The awe of making
I love computers. That’s the geeky side of me. I find intrinsic joy in building Raspberry Pi desktop PCs and assembling automated webcams for my three guinea pigs. I am elated to know that Francis Fukuyama, the world-renowned political economist, is a Raspberry Pi fan. He uses a $50 Raspberry Pi-based computer to read the newspaper in the morning and advocates for Linux. Francis Fukuyama said he owns four Linux desktop machines. Here, I want to brag: I have seven running four different Linux distros.
The beauty of gadgets-making
People who are drawn to the open-source community see the beauty in what Yochai Benkler calls “commons-based peer production:” everyday users, like us, free of monetary incentives and managerial commands, can create great things together. Here are the things we the people have built: Wikipedia and many open-source software and tools that power much of today’s digital economy.
I am not an engineer. I only want to dabble in the open-source making. The Raspberry Pi computer I’ve built is running elegantly. It is so quiet, efficient, and small. It can accomplish much of the work that is usually done on proprietary and expensive machines. I use it for writing, research, and crunching data.
My $100 Pi computer crunching Twitter data
Sometimes I look at this credit-card-sized computer chip, nested inside a cheap plastic case. It can do so much with so little built inside. Obviously, as a non-engineer, I do not know the motherboard’s intricate design, the many calculations that have to be done to make things right, and trials and errors beneath the current state of elegance. I cannot begin to fathom. I only marvel at it.
The awe of creatures
Today I took a stroll in the backyard and took down an abandoned bee’s nest. All bees are gone in the winter. Now I can safely inspect the inner part of a honeycomb (see picture below), the layers, the structure, and the texture. They are just mysteriously beautiful. Honey bees are small creatures. Collectively, they make these intricate hexagonal prismatic wax cells to store honey and pollen. I have to read Wikipedia entries to get myself educated about such a mechanism. That is the awe of seeing crowd wisdom in animals.
The Heaven declares His glory
We love making gadgets, planting gardens, drawing, and painting because they express our creative instincts. After all, we bear the image of the Creator who spends time and love knitting together the universe and the lives in it. If we can feel the awe of small creatures and gadgets, we must see the immense beauty of the grander story of life-making. Here is how the birth of life is described in Psalm 139:
“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” (Psalm 139: 13–16)
Eugene Peterson, an American Presbyterian theologian, said: “In the presence of birth, we don’t calculate, we marvel.” Let that sink in.