A few months ago I was on a long flight over the ocean, and towards the end of it the airline attendants brought me a sandwich. When I looked closely at the plastic packaging I noticed that mine said it was “hand-crafted”, and that the bread was made using “authentic methods”. They must have passed out hundreds of “authentic” “hand-crafted” sandwiches that morning. I’m not really sure what those words mean exactly (what would an “inauthentic method” be?), but I know there’s part of me that does prefer to know that a human was involved in the process of making my food. Which is strange, to think of it—machines are pretty good at things, after all. With the right design and programming I’m sure they could be great at producing sandwiches. Probably better than a lot of people. I suppose the difference is that machines don’t care. A lot of people don’t care, either, but at least with a human there’s a chance. And that means something. It means so much, in fact, that the sandwich packaging said “hand-crafted”, not “machine perfected”. We like the thought of our lunch being made specially, with care, not just mindlessly mass-produced in a machine.
The package designers know that humans would rather have a personal touch than uniform perfection (although we’d prefer to have both, if at all possible). Isn’t that interesting? I think it says a lot about how we are made. I think it says a lot about what we are made for. I don’t know how many hands were actually involved in the making of my sandwich, or what exactly they did. I have a cynical suspicion that their “authentic methods” looked a lot like mass-production. Even if those hands were careful and clean (I hope they were!), they still belong to people I don’t know. That’s why it’s fascinating to me that the sandwich-marketing team believes that humans crave personal connection and individual care so deeply that we even prefer to think that the hands of strangers were involved in making our airplane food.
The marketing team is on to something. We do crave connection and care. We will always be partial to humans over machines because we are humans, and humans are not machines. We are made for more than cold perfection—we are made for connection. We are made to relate. Even our sandwich packaging recognises this—yet somehow people still try to explain how our deeply relational design came about by mindless mechanical means and I’m sorry, but I can’t get there. We didn’t end up as fundamentally relational beings by being cranked out of a cold, uncaring machine of a universe. We’re relational because we were designed, individually and carefully, by a fundamentally relational God. And we show his relational nature in a million ways we hardly even notice—right down to the words we prefer on our sandwich packaging. I believe there’s a good reason for this, and the reason is that humans are not mass-produced.