Chapter 23. Lifelines

When you are living in a mostly open shelter in the wilderness, uninvited guests such as squirrels, skunks, mice and bees are always dropping in for a visit. We don’t encourage this practice. We see that they all depart as quickly as possible. Some move more slowly than others, however. Slugs, for instance.

Unless you have lived on or visited the West Coast, you wouldn’t believe your eyes when you first saw one of our slugs. In the east, small garden slugs collectively do considerable damage. But comparing an eastern slug with the size and appetite of a far western slug is like comparing a modest eastern swamp cedar with a towering Douglas fir. Fully grown, one of our slugs may be six inches long, an inch wide and almost as thick. According to the time of year, they range in color from khaki-gray to a shiny jet black. Each has a smooth mantle that covers its “shoulders,” except for a great white breathing cavity that opens on the right. From mantle to tail end the rest of its body sports dressy, lengthwise pleats. All in all, black slugs have an efficient but sinister and repulsive look, reminiscent of Darth Vader and big black beetles. They glisten and quiver as they glide along ever so-o-o slo-o-wly on their flat bellies.

Slugs have always fascinated me. Their “eyes” are mounted out front at the tips of a pair of long flexible stalks. These retractable scanners move independently, observing the terrain ahead from all angles. With its wraparound periscopes, a slug approaching a coin that is standing on edge could read the “head” side with one eye while reading the “tail” side with the other. I envy a slug its ability to see both sides of a question at once. Maybe that partly explains why a slug moves so slowly–it’s so hard to make up its mind.

For years I occasionally wondered how slugs are able to move at all, without any appendages to either pull or push them along. They don’t snake along either. It’s no trick for most creatures to slide downhill, but slugs seem to slide just as effortlessly uphill as down. How do they do it?

One morning at Sechelt I got up extra early to do some necessary reading. While I was putting on a fire in “Old Smokey III”, I noticed a five-inch slug up on the clear plastic of one of our window panels. It had crawled up the wooden frame from the ground outside, and kept on going up the smooth plastic. The foraging wasn’t very encouraging out there on the barren wastes of that window, but despite mounting disappointment the slug nevertheless kept pushing on and on.

I didn’t know whether I should give it an “A” rating for indomitable persistence, or an “F” for sheer stupidity. In its dim-witted way it may have calculated that, having gone so far upward without finding any food or water, the probabilities of finding sustenance farther up on that unfamiliar desert were undoubtedly greater than those if it turned back in the direction from which it had come. Perhaps, however, the vague and distant greenness of the alder leaves which hung over the shelter ever beckoned it alluringly onward and upward.

Through the clear plastic of the window I was able for the first time to watch a moving slug from its underside. Biologists call the slug’s flat, glistening, cream-colored belly its “foot.” Zen novices have difficulty conceiving “the sound of one hand clapping.” Similarly I have difficulty in conceiving one foot walking.

So I watched long and carefully as that slug slowly ascended the clear plastic. It was exuding clear mucus which lubricated its sliding and, at the same time, helped it to stick to the plastic surface with a “vacuum cup” effect.

But how did it manage to move along, and against gravity too? All I could see moving, other than the whole creature, was a sequence of semicircular “ripples” which began at the tail end of its foot and flowed smoothly forward to the head end. Somehow that steady wave-generation process was moving it ahead.

After a while I saw that a band of flesh near the tail end arches up a little from the plastic to form a “ripple-arch” tunnel across the width of the foot. As the crosswise arch tunnel rises, the tail is pulled forward a tiny bit. When the rearward edge of the arch subsides again to the plastic, the forward edge of the arch also descends, pushing itself a little farther ahead. That raising and lowering process keeps going like a wave from the tail end towards the head. It’s like smoothing the ripples and wrinkles out of a tablecloth with your hand. As your hand pushes the ripple towards one edge of the table, the cloth itself moves a little toward that edge. In the slug’s foot, one crosswise semicircular ripple-arch has scarcely moved on when another one comes up from the tail end to take its place. The net result of this steady sequence of miniwaves is a slow forward motion which advances the whole slug.

That beautifully complex muscular coordination was being achieved by a somewhat repulsive creature that everyone calls ungifted and stupid! Watching those tiny ripples travel up that foot one after the other not only fascinated me—it filled me with awe. I think it was even more wonderful than being up on Mount Richardson watching water waves travel slowly down the inlet. (I’m glad though that the water of the inlet can’t climb slowly out and over the land like a slug!)

