I’d Rather Be a Stone

I’d Rather Be a Stone than a Leaf

By Jane Tawel

November 16, 2019

 

Simon and Garfunkel have this great old song in which they preach to their listeners that they would “rather be a hammer than a nail” and they would “rather be a sparrow than a snail”.  Good sentiments, sort of along the lines of Ghandi’s ubiquitous “Be the Change” exhortation.  But you know, the problem is that most of us can only manage to fly like a bird for a very short time, and then we tire out. And being a hammer eventually just makes you an overbearing, hard-nosed, abuser of your power against all the little powerless nails. Being a hammer might be a Samson-like calling in the moment, but eventually all hammers hit too hard, just as much as the powers do who currently hold the hammers.  We dare not forget the ends of stories like those of Icarus and Samson.

 

 

I have learned all of this, mostly from literature and other forms of great writers’ artistic endeavors. Stories and poems and authors like Homer, Tolkien, Rowling, and the writers of what we call The Bible, contain what C.S. Lewis calls, True Myth. These stories about hammers, or powerful heroes, or sparrows, high fliers, often end tragically or at least badly for all the little nobodies – that is for the nails who get wacked by the heroes or the people below the high fliers, who get pooped on from those soaring above the fray.

 

225685741_70ddf60bbb_b

 

This is the truth that Orwell and Dickens meant to teach us when they wrote about power and revolutions against that power.  Charles Dickens wrote A Tale of Two Cities to help people understand that even a great cause, such as the French Revolutionaries had, will eventually fall by the way side when the weak become strongmen, and the powerless become power-hungry rulers. And I always loved to teach my students that Orwell was quite clear that Animal Farm  was not simply about Soviet Russia, but also about Fascist Spain and Capitalistic America, and well, about all of us, everywhere, always.   We have been warned—all humanistic, prideful power eventually is corrupted from within.  One only has to look to the powers that those who claim God’s favor, ie all religions, but perhaps today, especially what we call “Christianity”. We have only to see what those in the name of religion or God have stolen, dictated, grasped, and abused, and continue to grasp and abuse, to understand that humanity is always falling prey to either an immoral sense of entitled faith in someone else doing the moral, salvation bit, or  prey to a self-righteous sense of doing for God something that He refuses to do  miraculously for our own entitled sense of greed or benefit.

 

 

I  very often feel guilty and helpless and humiliated, that I am not out there hammering and soaring and fighting and shouting and pledging and contributing and warring and protesting and well, flying.  It has helped me to read great story-tellers, who believe that getting rid of one power to be replaced only with another power will forever condemn history to more greedy and power hungry rulers. If you  say you believe in Jesus, you should have no doubt that he believed this, even for himself, and he had the edge in being the Son of God, so….But we are not allowed to believe that we are to do nothing; that we were put on earth merely to save our own measly excuse for an individual soul and  hightail it to a “Heaven” somewhere out there without all the mess we’ve created here. We are supposed to believe that we were put in charge on this planet, of these beings, and plants, and animals, and volcanoes, and lakes, and rivers, and children. We are meant to believe that there is a way humans were meant to “do good” and “act rightly and righteously” and to make this planet and world and other communities of humans better, more the way we would all like it to be, and that is what Jesus meant by telling us our job was to make “God’s Kingdom real here on earth, like it is in other galaxies, and places we can’t even imagine, ie, the “Heavens- Out-there- Where God is”.

 

So we seek metaphors, and stories, and poetic allusions to figure out how we are supposed to do this thing called “living”. I struggle at my time of life with seeing myself as a soaring eagle or a powerful tool of politics or religion.  My nickname in my family is “Chicken” for good reason and I am definitely mechanically challenged at the best of times. Not sure any one wants me wielding a hammer, though I am prone to the occasional use of the metaphoric kind in conversation. The best metaphor I have recalled lately, for how I might make changes in the world as only one of the little people, a minor character in the plot, is the metaphor of the stone.

 

I think about that great line in Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” spoken by a man who suffers death for the sake of his wife and other women, who back then were considered property, and who are accused and condemned unjustly by the over-powerful, over-zealous self-proclaiming evangelical politicians of the time. These abusers of power in Miller’s story, much like the regimes of Orwell’s Animal Farm, or the monarchy of Dicken’s A Tale of Two Cities  are up against, hammers and sparrows, and doves who carry secret messages, etc, but in the end the righteous refusal to budge on an ethical, moral response to wrong, badness, and evil, usually comes through those who simply lay down their lives, like a stone in the road, refusing to be carried away by the justifications of those who will not see the Truth behind the lies of the corrupted. Much like many of America’s past and present abusers of power, such as the current configuration of those like President Trump and Senator McConnell and Franklin Graham’s oligarchical Administration, and the Red Scared three-headed beast once seen in the U. S. Judiciary and  FBI and Senator Joseph McCarthy  during that Make America Great Administration, and the “Evangelical” Protestant Witch hunting White Settlers in the Administration who populate Miller’s play. And so, knowing that he would be condoning evil and doing  wrong, by choosing the “lesser of two evils” and thereby, abusing his own power as a conservative, religious man who only wanted to save himself,  Giles Corey, submits to being unjustly charged as a traitor and not Christian-like and is put to death via capital punishment by the state and modern inquisition by the Church. The Puritans did this by the placing of large, heavy stones laid on a man until they had crushed his chest into his heart. As the weight of the stones placed on Giles Corey, one after another, seem too impossible for his body to survive, and the political and religious leaders think surely this man will give in to their way of thinking and behaving now; Corey tells the “Christian” executioners that no, not only will he not join them for any reason but that they must add, “More weight. Add more weight.”

