Jerry and the Watchmaker

     One sunny day I was walking along the beach with my friend, Jerry. Jerry’s a nice guy, decent sort of fellow, and a pretty good thief. He makes a living. He’s also a profoundly devout follower of one of those one-god religions. I’m not allowed to say which one anymore, but it begins with a C. Jerry never misses a chance to convert me, but within a couple of weeks after he tries we can be friends again. This time it was the watch thing.
     Jerry stopped, bent down and picked up a watch from the sand. “Look at that!” he said. “Someone threw away a perfectly good watch.”
     “Maybe they just lost it,” I offered.
     “Well, you look at it. Maybe it’s engraved.” Jerry’s eyes weren’t so good, but they weren’t that bad.
     I looked it over and didn’t find anything. No name. It was an old piece, one with gears and hands. “Here,” I said, handing it back to him. “You get to keep it.”
     He put his hands in his pocket, refusing the watch. “Doesn’t it tell you anything?”
     “Yeah, it says it’s two-thirty.”
     “No, something bigger, something about the universe.”
     “Okay, it says it’s two-thirty here on Cape Cod.”
     “No, no.”
     I could see it coming. His eyes glazed a little and started to vibrate in their sockets. A little bit of drool started from the corner of his lip.
     “Don’t you see?” he said. “We find this precise little instrument on the beach, in this vast sea of sand, like the Earth in space. How did it get here?”
     “Someone dropped it. Or maybe they threw it away. Or maybe you came out here this morning and planted it so you could do a religious riff.”
     “I did not.”
     I believed him. Jerry was a packrat. He wouldn’t risk losing the watch by leaving it on the beach. He’d sell anything, but never throw stuff away. His wife nagged him constantly about cleaning out the garage. He’d tell her that one day eBay would make them rich.
     “Okay, Jerry, do the thing.”
     He knew it was pointless but he had to do it. Pushing his religion was like obsessive compulsive disease.
     “Someone had to design it, didn’t they? It didn’t just create itself out of iron ore and plastic.”
     “You’re absolutely right, Jerry.”
     “Same thing with the Earth, isn’t it? This great complex universe. Someone had to create it, design it, right, it didn’t just create itself. It’s too complicated.”
     “But wait a minute, Jer. Back to the ore and plastic. Didn’t some miners go down and get that ore? And some oil drillers get the oil for the plastic?”
     “Well, of course.”
     “And some more people had to smelt and refine the ore and do stuff to the oil?”
     “Yes, but-”
     “And then someone had to have the idea for the watch and someone had to draw up the design and the plans and someone else had to plan the manufacturing processes and someone else the distribution and sales end of things, right?”
     Jerry mumbled something.
     “So, I mean, Jer, really, it wasn’t just one guy. And who built all that mining and drilling equipment?”
     “God works in mysterious ways.”
     “What, building watches? Jerry, it’s a ten dollar watch. All it does is tell time, and not very well, either. Look,” I said, waving the watch at him, “It still says two-thirty.”
     “Yeah, well what if it were a Rolex?” he huffed.
     “We wouldn’t be having this conversation. You’d be running down to your fence.”
     “Never mind that. God could have done all those things to build the universe, all by himself. He’s big and smart and knows everything.”
     “How’d he get smart?”
     “Whaddya mean?”
     “He’s a lot more complex than this stupid watch.”
     “So who built god?”
     “Nobody built God. He just is.”
     “But you’re trying to tell me complex things have designers. Who designed god?”
     “Stop it. You’re being sacrilegious.”
     “Of course I am. But if the watch is so complex it needs to be designed, and god is more complex than the watch, right, then you have to have something to design god. And something to design the designer of god. You can’t claim complexity requires a designer and claim that god doesn’t require a designer.”
     Jerry kicked at some sand and started to walk away.
     “And Jer, what was there before god did all this?”
     “There was nothing.”
     “Just lonely old god making something out of nothing?” I called to him.
     “You cheat at golf. I know you do,” he shouted.
     “Do not.”
     “Do too.”
     “Do not.”
     After a while I couldn’t hear him anymore. I put the watch back on the sand. It started ticking. Good old American design.
     Hell, I don’t even play golf. Too many priests and ministers on the course cursing at the ball, which by the way is a technological marvel all by itself.


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