When the slug had moved on, a faint, telltale streak of mucus remained where it had been. Wherever a slug goes, it leaves a glistening trail of mucus behind it. I suppose that a predator with keen eyes and an appetite for slugs could easily follow these trails. The record of every slug’s daily expeditions is written clearly on the world.

When I had had my fill of slug-watching, I went out and sat in a deck chair on the patio. My thoughts rambled on and my book went unread. Not far from me a creeping blackberry vine was venturing out along the ground. These slim but vigorous vines appear like magic in every clearing and along every roadside. Their fruit has a delicious flavor and birds love it. The vines grow very rapidly. As I looked at the one on the patio, I could almost fee) the growing tip stretching on forward, reaching out for new space in which to spread its leaves to receive more sunlight. Turns and twists and kinks along the older portions of the vine recorded how its growing tip, its meristem, had changed directions as it pushed ever onward. The vine’s rambling form was a record of the life history of its growing tip, a kind of slow-growing “lifeline,” a little like the trail left by a slug.

A gull soared past. Is there anything more beautiful than gull wings in flight? Imagine having wings like that bird—to be able to frolic in the sky, free to head in whatever direction one chose. Like a fish in the sea, able to turn right or left, up or down, according to one’s whims.

Before nightfall, where all would that gull have gone on its travels? First the shoreline must be inspected for sea creatures washed up during the night. If the pickings are poor, there are always big cockles to be found in the eelgrass at low tide. When you fly up with a cockle in your beak and drop it, it will hit the rocks below with a satisfying smash. It’s like opening a can of fresh goodies for breakfast. If you’re really desperate for something to eat you can always try to swallow a starfish. But then for a while you’ll look absolutely ridiculous, with two of the five legs down your throat, one straight out from your bill like a long nose, and the two others drooping out at each side like a purple handlebar moustache. Eventually the whole thing will go down—when the starfish gives up its stubborn resistance.

Listen to that screaming commotion down the beach. Some of the gang have found a dead dogfish and are tearing it up. Swoop over there quickly and maybe you’ll get a piece of the carcass.

No! Wait! See! There’s the big osprey flying home with a fish in its talons. Maybe you can persuade it to drop the fish if you swoop in from above and attack. They’re really big cowards, those ospreys, especially if two of us gang up on one of them. Hey! There’s a big fishing boat going up the inlet. Oh boy! A free ride and lots of fish entrails! That’s for me!

How interesting it would be to trace in this way the lifeline of a gull through its every movement during a single day. You could do it with a slug. But a bird doesn’t leave a visible trail behind it as it flies through the air. Even the big curling waves turned up by a fishing boat will last only until they have broken on the shore. Some subtle traces of the boat’s passage, however, will remain out there in the inlet for quite some time. A lacy line of white froth will delineate each edge of the broad ribbon of water through which the craft had pushed. A jet plane leaves a contrail behind it, heading out through the morning or evening sky. Everything has a “lifeline,” whether you can see it or not.

As I boy I remember exploring the countryside after a fresh fall of snow. Wherever I went, I left a trail of footprints behind me. If you had followed that trail you would have seen where I climbed the rail fence and jostled the snow off a small green cedar. Then over to break off some brittle, old milkweed stalks. On a slippery hill I lost my footing and sat down abruptly. Then I went onto a flat place with no grass—really a shallow stretch of water, frozen over and thinly covered with snow. Several times I took a run and slid on the ice. You could see the slide marks. I dropped the milkweed stalks and gathered some long cattail clubs. Over a boulder I beat the fuzz off the cattails and threw the naked sticks like spears at a leafless bush. Every turn in my trail that morning corresponded to a turn in my interests.

Throughout my whole lifetime I have been leaving a lifeline behind me. Some stretches of it are not as easy to detect and read as my footprints in the snow. Nevertheless I did make a track through space and time, a track which no one else has ever taken. It is my own lifeline— as uniquely mine as my fingerprints—and I’m still making it.

Even while I’m sitting on the patio on a chaise longue I’m leaving a track record through time. Each beat of my heart is a new beat, increasing the grand total by one. New thoughts keep coming to me, but they have a definite order of coming—this one after that one and before the others that will yet arrive.