 

Giles_Corey_restored

 

Add more stones.  Arthur Miller, the playwright, would later, be a Giles Corey character in real life, when he refused to tattle to the corrupt “Un-American Activities Committee”, who after all were only trying to “make America great”. Again.

 

Dickens writes about a Christ-like figure who is innocent but allows the state to kill him in order for someone else to live.  Orwell, however, has no such hero.  In Orwell’s dystopian worldview, the Christian leaders, in the character of a black raven, symbolizing death, flies off with his share of the goodies; and the politicians, one after the other, are revealed to be not just literally pigs, but archetypes whose greed devolves them from being animals to, you guessed it, game-playing, powerful, greedy, over-fed humans.

 

And again, and again, and again and on it goes. No wonder we can feel so helpless and hopeless, and that we keep trying to tell ourselves that either someone like Jesus, already did all the work for us, and that the world can go to hell because we personally will be “saved”,  if we only have a mindful acquiescence to some historical god’s reality; or that someone else, like a president or prime minister, or a Gates or Gandhi, will come along and be our world’s savior, and all we need to do is “pray” for them.

 

As for little old me, I do believe in the kind of Judeo-Christian worldview in which humans matter and that there is a God that cares about our world. I try to hang on to a belief that I find not just in stories from the Bible, but in the history books, and in Nature and even in other humans I meet now and then. I believe that Love matters most of all and that the small actions of small people matter. And that little actions done with love by little  people can not only change the world, but that somehow, they have a larger meaning in light of God’s Kingdom and in some as yet, unrealized idea of Eternity.

 

I do believe that there is judgement and reward, for what we say, think, feel, and especially what we do or do not do. It seems clear that the consequences of one’s own life, and well as the tides of time and history are ultimately determined by those dueling sins of omission and commission that tug us as individuals, sometimes confuse us as they pull us in different and seemingly contradictory directions.   I believe we all sense the truth, that in some way, we have messed up what is fair and good, and this is true whether we believe in a reckoning in a God-futured heaven, or the more easily apparent judgement that Jesus did rightly warn us of. Jesus did warn his fellow humans that there is an inherent judgement in life that is an ever present danger. This danger comes when any one, any people pass the point of no return on earth by “losing our souls, losing what this life was meant to reward us with as individual human beings,  and when we seek only to gain more and more for ourselves at any cost”.

Surely even the most foolish of us sometimes awakes in a terrified sweat to the recognition that we are becoming less human, less of what we want to be, more soul-less, and zombie-like. Surely even the most religious of us must stand aghast at what we have allowed to happen on our planetary home, as children kill other children, and farmers starve on what used to be their land, and the food we eat  to nourish us causes us deathly illnesses, and whole species of animals die out, and people wear gas masks to breath, and fires rage, and sea levels rise, and those who are supposed to unite us, divide us for their own gain.  Surely, even the most atheistic or immoral of us understand that there is something horribly, horribly wrong on our planet, in our species, in the inner most parts of who we are?

 

And like me, you may feel angry, depressed, frightened, sad, and helpless and hopeless. After all, what can you do? What can I do? What can we do?

 

 

It came as a consolation and a warning and a judgement and a prophetic goading to me, this past week to re-read the part of a story I was reading.  I will share great swathes of it with you here, but I encourage you to read the whole thing for yourself.  This is from C.S. Lewis’s Science Fiction Trilogy, and specifically from Perelandra.  In it, the character of Elwin Ransom, a human being, has gone to another planet which has just been created by God, who Lewis calls Maleldil. On this planet, there is a sort of new Garden of Eden set-up, and there this traveling spaceman, meets this planet’s archetypal “Eve” character.  Ransom also meets up with the only other fellow human, a man named, Weston, but who according to Lewis, has become an “Un-man”. Weston has allowed evil, “Satan” to take over his mind, body, and soul, but it happened incrementally over the course of time and Weston did it for all the right reasons, much like people today claim to do. The story’s conflict lies between these two humans, who have a different worldview of what God wants from us, although both claim the Bible and God as their source. They also have different ideas about what is the best way to make the planet of Perelandra and her inhabitants, “Great”.  Oh, it is truly relevant, is it not?  I encourage you to read the story.  But what may encourage you today, as it did me, is C.S. Lewis’ own wrestling with his conscious and the pleading voice coming through in the character of Elwin Ransom.  I have taken the liberty here and substituted Lewis’ name for God, “Maleldil” for the more earth-friendly one, “God”. Ransom is at a loss for how to stop the evil and “bad stuff” happening around him. He has tried and failed so far to save The Lady and the planet, and time seems to be running out. Now he is feeling helpless, and thinking dark thoughts in the darkness, thoughts and feelings much like mine at times. Perhaps much like yours.

