I am impressed by order. Order leads to systems which facilitate productivity. When things are set in order they can be used, attended to, understood, accessed and otherwise put to advantage.
When order is lost then it can take all day just to find something, or processes can be tripped up by inefficiencies. However, productivity almost always creates mess. Manufacturing processes produce off-cuts, waste, spent resources, dust and various other outputs, that can even be toxic and polluting. We can avoid the pollution and mess by simply shutting down the processes.
We can have the ultimate in ‘order’ – by having everything neatly in little rows, all sorted nicely, but never touched or disrupted by productive processes. That, of course, is elevating order to a place that is ridiculous. Life, therefore, involves balancing order and mess.
Order must be preserved, but mess must be accommodated. Order needs to be restored regularly, by dealing with the mess, but then room must be made for the next batch of mess, so that the ‘order’ can be put to productive use.
Solomon brought this tension to light 3,000 years ago. He drew on the common reality of a beast of burden being put to work. He said, “Where there are no oxen there is no mess. But much productivity comes from the strength of the ox”, Proverbs 14:4.
You can keep the barn nice and clean, but then you will have to find another way to plough the field, move the loads, turn the water-wheel, and so on. It’s a trade-off. Order has to give way to mess, but mess must not frustrate the order to the point of stopping the processes.
So, are you ready with that shovel? There’s some smelly stuff that needs to be cleaned up. It’s really unfortunate that smelly stuff exists, but we either live with that or it’s our own back that pulls the plough, carries the burden and turns the water-wheel. So, grab that shovel.