On and on

As I write about the thoughts that came to me early that morning, I’m using a pen with black ink. Each letter and word that I write flows out from the tip of my pen in a line that records every motion of the nib over the paper. This linear tracing is very like the space-time trajectory of every moving object, like the lifelines left behind by the ongoing, directional decisions made by a traveling slug, or a wandering gull, or the growing tip of a vine.

How can it be that I had never before reflected upon the dynamic process of making a line? I had often drawn a short line, but the operation was always over so quickly that no thought about the time it took ever crossed my mind. If a line is to be continued on and on, however, the essential involvement of the time factor becomes obvious and important.

A completed line which has been instantaneously and totally imprinted on paper as one unit is quite different in character from a line that is still under construction. A finished line just lies there. It is what it is—a mere matter of fact. But an ever-growing line keeps raising the mysteries of “more.” How far will this line be extended? Is the space in which lines are drawn bounded or endless? How much future time will there be? Who or what is the source of the inexhaustible creativity that keeps all this unceasing change going all at once in all the lifelines great and small that together make up this world? What is the long-run significance of any individual lifeline? Where did the lifeline of the entire universe begin? Where is it going? Will it ever end? What is it up to right now? And tomorrow?

Unsteady as she goes

A straight line can be predictably produced farther and farther in its present direction. A curve can be continued at its present degree of curvature. The future courses of any lines that are being extended according to some known rule can be known with certainty. But the directional behavior of a line that can turn any which way, veering off, kinking up or doubling back on itself, is not at all foreseeable.

Some of the changes in direction taken by a line may be explainable. An external force could have impinged upon it and interfered. Whoever or whatever is making the line may have had a change of mind. Was there a sudden awareness of an urgent new need? A threat? An enticement? A strong inspiration? A madcap desire? Perhaps an impulsive change just for change’s sake to relieve the boredom of routine? Directional changes in the course of events provide a perpetual challenge for biographers, historians and natural scientists.

Every line we humans draw or seek to follow expresses our preference or intention. Every time we make a choice it becomes a directional decision. It shows afterwards as a trace in our memory and is recorded by an alteration in the course of our lifeline. As we make our directional decisions moment after moment, what we do, think or feel adds not only length but character to the trail we leave behind us.

Anyone who wants to control the direction of other people’s lifelines has to influence their decision-making processes. In order to induce them to move only in a certain direction, they must somehow encourage, lure, drive, compel, or channel them. Social authorities can call upon a large repertoire of ways and means for controlling people.

Nevertheless, those who are in charge of social groupings are perennially baffled by what appears to be the unreasonableness of human behavior. Sometimes all the social rewards and penalties, the opportunities and obstacles, the laws and propaganda which authorities can muster are not enough to guarantee that people will always do the “reasonable” thing; Instead of moving sensibly along fenced pathways toward an open gate, someone will almost certainly insist on climbing over the fence.

Even the most extreme pressure from circumstances or the authorities will not necessarily secure complete conformity. In the making of any choice, judgment or decision, an unconquerable, inalienable element of human freedom is always present. Rather than submit to the powers that be, some people will endure indescribable torture even unto death. Such is the stuff of stubborn deviants, martyrs and heroes. Are they stupid? Deranged? Inspired? Supercourageous? They certainly operate by the principles of a different logic.

Social authorities seldom wonder why they themselves keep on trying to make so many people do what they obviously don’t want to do. They usually justify their overriding of all opposition by claiming that the policies they are enforcing are for the good of most of the people.

Their conventional reply, however, doesn’t explain why they themselves are so much more interested in securing everybody’s welfare than is the average citizen. Although they may believe that they are chiefly concerned for the best interests of others, too often the power-people reserve for themselves the right to say what is in everybody’s best interest. Why do they vie so intensely with others to obtain positions of power? Why do they cling so fiercely to such positions once they have attained them? In addition to any pure and idealistic motivation they may have, they undoubtedly cherish any position which will help them to fulfill their own peculiar ambitions and private desires. Controlling other people’s lifelines undoubtedly enables professional power wielders to turn aside initiatives that might interfere with their own attaining of unspoken or unspeakable objectives.

The reasons social authorities adopt their particular set of convictions and policies are just as mysterious and inexplicable as the strange behavior of the people they hope to govern. To understand how and why a certain governmental leader came to be what and where he or she is, one would have to dig deeply below the surface of his or her life story. To make sense of a power-person’s actions and reactions, one would have to trace the history of his or her feelings and grasp the way in which present opportunities and possible dangers are personally perceived. The task of comprehending the inscrutable reasoning of rulers is much the same as that of trying to fathom the thinking that lies behind the behavior of the unpredictable individuals they seek to control.