 

james-lewicki-ransom-perelandra

 

Why did no miracle come? Or rather, why no miracle on the right side? For the presence of the Enemy was in itself a kind of Miracle. Had Hell a prerogative to work wonders? Why did Heaven work none? Not for the first time he found himself questioning Divine Justice. He could not understand why God should remain absent when the Enemy was there in person… Suddenly and sharply, as if the solid darkness about him had spoken with articulate voice, he knew that God was not absent… had never been absent, that only some unconscious activity of his own had succeeded in ignoring it for the past few days…. But where is God’s representative?

The answer which came back to him, quick as a fencer’s or a tennis player’s riposte, out of the silence and the darkness, almost took his breath away.  “Anyway, what can I do? I’ve done all I can. I’ve talked till I’m sick of it. It’s not good, I tell you.”  He tried to persuade himself that he, Ransom could not possibly be God’s representative… And then—he wondered how it had escaped him till now—he was at least as much of a marvel as the Enemy’s.   He himself was the miracle.

 

3571635736_1e7a8cd1b0

 

Yes, we too often forget it. My life itself is a miracle. But we must be careful, for like Ransom, many of us who believe this today, stop there.  Ransom tries to convince himself that this belief, this “faith” in God and in goodness and in his being in “God’s hand”, is enough.  He pats himself on the back that he really has done “his best” and that “God would see to the final issue”.  But Lewis, knows that really, honestly, this is not true-Truth, not even on a mythical planet.

 

 

Not one rag of all this evasion was left. Relentlessly, unmistakably, the Darkness pressed down upon him the knowledge that this picture of the situation was utterly false.  His journey was not a moral exercise, nor a sham fight. If the issue lay in God’s hands, Ransom and the Lady were those hands. The fate of a world really depended on how they behaved in the next few hours. They could, if they chose decline to save the innocence of this new race, and if they declined its innocence would not be saved.  It rested with no other creature in all time or all space.  This he saw clearly, though as yet he had no inkling of what he could do.

 

 

As Ransom realizes, we must realize that God cares through Us, not just for us. We are each, each day, standing alone on the precipice between the salvation of the world within and without and the death of all that is in both me and the planet, all that is Good and Right and Healthy. I am the only person right now who is utterly responsible for what happens in my own soul, in the souls of others, and on the planet. This is not the vanity of the powerful nor the hubris of the hero, this is the reality of what it means to be a created human being, created in the likeness of a God.  Ransom, however, can not accept this blithely, just  as I can not do, maybe as you  cannot do, and Lewis through his character, rebels and protests these thoughts.

 

3249557480_d67eb90425_b

 

The voluble self protested, wildly, swiftly, like the propeller of a ship racing when it is out of the water.  The imprudence, the unfairness, the absurdity of it!  Did God want to lose worlds? What was the sense of so arranging things that anything really important should finally and absolutely depend on such a man of straw as himself? And at that moment he now could not help remembering that men were at war and awaking, like him, to the preposterous truth that all really depended on their actions; and far away in time Horatius stood on the bridge, and Eve herself stood looking upon the forbidden fruit and the Heaven of Heavens waited for her decision. He writhed and ground his teeth, but could not help seeing. Thus, and not otherwise, the world was made.  Either something or nothing must depend on individual choices.  And if something, who could set bounds to it?

A stone may determine the course of a river.  He was that stone at this horrible moment which had become the centre of the whole universe. The angels of all worlds, the sinless organisms of everlasting light, were silent in Deep Heaven to see what Elwin Ransom of Cambridge would do.

depositphotos_179011628-stock-video-abstract-background-flying-stars-alpha

 

And so each and every day – perhaps moment by moment– one must ask oneself:  Will I be a leaf, blown this way and that by life’s ebb and flow, to eventually be nothing more than the dust from which I grew?

