Thursday, June 14, 2012

Book of Wisdom

No, not me -- the real thing:

Again, one preparing for a voyage and about to traverse the wild waves
cries out to wood more unsound than the boat that bears him.

For the urge for profits devised this latter,
and Wisdom the artificer produced it.
(Wisdom 14:1-2, New American  Bible)

This passage builds on Wisdom 13, which describes a carpenter making an idol of "good-for-nothing" leftover wood and praying to it (verses 17-18):
But when he prays about his goods or marriage or children,
he is not ashamed to address the thing without a soul.
And for vigor he invokes the powerless;

and for life he entreats the dead;
and for aid he beseeches the wholly incompetent,
and about travel, something that cannot even walk.
That's brilliant in itself, but what really caught my attention was the "urge for profits" of Wisdom 14:2. The profit motive, informed by Wisdom (which cometh from the Lord, and guides the builder), serves to ensure that the boat is well made. Lacking Wisdom himself, the voyager prays to a dumb, inert hunk of lumber. There is a profound -- and humbling -- understanding of human nature here.