Decisions! Decisions!

Making a decision always means choosing to follow one course of thinking or acting rather than another. The decision maker always faces a “Divide and Eliminate,” disjunctive situation. Classical logic would seem to be very relevant at this point. But it gives the decision maker no help at all in deciding exactly where to divide what has to be divided, or which of the resulting divisions is to be eliminated. The general pattern of the classical decision-making situation therefore never explains to observers exactly why a certain specific decision was made as it was. Nor does it give any information whatsoever about the decision maker’s past experiences or about the unique thread of personality which runs through the whole succession of all his or her deciding times. “Divide and Eliminate” is entirely silent about a particular decision maker’s disposition, habits, values, desires, purposes and perceptions. These matters, however, are essential elements in the “different logic” which governs the growth of a personal lifeline. However important the classical disjunctive decision situation may be, the “Logic of Growth” far transcends it in depth.

Classical logic is as useless for explaining an actual human decision as the truth that we walk by placing one foot after the other is in explaining why someone’s tracks in the snow turn aside at this point and veer off there. The logic of growing lifelines is by no means the same as the logic of definition.

Because you don’t know me inside and out, through and through, in every detail of my past and present experience, you can’t possibly predict exactly how my next sentence will be worded. Even if you did tell me what I was about to say, out of pure cussedness I’d probably write down something else!

When a composer begins writing a piece of music, until it has actually been completed who can tell what the finished score will turn out to be? Even another musician looking over the composer’s shoulder can’t always forecast what next note will be written. At times even the composer has to grope into silence for the next phrase. Much depends upon me composer’s own experience, current style interests and sense of direction.

Appropriate or rational?

Although people’s purposive directional decisions may be difficult to predict, such decisions aren’t altogether capricious. They’re more than crazy conundrums. An individual’s next move will not be utterly disconnected from the train of the past events that made up his or her lifeline. Nor will that person’s next move be absolutely unrelated to his or her unique perception of the present situation and its implications.

The reasons which govern each particular decision are assembled by the decision maker on the spot for that specific occasion. A spontaneously manufactured ad hoc ”law,” perhaps with a very brief life span, thus governs each decision. It is a personally created rule which is expected to be used once and once only, one mat has bearing on this single case, the particular next step which is about to be taken. A law of nature gives a general formula which will describe any action of a certain kind. In any given individual case, however, the particulars of what actually happens are determined by the operative constraints that pertain to that specific situation.

Every law which merits the respect of scientists and intellectuals must bear upon as many cases as possible, but always upon more than one. They will not acknowledge that a so-called law which applies only to one solitary, unique case deserves to be considered a law at all. This remarkable prejudice explains why scientists and intellectuals are so unable to understand why individual persons do what they do and why human behavior so often seems to be “unreasonable.” The Logic of Growth is quite different from the Logic of Definition.

Although bystanders cannot foresee more than a few extensions to a decision maker’s lifeline, each of them will nevertheless be consistent with the general unfolding of that life to date, including present inner requirements. The composer, in setting down the next notes in a musical phrase, will take account of the theme which is already under way, and use only those notes and rhythms which seem “appropriate” to its further development. The next notes and intervals must “feel right,” fitting nicely with the thrust of the line and the whole piece. As I pen the next sentence, I must keep in mind the whole sequence of concepts which I have been developing from the beginning of this book and from the beginning of this chapter. If at this point I were to introduce ideas entirely foreign to my line of thought, they would feel incongruous and extraneous. I must therefore avoid including inappropriate material and edit out everything that is unfitting.

The Law of the Appropriate is as essential to the Logic of Growth as the Laws of Clear Thinking are to the Logic of Definition. It provides a person with the rationale for his or her include-exclude decisions. The material I choose and use in my book must fit with my own perceptions and desires, with the interests of my readers and also with the experience of my “editors.” Within those mobile constraints I can produce a uniquely personal book that no one else would ever write.

The Logic of Definition largely ignores the specific details that distinguish one individual from another, or one particular thing from another. Biologists are interested mostly in the general characteristics of a species. Any peculiar features of an individual “specimen” are neglected as “accidental” or “atypical.” For all intellectual disciplines the individual is reduced to the status of a mere “case,” an “instance,” and “example” or “illustration” of some general class conception. Actual objects, persons and events tend to disappear into “statistical averages” which may not correspond in detail to anything whatever in the actual world. May no statistician ever drown in a river with an average depth of two feet because at one place the bottom unfortunately was twelve feet down.