 

Or will I be a stone?  A pebble in the shoe of the king, can irritate him into stopping and perhaps, in that way, the pebble will upend the powerful forces marching towards destruction.  A rock in the road, can cause the jeeps and tanks, to perhaps change direction, and in that way, change the direction of a war. All the little bits of gravel, can build each other up, and change the course of the mighty seas of history, damming the floods of greed, pride, and injustice, restoring the waters to their intended nourishment and life-giving abilities.   And one little pebble found in a righteous slingshot, can slay a Goliath.

2196681972_2ea90fa4c2

 

The Cornerstone of God’s Kingdom, proclaimed, that should we fail to be the stones of God, that God Himself could easily raise up actual clods made of dirt and minerals. Should I fail, God does not lack for hands and feet and wings and claws and trunks and even pebbles; for on Ransom’s Earth, on Lewis’ and my planet, a man once came to show us how to live. And this Son of Man, proclaimed that even “the rocks themselves can do our job of crying in praise, ‘Hosanna’!  Blessed is the one who does God’s work on earth, as it is done in all the Heavens and in all the Cosmos!”

 

If I have delayed in my life, ‘til now, skipping a rock on a lake, or dropping a pebble into a pool of deep water, I must delay no longer.  I can not know whether my little stone of an action will create far-reaching ripples, the consequences of which I shall not know until Judgement day; or if my little stone will sink to the bottom of our raging waters, and there, perhaps, small and still as a god’s voice, will change the course of the tide, at least perhaps for someone else.

 

16070374314_92da1f1228_b

 

All I can know without doubt, with fear and even sometimes loathing, is that I must be the stone that God has created me to be. I must use the hands God gave me, the feet God entrusted to me, and the voice God expects me to use. And so, like a good stone, I cry, “Hosanna!  Good news!  God is with us.  And the Gospel is –We are the saviors. We are the ones that God created us to be as the makers and caretakers and workers for Love on our planet. We are the Christ.”

 

We are not called to be innocent bystanders, like dumb rocks by the wayside. Because bystanders, are not innocent, they are just dumb. We neither are called to be dumb as in stupid nor dumb as in silent.  I may be just a stone, but I am a stone that is resting on the Cornerstone, and that Cornerstone, called The Christ, Messiah, Risen Lord and King, has changed the whole course of Time and History. On Christ the solid rock, I stand. Or am crushed. My choice.

 

The next time you are out in the world, stoop down and pick up a little grey pebble. Is it not truly a miracle of creation? Each of us, too, can be that small little stone that is in Truth,  a miracle.

 

Will I be a leaf or a stone?  Daily, moment by moment, I choose. And though, I am not all that important in the great scheme of things, I am the only miracle I have today. But then again, I am the only miracle, I need today.

 

And in the end, after all, as Elwin Ransom realized, as C.S. Lewis, and George Orwell, and Charles Dickens realized, and perhaps as you have realized, accepting that I am the miracle God has sent is not only enough, it is everything. My being a small stone is everything. In fact,

The fate of the planet depends on it.

29040600997_55cef4e856_b

All Photos from https://creativecommons.org/

Zombies in Your Head

Zombies In Your Head

By Jane Tawel

March 2, 2019

 

Thanks to my son, Gordon, I was introduced to a profoundly spiritually wrenching song called “Zombie”.  I try to listen to this song weekly at least. This song was written and originally performed  about twenty-five years ago by Dolores O’Riordan of “The Cranberries”. Dolores was raised a Catholic in Ireland and was a great admirer of Pope John Paul II.  O’Riordan bases her song’s haunting lyrics  largely on the religious violent catastrophes that have on and off engulfed Ireland since 1917.  The second version of this same song that  I listen to as often as possible is by “Bad Wolves”. It was supposed to have included Dolores’ vocals, but she left the world before it could be recorded. The version by Bad Wolves, opens up the specific context; the singer, Tommy Vext remarks, “(Dolores’) lyrics in that song still reflect social unrest, political turmoil and humanity’s persistence in modern struggles,” Vext told Rolling Stone. “The reasons might change, but there’s still collateral damage with people’s struggle for power and freedom.” Tommy Vext  is an American heavy metal singer who had to testify against his twin brother who, while high on drugs,  tried to murder Tommy.  Tommy speaks at 12-step groups and for relapse programs across the country.

 

The refrain of “Zombies” repeats, “in your head, in your head” followed by phrases like “they are fighting” or “they are dying”.  I try to listen to this song at least once a week as an important prophetic message.  It reminds me of what humans can become if they allow violence and the worship of money or power into their heads, hearts, religions, and politics. Humans all too easily become zombies.  Today when I listened to “Zombies”, I was suddenly struck by the irony that earlier today I had been listening to Selah’s version of “O, Sacred Head Now Wounded”.  The historical attribute of the words of this song, go to Bernard of Clairvoux, a medieval lyricist and poet. Bernard grew up in Burgundy and as a young nobleman, he was stinking rich and powerful.  He gave up all his wealth and power to follow The Christ and remains one of the most revered historical followers of God; revered by people across the spectrum from John Calvin to Martin Luther and is considered to be Dante’s last guide in The Divine Comedy.  The actual lyrics and music of this hymn were composed by a man named Paul Gerhardt, a Lutheran in Germany who lived in the mid-1600’s.  He spent a lifetime composing hymns and trying to convince his church going brethren to stop attacking and fighting with other over doctrinal issues within the church. He died  primarily of a broken heart and his last words are reputed to have been “us –no death has power to kill”.

