Whenever there is an open question or confusion on some point, my brother always claps his hands and says, “Well, let’s ask the Great Google,” as if the popular search engine were some great wizard pulling levers behind a curtain. Truth be told, Google does seem to know everything, including how to create an inviting and innovative work environment.
Last week, I visited the tech company’s expansive campus, at the invitation of a friend and parishioner who works there. Throughout the tour, I goggled in awe at the visionary quality of the Google campus. Spread over several square miles in picturesque Mountain View, California, employees could call for chauffeured rides from one building to the next. Brightly-colored yellow bikes with baskets and vintage bells on the handlebars were strewn throughout the property, so that workers and guests alike could pedal from one place to another, alighting from the two-wheelers and leaving them wherever they wanted.
The facilities included 35 restaurants with every kind of free food and drink imaginable, coffee bars with free lattes and snacks, hammocks and lazy outdoor furniture, tennis courts, a gym, an infinity pool, and much more. Work spaces were collegial and connective with cheerful décor. Socially acceptable messages about inclusivity and equality were posted throughout the winding corridors. Employees were not expected to work particular hours but could roam the campus at will and seemed to do whatever they wanted.
At first blush, the Google campus appeared to be a kind of utopia. Yet, there was a shadow side, in my opinion. People wandered alone for the most part, not speaking to others. Social graces and etiquette among the inhabitants seemed to be lacking on most occasions. For all its idealism and forward thinking, there was sort of a soulless quality to it all. Indeed, it seems that whenever man tries to build paradise on his own, a dystopia inevitably emerges instead.
The prophet Isaiah announces the presence and power of God in the world when he says in the first reading that the “Spirit of the Lord” is upon him “to bring glad tidings to the poor.” What Isaiah promises is a miraculous transformation of society on the basis of justice. He understands his mission to be the creation of a perfectly just society. Isaiah believes that God will “comfort all who mourn,” once social conflict, hierarchy, class status, and disparities between the rich and the poor have been eliminated forever.
Yet, Isaiah’s dream was too small. The Christian belief is that God’s Spirit indeed has been poured out, but upon Jesus to accomplish nothing less than the salvation of humankind and the entire world. In Christ, Isaiah’s utopian vision was fulfilled in a way that far exceeded his deepest hopes and expectations. Importantly, it also was the result of God’s work, not our own desire to build a perfect society.
Hygge is the Nordic concept of coziness and comfort that we’ve talking about for a few weeks. May the Great God bring you comfort this holiday season in the reassuring realization that it is through the Lord’s grace and not our own hands that we have been redeemed.
Father Roger Gustafson