The Logic of Definition lumps together everything that happens under one general label which covers “all that kind of thing.” Whatever a mother bird does with respect to her offspring will get filed under, say, “maternal behavior.” Somehow that unfeeling, cold, general label doesn’t quite express fittingly the mother bird’s agonized efforts to respond to the panicky shrieks of her fallen nestling as she tries to find and protect it. Our logical labelers are not so objective and unfeeling when a child of their own is lost out there in the woods. They’d be shocked to hear the police sergeant call laconically for the file on “Lost Kids” so that he can report simply that “one more” is missing.

In a decision-demanding situation the Logic of Definition will tell you immediately that under the given external circumstances the “fully rational” person should make “this” decision. But in fact very rational people often make “very strange,” unpredictable decisions, by objective, rational standards. When the whole story of the one who decides is known, along with things the decider deems to be important and hopes for, the strange decision may be seen to be very appropriate, considering the inner circumstances as well as the outer visible situation. Because the Logic of Definition typically bypasses the inner circumstances, it may fail to predict decisions. In such cases it is almost doomed to be trivial and unhelpful.


For the Logic of Definition, a thing grows by having a unit added onto it from the outside or injected into it. Adding brick to brick to brick doesn’t change the bricks much, but it does make a wall. Adding walls to a floor and a roof over all makes a house. Mere additions of any size, shape or material can be made without taking account of what is already in place. Inappropriate additions to buildings produce ramshackle, sprawling ugliness. In this mechanical approach to “growth,” things are externally piled on, stuck on, hung on, or stuffed in from the outside, all of them being unchanged in themselves.

In true growth, as in a lengthening vine, the cells divide from within. The new cells maintain vital connections with their origin despite the cell walls that arise between them. Fluids move throughout a whole organism, passing in and out of cell after cell. Each part of the organism is involved with every other part and, considering the whole organism, each of the connections between the parts is appropriate. The Logic of Growth requires an inner wholeness and mutual interconnection of parts that utterly defies analysis by the disjunctive Logic of Definition.

The Logic of Growth is necessarily linked to a time factor, for a growing organism successively passes through various states and different stages. All motion inescapably takes time. Life begins in motion, and internally, if not externally, it continues to be in motion, until the life process ends. Only after death does stiff rigidity set in. The Logic of Definition adequately applies to it then, but not until then. Rigorously speaking, it doesn’t really apply even then, for after death, with very little delay the processes of disintegration take over.

Definition is always in trouble when applied to phenomena of change, motion, growth and time. Definition assumes that each thing has a definite and characteristic boundary, and that it stays where it is in both space and time. If its boundaries should change, it could become confused with something else. If it should move, it would cease to be where it is and be on its way to where it is not—which doesn’t make logical sense. If it should grow, it would acquire a different set of properties and then it wouldn’t be what it once was. As time passes, today’s accurate description of a specific thing could easily cease to be true tomorrow.

Believe it or not, some philosophers have been so dedicated to the Logic of Definition that they have actually repudiated all change, motion, growth and time as mere illusions. Such love for logic is truly blind! How could those logical “thinkers” have forgotten so easily what it was like to grow up, to move themselves, to learn and to become older? Their very acts of speaking or writing should have been seen to contradict what they said.

The Logic of Definition may be seen as a valiant effort to make the world and time stand still. Nothing must be allowed to change in the course of time. Both rulers and peoples would like certain of their laws, arrangements and definitions to stand fast forever. Change is upsetting to everyone. As long as the “good old” definitions are maintained by all, the government will be stable. Each person knows who he or she is and what his or her task is. Managers of organizations long to set up a perfect organization that will always run smoothly, all personnel keeping their places and doing their jobs as reliably as the parts of a fine machine.

But in this world something seems determined to disrupt every would-be static situation. The only perfect organization that could continue to exist forever as it was would have to be totally isolated and self-sufficient. For some inscrutable reason the world insists upon changing. To survive in such circumstances, continual adaptation is imperative. Remember the dinosaurs—and surfing.

Living is a risky business. Growing a lifeline is a little like sailing a ship through uncharted waters. Unforeseen perils may suddenly arise. Today’s storm and tidal wave were not recorded in any of yesterday’s ships’ logs. A venturesome, growing vine may eventually trap itself in some dead-end crevice, or push out onto a busy sidewalk where it may be trampled and crushed.