 

I guess what I am thinking with a heavy heart and spirit today, is that perhaps, as that profoundly heady writer, C.S. Lewis (an agnostic when young who later became a leading voice in Christianity) wrote, we might make it “further in and further up” into Christ’s Kingdom on earth, if at the start of every church service, we listened first and prayerfully to the lyrics and music of the world’s prophets like the Doloreses and Tommys of this world. The prophets of the ages who sing the songs of change were and are all very flawed humans, but the words of their prophetic messages survive the ages because they are true Truth, whether we call them hymns or alternative music.

All of God’s Truth in fact presents to us an alternative music of sorts.  But singing the hard words of songs that demand change; singing boldly and feelingly on the shores of Israel or Babylon or Ireland or America as the ancient souls and prophets of all times must, can be dangerous; sometimes dangerous to others and sometimes dangerous to themselves. Bernard believed in the persecution of Muslims and Dolores most probably died of a drug induced suicide. Alternative music doesn’t make us perfect; truth doesn’t keep us from sin and brokenness; and prophets are human like every one else; but at least they are trying not to be zombies.

There’s a movie I have never seen, called “The Zombie Apocalypse”.  The title is enough for me because I think this is what the end of the world will look like to the angels: a bunch of zombies who still honestly think they are human, killing each other. The human race has, since the first murder by Cain of Abel, been stupidly and fearfully at war with ourselves. We are all at war with God. We long for peace but defeat ourselves with our mutually exclusive longing for power. Maybe if we began each day by personally accepting our vulnerability as humans, we could reverse the zombie process. Maybe if  before church or synagogue or mosque members try to  perform super-human Godlike, spiritual acts, they would face their own inner zombies, then just maybe we could truly begin to create a kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven — a kingdom of peace and love and joy and hope and real boys and girls created in the image of God. Perhaps if we realized that most days we are behaving like Zombies rather than the human beings created in a God’s image that we are called to be, maybe then we would really begin to understand how to worship the Savior who is the Protagonist of Paul’s lyrics in “O, Sacred Head” but who is also the Protagonist who dies in Dolores’ wars.   Maybe to be fully in Christ’s image,  we need to hold within our own heads and hearts the contrast and paradox between these two sets of lyrics.

 

“Zombie”
(originally by The Cranberries)

Another head hangs lowly
Child is slowly taken
And the violence causes silence
Who are we mistaken?

But you see, it’s not me
It’s not my family
In your head, in your head, they are fighting
With their tanks, and their bombs
And their bombs, and their drones
In your head, in your head, they are crying

What’s in your head, in your head?
Zombie, zombie, zombie-ie-ie
What’s in your head, in your head?
Zombie, zombie, zombie-ie-ie-ie, oh

Another mother’s breaking
Heart is taking over
When the violence causes silence
We must be mistaken

It’s the same old theme
In two thousand eighteen
In your head, in your head, they’re still fighting
With their tanks, and their bombs
And their guns, and their drones
In your head, in your head, they are dying

What’s in your head, in your head?
Zombie, zombie, zombie-ie-ie
What’s in your head, in your head?
Zombie, zombie, zombie-ie-ie-ie, oh

It’s the same old theme
In two thousand eighteen
In your head, in your head, they are dying

What’s in your head, in your head?
Zombie, zombie, zombie-ie-ie
What’s in your head, in your head?
Zombie, zombie, zombie-ie-ie-ie, oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh yeah

 

 

