The word that stumped him was “quaquaversal.”
The word that stumped him was “quaquaversal.” How these kids survive as long as they do in the Scripps National Spelling Bee is beyond me! Ten-year-old Tony Incorvati of Ohio made it to the third round a few days ago, until he ran into that amalgamation lurking in the bowels of some dusty dictionary. And no matter how hard he squinted, it wouldn’t come out right. Quaquaversal—“turning and dipping in every direction.” And while it won’t become a household word, it certainly is an appropriate one to describe life on this planet of late, isn’t it? Just when you think one crisis headline is tucked away and taken care of, the very next news cycle dips and turns, introducing yet another breaking story from somewhere else on earth. And while admittedly the news media hype disasters and major in crises, nevertheless the “talking heads” seem perplexed over the crescendo of these breaking headlines: tomatoes, oil, gasoline, floods, Wall Street, Greece, the Middle East—the “quaquaversal” collection from just this week, to name a few. Someone asked me the other day if all of this amounted to a harbinger, a collective alert regarding earth’s disintegrating future. And at the same time, someone else wrote and wondered if there is any point wondering if it did. Actually doesn’t the Second Law of Thermodynamics itself predict such disintegration? Known as the principle of entropy, you might remember from high school physics, this law describes the entropy or break-down of energy in the universe, resulting in increasing disorder and eventual disintegration. Is our earth on some sort of entropic path? Isaiah was an ancient prophet, not a physicist, and yet tucked near the end of his prophecy is a line that describes such entropy. “Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look on the earth beneath. For the heavens will vanish away like smoke, the earth will grow old like a garment” (Isaiah 51:6). Growing old like a garment, tearing at its ecological seams, ripping at its geological faults and plates. Is that what the headlines pronounce? Our planet’s entropy? But to the thinking man or woman of faith, isn’t there more than thermodynamics behind this litany of “quaquaversal” headlines? After all, didn’t Christ himself predict global entropy? Didn’t he link the promise of his return in Matthew 24 with a growing disintegration in nature (see vv 7, 29, 32), in politics (v 6) and in morality (vv 4, 9-12)? But rather than ending with a whimpering depletion of energy, Jesus predicts in the end an explosion of light and energy in his physical return to earth—“and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power [Greek: “dynamite”] and great glory” (v 30). So are we doomed by the headlines? Hardly! In fact, the greater the entropy around us the deeper the certainty can grow within us that the God who has called us friends will journey with us until that grand climax: “See, I am with you always, even to the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20). Which means that no matter how “quaquaversal” the journey may yet become, we’ll never be alone—which is the greatest headline of all!