The risky escapades associated with growing require much more than a store of definite knowledge derived from the past. The Logic of Growth requires faith in the adequacy of learned or devisable procedures, in the continuing reliability of equipment and the sufficiency of obtainable resources. Living things must keep moving on, living dangerously, braving the unforeseen, always improvising, innovating and making do. A lifeline of any considerable length should be looked upon as the record of a succession of victories over peril, toil and pain.


Social controllers find that the Logic of Definition is a respectable instrument which assists them to maintain the status quo. If the policies of a society’s governors are to be justified, they must be in accord with certain fixed principles. You can bet that those fixed principles will be associated with the society’s “gods” or demigods, who will thus serve to undergird the power of the rulers.

In the name of law, order and the prosperity of their society, governors make judgments which distinguish opinions, moves and arrangements which are “acceptable” from those which are “unacceptable.” All ideas and activities which will tend to support present governmental policies will of course be encouraged, nurtured and licensed. Individuals or groups which appear to be sources of potentially threatening behavior, however, will be squelched. They will be controlled by penalties, warnings, fines, arrests, imprisonments or executions.

In steering the ship of state by the Logic of Definition, rulers find it as natural to separate citizens into fixed categories or classes as it is to divide west from east or right from left. The government is always distinguished from the people, senior civil servants from recent employees, the law-abiding from the dangerous, the cooperators from the opposition, the citizens from the strangers, the innocent from the guilty, the righteous from the wrongdoers. Woe betide all those who have been labeled “low ranking” or “bad.”

Although a governmental bureaucracy justifies its directional decisions “by the book,” everyone knows that those decisions are not by any means determined solely by the Logic of Definition. Rulers, like the rest of us, are swayed in their choices by their own personal hopes and fears, their peculiar life-experiences, and their intense interest in certain favorites or enemies. These factors properly belong with the Logic of Growth rather than the Logic of Definition.

The great squelch

Conflict between the Logic of Growth and the Logic of Definition is always possible in governors, in those dissident groups and in individuals whose chosen courses seem to run contrary to official policy. History records many instances of dramatic tension between some outstanding person’s conscience and conformity to the overt behavioral requirements laid-down by the social authorities. The conflict between Jesus of Nazareth and the rulers of his nation provides a classic illustration.

Jesus held that God had begun a kingdom in Israel which, while preserving its God-centered character, was destined to expand into all the world. The ruling Jewish segment of social authority was quite certain that the nature of God’s kingdom was already known by them. It would be ruled by a Jewish king who would preserve the Temple, the Law and all Jewish institutions. All other peoples and cultures, if they figured at all in God’s future, would be in subjection to some coming “Son of David.” The Roman segment of authority in that country derived its power from an empire that was already universal. The last thing the Romans needed was a rival to their emperor. For both Jewish and Roman officialdom, any proposals that appeared to threaten the existing set-up were forbidden.

Jesus taught an ethic which primarily emphasized giving loving service to God and others, rather than one which was designed to extract obedience, service and tribute from social inferiors. Jesus was therefore at odds with a social, economic and political system which seemed to exist mostly for the wealthy and powerful, leaving out the poor and the underprivileged among the people.

Jesus never treated a person as a case which belonged in a fixed class or category. He took into consideration the lifeline of each individual, how each came to be as each was. He accepted women and men alike with understanding and compassion. He believed that even those whom the “better classes” labeled as “sinners” could make a new start. With divine help both they and their betters could turn their lifelines about, heading off in directions which would be more fulfilling for the kingdom of God.

Disadvantaged people responded warmly to the good news that even their lives could count in the realizing of God’s plans. Jesus never wrote anybody off as insignificant or a dead loss. In him the forgotten and forlorn believed that help and hope were at hand for them. They were therefore not stuck forever in their miserable state. Starting where they were, they could grow. Though their present lives might be relatively unproductive, Jesus convinced them that they could yet bring forth fruit for God.

Jesus did not avoid people categorized by their betters as “sinners.” He associated with them, ate with them and obviously enjoyed their company. His spirit of caring service freed people from crippling, bedeviling things. Embodied in Jesus the underprivileged and lowly saw possibilities for building a new and better world. People therefore flocked around his person and message.

