Maintenance gets no respect. Put up a new building or open a new business and everyone wants to come and see it; tear down a building or close a business and it’s news. But continue to keep things running day after day, fixing what’s wrong and preserving it for the future? Yawn.
Then there’s this from Emanuel Swedenborg: “Maintenance is constant creation, just as enduring is a constant coming into being” (Divine Providence §3:2).
It’s easy to see that principle at work if we think about buildings: you replace a roof using new materials, or paint the outside, or renovate a room inside, and it changes the look and feel of the entire structure. Even when the goal is to keep the building looking exactly the same, it requires a constant inflow of raw materials to sustain it.
We can think of our bodies the same way: old cells die and are replaced at different rates, some quickly and some only rarely. We wake up in the morning thinking that we’re the same as we were yesterday, when in fact some little part of us is brand new.
But in the passage from which the quote above was taken, Swedenborg wasn’t talking about the physical world; he was talking about life itself, the force that is responsible for the continued existence of all living things. In other places, he describes that life force as a combination of divine love and divine wisdom, which emanate from God like light and heat from the sun (see, for example, Marriage Love [Conjugial Love] §§85–86, Soul-Body Interaction §9, and Divine Love and Wisdom §§47–50). The twin forces of divine love and wisdom were part of creation, and they’re also the reason it continues to exist.
This is God’s act of maintenance: radiating love and wisdom throughout the universe, through every living thing, constantly renewing and sustaining life. And Swedenborg says that if we humans—as conscious, thinking beings—embrace that love and wisdom and seek to make them manifest in our own lives, we start to unite with the Divine. “The connectedness of everything depends on the Creator’s union with us; and if you are willing to admit it, the preservation of everything depends on this as well” (Divine Providence §3:3).
Maybe we can apply this concept in our daily lives, too. The act of preserving or maintaining something, whether it’s a physical object or the emotional bond of a relationship, requires a constant flow of love that prompts us to make the effort and wisdom that tells us what to do and when. It could be that the act of taking care of someone or something is a way of bringing a little bit of the Divine into our daily routine.
What in your life is most worth maintaining?
Divine Providence §3:2–3
Everything that meets our eyes in this world can serve to convince us that the universe and absolutely everything in it was created out of divine love by means of divine wisdom. Take any particular thing and look at it with some wisdom, and this will be clear. Look at a tree—or its seed, its fruit, its flower, or its leaf. Collect your wits and look through a good microscope and you will see incredible things; and the deeper things that you cannot see are even more incredible. Look at the design of the sequence by which a tree grows from its seed all the way to a new seed, and ask yourself, “In this whole process, is there not a constant effort toward ongoing self-propagation?” The goal it is headed for is a seed that has a new power to reproduce. If you are willing to think spiritually (and you can if you want to), surely you see wisdom in this. Then too, if you are willing to press your spiritual thinking further, surely you see that this power does not come from the seed or from our world’s sun, which is nothing but fire, but that it was put into the seed by a creator God who has infinite wisdom. This is not just something that happened at its creation; it is something that has been happening constantly ever since. Maintenance is constant creation, just as enduring is a constant coming into being. This is like the way labor ceases if you take the intention out of the activity, the way speech ceases if you take thinking out of it, or the way motion ceases if you take the energy out of it, and so on. In short, if you take the cause away from the effect, the effect ceases.
A force is instilled into everything that has been created. However, the force does not do anything on its own; it depends on the one who instilled it. Look at some other subject on our planet. Look at a silkworm or a bee or some little creature and examine it, first physically, then rationally, and finally spiritually. If you can think deeply, you will be stunned at everything. If you listen to the inner voice of wisdom, you will exclaim in amazement, “Can anyone fail to see Divinity here? These are the marks of divine wisdom!”
Beyond this even, if you look at the functions of everything that has been created, you will see how they follow in sequence all the way to humanity and from us to our source, the Creator. You will see how the connectedness of everything depends on the Creator’s union with us; and if you are willing to admit it, the preservation of everything depends on this as well.