“O Sacred Head, Now Wounded”
by Paul Gerhardt, 1607-1676

  1. O sacred Head, now wounded,
    With grief and shame weighed down,
    Now scornfully surrounded
    With thorns, Thine only crown.
    O sacred Head, what glory,
    What bliss, till now was Thine!
    Yet, though despised and gory,
    I joy to call Thee mine.
  2. Men mock and taunt and jeer Thee,
    Thou noble countenance,
    Though mighty worlds shall fear Thee
    And flee before Thy glance.
    How art thou pale with anguish,
    With sore abuse and scorn!
    How doth Thy visage languish
    That once was bright as morn!
  3. Now from Thy cheeks has vanished
    Their color, once so fair;
    From Thy red lips is banished
    The splendor that was there.
    Grim Death, with cruel rigor,
    Hath robbed Thee of Thy life;
    Thus Thou has lost Thy vigor,
    Thy strength, in this sad strife.
  4. My burden in Thy Passion,
    Lord, Thou hast borne for me,
    For it was my transgression
    Which brought this woe on thee.
    I cast me down before Thee,
    Wrath were my rightful lot;
    Have mercy, I implore Thee;
    Redeemer, spurn me not!
  5. My Shepherd, now receive me;
    My Guardian, own me Thine.
    Great blessings Thou didst give me,
    O Source of gifts divine!
    Thy lips have often fed me
    With words of truth and love,
    Thy Spirit oft hath led me
    To heavenly joys above.
  6. Here I will stand beside Thee,
    From Thee I will not part;
    O Savior, do not chide me!
    When breaks Thy loving heart,
    When soul and body languish
    In death’s cold, cruel grasp,
    Then, in Thy deepest anguish,
    Thee in mine arms I’ll clasp.
  7. The joy can ne’er be spoken,
    Above all joys beside,
    When in Thy body broken
    I thus with safety hide.
    O Lord of life, desiring
    Thy glory now to see,
    Beside Thy cross expiring,
    I’d breathe my soul to Thee.
  8. What language shall I borrow
    To thank Thee, dearest Friend,
    For this, Thy dying sorrow,
    Thy pity without end?
    Oh, make me thine forever!
    And should I fainting be,
    Lord, let me never, never,
    Outlive my love for Thee.
  9. My Savior, be Thou near me
    When death is at my door;
    Then let Thy presence cheer me,
    Forsake me nevermore!
    When soul and body languish,
    Oh, leave me not alone,
    But take away mine anguish
    By virtue of Thine own!
  10. Be Thou my Consolation,
    My Shield when I must die;
    Remind me of Thy Passion
    When my last hour draws nigh.
    Mine eyes shall then behold Thee,
    Upon Thy cross shall dwell,
    My heart by faith enfold Thee.
    Who dieth thus dies well!

 

In Lewis’ end to the Narnia books, it is the unicorn, that almost angelic and mystical creature of lore and myth, who says on reaching the Promised Land, “I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that is sometimes looked a little like this. Bree-hee-hee! Come further up, come further in!” I like to imagine that today while I listened to their music, Dolores and Paul and Clive were all singing together, “I Belong Here”. Someday we will all wake up to a new world the prophets of the ages have passed through to, and we will suddenly realize that either we spent our lives on earth as zombies and didn’t know it; or we thought we spent our lives as  mere humans, but were really fantastic and myth-like creatures of angelic stature.

All of us humans, just like Dolores, Tommy, Bernard, Paul, and yes, even Clive, spend our whole lifetimes looking for the answers to “that same old theme”, even in 2019. We long to see what this world is really like, could really be like and there are moments when the planet, the soldiers, the immigrants, the mothers, the fields all look a little bit like what we imagine they all could be — should be –but never fully are.  Some of us spend lifetimes singing against and fighting against the zombies of hatred, racism, prejudice, greed, lies,  violence, and self-idolization that surround us. Some of us spend lifetimes fighting those zombies who sidetrack us into theological quagmires and even try to convince us they are not zombies but Godly.  Some, like Dolores and Paul, just keep crying out truth in the streets until they die of broken hearts.  Some of us like Tommy and Bernard and Clive spend  lifetimes trying to fight the zombies of false idolatry masquerading as religion, and fighting the demons of greed and self-pride masquerading as guardian angels. Some of us may only have enough alternative music within us to give someone a jug of water at the border or our extra coat in the winter or a hug across the aisle, just trying to help other humans not become zombies. Some of us only have enough strength to try for just one more hour, to fight the zombies within our own heads.

Some of us look to The Christ; who layed down His sovereign God-head, and took us his creatures, “in to his head, in his head”. And took us into His heart. In His heart.  And then He layed down that Sacred Head,  despised, wounded and killed, so that we might never again be alone; so that we might have the ability to fight the zombie within; so that we might have the ability to destroy the zombies without. So that we might know how to survive the temptations and powers of the zombies, both without us and within us.  So that we might live as the humans Christ’s God created us to be.

Unless daily, His Sacred Head wounded and bleeding, bleeds from my own thoughts; unless daily His Sacred Heart beats within my own chest; until and unless His God-like humanity is revived and reborn in me, a zombie in need of a human Savior; unless all this and daily this, then I will be just another zombie pretending that I know what it means to be human and pretending that I know and am known by a God who loves all humanity. Pretending, not being; zombie, not human.  “For that Being who is neither human nor anything humans can truly understand, loves His creaturely humans so much, that He begot a human son and gave Him a life on our planet; and whosoever turns from his or her sinful and broken zombie-ways and follows the human life and death Way of God’s Son, shall not die a zombie, but live forever, more human, and more God-ly than we could ever imagine.” (John 3:16 paraphrased)

For safety and hope today, and for worship of a God who made me in Imago Dei, I pray these words  and sing with the saints of alternative music:

“My Savior be Thou near me. My Guardian,  own me thine. Another head hangs lowly. Heart is taking over. We must be mistaken. Zombie, zombie, zombie. Oh, Sacred Head, now wound me.  Remind me of Thine Passion. My Savior be Thou near me. Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, yeah, yeah, yeah…. Further up and Further in. Amen.”