The more popular Jesus became, the more the authorities resented him. He was ignoring their cardinal principles as they understood them. Did not the rules which they were trying to enforce express the very will of the Almighty? This fellow Jesus seemed to be teaching the people that God loved them whatever they had been and done—even if they were of the despised Gentiles. How dare he think and teach that the favor of God did not really depend upon conformity to the letter of the codified regulations of “the Law of God.” Who did this Jesus think he was? God? Away with him!

Jesus’ message that God was offering gracious forgiveness and spiritual transformation may have been taken for “good news” by rejects, losers and “sinners,” but it was taken as “bad news” by the authorities. They detected in his approach the dangerous germs of apostasy, subversion and revolution. “Get rid of him!”

Jesus was well aware that he was in trouble with the rulers. Their opposition was inevitable. His imprisonment and execution were inherent in the very essence of his message and mission. The usual social controls, however, did not suffice to turn him aside from the course to which he had committed himself. What he was saying and doing seemed so right to Jesus, so much in accord with all his personal experience and the heart of his heart, that for him there could be no turning back. He therefore steadfastly set his face to follow the course to which he had committed himself. That course led straight on toward a cross and a burial. His lifeline and work seemed doomed to come to an abrupt ending—unless somehow the Almighty should vindicate Jesus’ message and either save him alive or bring him back to life again.

Rulers derive maximal power from their authority to kill those who oppose their will. Once put to death, a deviant individual should cause no further trouble. If there ever were someone who could not be killed or who, once put to death, would not stay dead, the power derived from meting out death would be mocked. The rulers would be deprived of their ultimate weapon. They would be effectively dethroned, since they no would longer have the final word about anything or anyone.

A death-proof life would be its own master, freely choosing its own limitations. A life that could rise again out of death would participate in the life of God who alone creates the universe out of nothing. If, by the mismanagement of rulers, the lifeline of the whole earth should eventually perish, the lifeline of the Creator will not terminate. No earthly rulers can permanently block the purposes of Him who seems to work more by the Logic of Growth than by the Logic of Definition.

For the authorities the word that Jesus, whom they had crucified, had returned from the tomb was undoubtedly the worst possible news. However, for all who are painfully aware that they are always living toward death it was the best news ever. If one person had returned to live again, and continued in a deathless mode, there is hope for all, regardless of death sentences. If God honored the kind of life Jesus lived, the words that he spoke and the hope that led him on, there is reason to believe that the living and believing of all others who share in that approved spirit will also enjoy the favor of God.

It can be assumed that if God uniquely endorsed the life of Jesus, the heart and mind-set of the Creator must be like that of Jesus. The Creator certainly knows all the details of everyone’s life story. He understands what someone had in mind when a particularly difficult decision was made. He knows each person’s spirit and feels what each one feels. He can remember every incident and can see how the various segments of each lifeline can be of future value in furthering his creative purposes. The Almighty is certainly able to lift up what has been cast down, to transform it, and to give it new and living significance. The hope which sprang from the resurrection of Jesus is thus much in harmony with the Logic of Growth. It fits well with the way God is continually recreating the universe.

Jesus often referred to the adventures of seeds—their being scattered, sown and buried, their growth to produce flowers and the fruits of harvest. He pictured God as one who nourishes growth. God is like a farmer, a shepherd, a father. Jesus of course understood well also the Logic of Definition. A carpenter, a builder by trade, a “proto-engineer” if you will, Jesus knew how to add house to foundation, stone to stone, beam to post, door to frame. But he knew a life is not built up by adding piece to piece from the outside. Neither one’s physical dimensions nor one’s life span can be increased by mere mechanical addition.1 Life is shaped from the inside. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”2

Jesus redirected people’s lifelines by sharing his vision with them. His words and example aroused within them strong desires to turn and move in new directions for God’s sake. His lovely, loving spirit was infectious. Jesus convinced them that if they followed him closely, their lifelines would become intertwined inextricably forever with his own unending lifeline. In fact he said they would become engrafted branches of that Vine.3 He gave them reason to believe that a free and open future with God would come to his followers, whatever any displeased earthly rulers might do to them.

The Logic of Definition undoubtedly has a certain value. The science and technology which have developed on the basis of this logic seem almost indispensable today. But the Logic of Growth far transcends the Logic of Definition. As the logic of the Creator, the Logic of Growth will still be operating when mortal minds are no longer able to divide and eliminate anything at all, and when scientific analysis is of no avail.


1. Luke 12:25.
2. Matthew 12:34.
3. John 15:5.