For anyone who has ever been troubled by the lone sock left at the end of the laundry, help is on the way, and it comes in the form of indignation: Who ever said socks had to come in pairs anyway? At least that is the rebellious philosophy of one sock manufacturer who is single handedly trying to change the way we see “the sock problem.”(1) “The missing sock is never going to go away,” said one of the company’s founders, insisting that this is a way to have fun with one very small real-world problem: “People lose their socks… Let’s embrace the problem, and run with it.”(2) Currently they have in circulation over six hundred thousand socks, all sold without matches in packages of 1, 3, or 7.
Type A personalities aside, the embracing of mismatched socks actually seems to be catching on. I happen to think the idea is clever, particularly among the target market (girls age 9-13), but I also think it may indeed be one more logical outworking of a current philosophical state of mind. “Imbalance by design—and the studied quirkiness it reveals—is everywhere,” notes one cultural observer.(3) Random is the new order, as Apple insisted a few years ago. Whether selling music or socks, in the constant undertow of marketing, the spirit and mood of the age is keenly, if cleverly, seen. But imbalance by design is still by design.
Physicist and Nobel laureate Leon Lederman once jokingly remarked that the real goal of physics was to come up with an equation that could explain the universe but still be small enough to fit on a T-shirt—or perhaps a twitter feed. With such a challenge in mind, Oxford scientist Richard Dawkins offers up his own one-lined slogan: “Life results from the non-random survival of randomly varying replicators.” This is to say, as he has said elsewhere, the watchmaker is blind. The universe has neither design nor purpose; it exhibits nothing but blind pitiless indifference.
But if the universe has always been a disordered series of time and matter and chance, I’m not alone in my need to understand how we account for the intricate orderedness to life, the uniformity of nature, even the intricacy of the very mind that asks the question. How is it that we can ever accept the non-random consistency of nature in a random world? And what would it really look like if random was the new order? Even in the nonconforming concept of mismatched socks, the factories making them still exhibit a scrupulous degree of order; each random sock is designed and produced with creativity and intent.
Scribbled on a note card, a quote by Frederick Buechner marks the page of one of my favorite Scriptures: “We learn to praise God,” it reads, “not by paying compliments, but by paying attention.” In fact, much of Scripture is a helpful call to remember and take notice, to bear in mind all the stories of God in history as much as to consider the promise of a God who so values the created world he designed that he joined us within it. What if, as Martin Luther observed, the promise of life and new life, hope and resurrection, is written not in words alone but in every leaf in springtime, so the promise of purpose and intent and the matchless wonder of a creator are likewise written in every cell of every leaf, and in the very eyes that notice them?
This verse I have marked with a reminder to pay attention was written by one who did just that: “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? […] Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor.”(4) David lived with an eye on the world as the kingdom of God around him, and as such, throughout his days, he lived to see the matchless wonder of a King through whom all things move and reign and have being. “O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”
Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.
(1) “A successful mismatch?” CNN, November 4, 2005, http://www.cnn.com/2005/US/05/09/miss.match/, last accessed December 31, 2016.
(3) Karen von Hahn, “Mismatched Mania,” The Globe and Mail, Jan. 15, 2005.
(4) Psalm 8:3-9.