 

 

The Cranberries: Zombie

https://youtu.be/6Ejga4kJUts

Bad Wolves:  Zombie

 

 

Selah:  O, Sacred Head Now Wounded

Enjoy the Inns but Keep Walking Toward Home by Jane Tawel

Bullet Point Thoughts from The Front-lines of America– The Babble-On of Our Times

 

Enjoy the Inns, but Keep Walking Toward Home

By Jane Tawel

October 28, 2018

20664836_1194878287282804_5314885382967778085_n

 

Notes to Self:

 

  • For at least one year, read only the Hebrew Bible which is the only Scripture Jesus or His followers recognized as Holy Scripture. Read the stories of the people who sought a different kind of god. Read the stories and psalms and prophecies of people who were peculiar because they walked with Jehovah-God.
  • Immerse myself in the basic tenets of the religion of Abraham and Moses, Isaiah and David.
  • Realize that only 7 of the letters attributed to Paul, that great interpreter of Judaism to the Gentiles, are truly and completely written by Paul. Realize that Paul would never have considered his letters Holy Scripture. Keep Paul in context.
  • Realize that the Gospels are guides to accepting Jesus as the Jewish Messiah and to what earlier followers of Jesus’ “brand” of Judaism believed was the way to live in God’s Kingdom now and perhaps forever.
  • Read every thing in context, know your genres of anything written, realize every thing ever written, including Scripture has an agenda. Figure that out before you use it.
  • Read C.S. Lewis’ works rather than just his quips and quotes.
  • Remember that from dust I was created and to dust most of us will return. Realize I am a person who doesn’t want to return to dust, nor to be punished in an eternal hell, but rather I am a person who wants to live forever worshiping and creating with God and The Christ in a New Earth and New Heaven.
  • Remember that mostly I am, as Lewis warns below, a Judas and not the characters I would like Central Casting to pitch me as. Look fiercely at the 30 pieces of silver in my hands today. Remember I have to choose daily what I will seek. Remember that each day I can repent, ask forgiveness, and seek God’s Kingdom first. Remember I must become less, so that others may become more. Remember it is not a wide road, but a narrow balancing beam shaped like a cross.
  • Don’t exploit people. It is a lie of Satan to think that I can exploit the evil people who have power or the authorities who rule this world or my circumstances and that “God will be in control”. It is a lie of Satan to think that I can ignore the Lazarus on my own doorstep or to foist onto others the plight of the poor and powerless. If I do, then I am a Judas; not a Moses, not an Abraham, not a Paul –not a Jesus follower serving His kingdom to the end. A Judas.

 

  • Remember that suffering is a result of sin and the earth’s fallenness. Combat The Fall! Pick up the trash even if I didn’t drop it there. Hold things lightly in my hands. Mourn with those who mourn. Delight in the joys of others. Speak truth into lies and light into darkness even when afraid and worn out (and warned out). Treat people as if they matter to a God. Make myself smaller. Joy is a command.

 

  • Seek “The Simple Good”.

 

  • Enjoy “the pleasant inns” without guilt — just as Frodo and Sam and Gandolf did. BUT — do not mistake this life’s pleasant inns for Home.  Keep walking toward Home.

 

NOTE To READERS:

 

If possible –I highly recommend digging into the books of C.S. Lewis. The following is from my recent re-reading of The Problem of Pain.  With Lewis is it always difficult to choose just one brilliant idea but I think the following is perhaps most critical for people in the land and time in which I currently live. Although it is from the end of TPoP, and an understanding of Lewis’ ideas of sin and The Fall and human nature are necessary for a complete understanding of what he means here, this excerpt below should sound a warning to those of us who think we can choose evil or self-serving justification of our deeds and thoughts and that God will somehow make it good. He will indeed turn it to the good of His world, of His partially seen but yet unrealized -on -earth as it is in His Kingdom; but it makes a difference to our lives and the lives of those around us whether we choose the 30 pieces of silver; whether we deny him hoping the rooster won’t crow and we can get back to our jobs fishing for manna and not for men; or whether we  instead submit our will daily to the will of God, seeking Good for others even at cost to self. The small things I choose today do make a difference to my own soul  — for good or for bad –and in that lies the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

 

 

From C.S. Lewis’ The Problem of Pain (ch. 7):

 

