Monday 9 August 2021

Poem: Speculating on Providence

Posted by Chengde Chen

Woodcut by Hans Schäufelein, Augsburg 1513.
Christ and Mary as intercessors /
God the Father shooting plague arrows.


Besides the known causes of the Covid pandemic

I suspect that God had a few more intentions

A coincidence cannot be counted as providence

But causality deserves logical proof nevertheless


He must have wanted to help us fight climate change

Otherwise why did Covid bring a hidden green hope?

We had almost lost our confidence in reducing CO2

The pandemic dropped it decisively to an ideal level


Galileo’s telescope showed Jupiter’s satellite system

Letting people 'see' how the solar system works

Isn’t Covid like a low-carbon possibility experiment

Demonstrating the non-inevitability of global warming?


He must have wanted us to cope with the lockdown

Otherwise why did Covid arrive behind the Internet?

People of the Net can be isolated without isolation

Meeting across the Earth redefines time and space


The lights of myriad families light up screens wherever

The digitalised joys or sorrows are shared whenever

Without the personal contacts in this semi-real space

The half-dead world may have been dead completely!


He must have also wanted Covid to warn science

Otherwise why was it as massacring as bio-weapons?

If a virus can turn the world upside down like this

Won’t genetic engineering threaten our existence?


Inside those labs capable of manipulating molecules

They are full of the scientific urge to take such risks

Human self-destruction has been a matter of time

Can the Creator not worry if His work is to be wasted?


It's hard to say if these were really His thinking

But, believing or not, you'd better so assume

So as to understand the philosophy of providence –

Turning empirical logic into the rationality of faith!


(Chengde Chen is the author of Five Themes of Today: philosophical poems, and of the novel: The Thought-read )


Thomas O. Scarborough said...

I think that this is a brilliant description of the rationality of faith. I would call this a faith in outcomes, though rather than faith in God. ‘The outcome will be good,’ rather than ‘God is good.’

In the final verse, if the rationality of faith is a form of empirical logic, how logical then is empirical logic? Does this suggest that empirical logic is some kind of opiate?

Martin Cohen said...

I found the poem rather hard to decipher, so many ideas and theories. But yes, surely Thomas is right, here is the hope that (as Dr Pangloss famously says) everything will be for the best in the best possible world.

Of course, with our poets, we can never be sure what is said ironically as opposed to literally.

Keith said...

The ideas in the poem are fleeting and undeveloped, so are hard to get traction.

That said, I’ll make two brief comments on these two lines from the third stanza: “We had almost lost our confidence in reducing CO2. The pandemic dropped it [CO2] decisively to an ideal level.”

I suggest that the alarming findings in this week’s report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — prepared by a couple of hundred authors, drawing from several thousand independent scientific studies conducted around the globe — don’t do much for our “confidence in reducing CO2.”

Also, most reporting on the short-lived, pandemic-related global dip in CO2 in 2020 has pointed out that the decline was far from “an ideal level,” its drop-off amounting to a hardly “decisive” 6%. The gradual return of social and economic activity led to CO2 jumping right back up, picking up where it left off.

Though, again, the really consequential story on climate change, including the belching of greenhouse gas emissions into the air, climate warming, and resulting extreme weather projections, is detailed in the IPCC report.

All that said, to Martin’s cautionary caveat, “with our poets, we can never be sure what is said ironically as opposed to literally.”

Chengde Chen said...

Thank you folks for taking it so seriously, which means I failed to make the ridiculousness ridiculous enough!

Thomas O. Scarborough said...

Alas, we have stood before a great poet and have been found wanting. Hopefully there were others who did better. Søren Kierkegaard wrote, ‘I would rather be a swineheard, understood by the swine, than a poet misunderstood by men.’

Keith said...

Well, at least you were gracious about it, Chengde. Yeah, irony is hard. Spoken irony works better, I would argue, because much of irony is based in the likes of tone and pitch. It’s hard, though certainly not impossible, to capture ironic modulation in written words, whether poetry or prose. No matter, I enjoyed the ideas raised, ironically or otherwise, by your poem.

Chengde Chen said...

Many thanks for all your comments - most helpful!

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