The Weirdling simply attacks conventional science and embraces paradoxes for the sheer joy of cheesing off the authorities. He is the bane of any creationist conference, but the joy of creationism’s critics.
The antidote to the Gradgrind and Weirdling souls is the whole soul. This civilized person cares for evidence and facts. He enjoys precision and takes care in his approach to things. Logic is his delight, because he knows that human logic is a reflection of the Divine Logos. The lady or gentleman does not stop with facts . . . he is no Gradgrind, because he knows that there is more to life than what is.
The lady or gentleman with a whole soul longs for what should be. He loves poetry, music, and metaphysics. He sees stars as distant suns and as part of the Heavens of God. He knows the limits of science and of theology.
My goal is to become such a man. Pray for me a sinner.