There is a paradox about tribulation in Christianity. Blessed are the poor, but by “judgement” (i.e. social justice) and alms we are to remove poverty wherever possible.  Blessed are we when persecuted, but we may avoid persecution by flying from city to city, and may pray to be spared it, as Our Lord prayed in Gethsemane.  But if suffering is good ought it not to be pursued rather than avoided?  I answer that suffering is not good in itself. What is good in any painful experience is, for the sufferer, his submission to the will of God, and, for the spectators, the compassion aroused and the acts of mercy to which it leads.  In the fallen and partially redeemed universe we may distinguish (1) the simple good descending from God, (2) the simple evil produced by rebellious creatures, and (3) the exploitation of that evil by God for His redemptive purpose, which produces (4) the complex good to which accepted suffering and repented sin contribute.  Now the fact that God can make complex good out of simple evil does not excuse – though by mercy it may save—those who do the simple evil.  And this distinction is central. Offences must come, but woe to those by whom they come; sins do cause grace to abound, but we must not make that an excuse for continuing to sin.  The crucifixion itself is the best, as well as the worst, of all historical events, but the role of Judas remains simply evil. We may apply this first to the problem of other people’s suffering.  A merciful man aims at his neighbour’s good and so does “God’s will,” consciously co-operating with “the simple good.”  A cruel man oppresses his neighbor, and so does simple evil.  But in doing such evil, he is used by God, without his own knowledge or consent to produce the complex good—so that the first man serves God as a son, and the second as a tool.  For you will certainly carry out God’s purpose, however, you act, but it makes a difference to you whether you serve like Judas or like John. (98,99)

 

It would be quite false, therefore, to suppose that the Christian view of suffering is incompatible with the strongest emphasis on our duty to leave the world, even in a temporal sense, “better” than we found it.  In the fullest parabolic picture which he gave of the Judgement, Our Lord seems to reduce all virtue to active beneficence: and though it would be misleading to take that one picture in isolation from the Gospel as a whole, it is sufficient to place beyond doubt the basic principles of the social ethics of Christianity. (101)

Since political issues have here crossed our path, I must make it clear that the Christian doctrine of self-surrender and obedience is purely theological, and not in the least a political, doctrine. Of forms of government, of civil authority and civil obedience, I have nothing to say.  The kind and degree of obedience which a creature owes to its Creator is unique because the relation between creature and Creator is unique: no inference can be drawn from it to any political proposition whatsoever. (102)

The Christian doctrine of suffering explains, I believe, a very curious fact about the world we live in.  The settled happiness and security which we all desire, God withholds from us by the very nature of the world: but joy, pleasure, and merriment He has scattered broadcast.  We are never safe, but we have plenty of fun, and some ecstasy.  It is not hard to see why.  The security we crave would teach us to rest our hearts in this world and oppose an obstacle to our return to God: a few moments of happy love, a landscape, a symphony, a merry meeting with our friends, a bathe, or a football match, have no such tendency.  Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home. (103) (emphasis mine)

Shalom Aleichem, Jane

Don’t Be Flaky

“Don’t Be Flaky”

by Jane Tawel

August 10, 2015

10994932_667913889979249_2853285810904093972_n

One of my favorite “new to me” trending expressions is one Verity Tawel, my eighteen year old,  taught me last night when we were sitting in Mijares and she just happened to have her cell phone on her. (That is your cue to laugh. ) By the time you read this it won’t be trending and I will be back in my fuddyduddy role of embarrassing nerd-mom.  This au courant expression is supposed to make you laugh but you have to be a little bit knowledgeable or “in the know” sometimes to get it, which I like too. I like being in the know, although I refuse to ever become knowledgeable about the Kardashians – even Caitlin.

So how it works is like this:  Some one says something.  I think it started with some one saying something truly false (not an oxymoron), like:  “Did you know that if you eat a pound of chocolate with every meal, you will never get fat”.  And the response is: “Okay…… that sounds fake to me …….. but, okay.”

But, it gets funny when someone posts or I guess mostly Tumblr’s (and by the way, I really hate that there is no vowel in between the l and r in Tumblr — anyway…._) The first person, “You” says something that is true, but the other person, “Me”,  maybe doesn’t  quite get it or frankly, is rather ignorant, or is quite often a bit naive and is afraid of being taken for a ride.  So. It goes something like this:

You: “Did you know that Demi Moore and Bruce Willis are getting re-married?”   Response from Me:  “Okay…..that sounds fake to me….. but okay.”   Or someone says, You: Did you know Donald Trump is running for president?” Me: Okay… that sounds fake to me… but okay.” See. Somewhat cute. But then it gets giggly funny.  Then people say things like:  You:  “Did you know that Albert Einstein is responsible for the formula e=mc² ?”  Me:  “Okay…. That sounds fake to me but…. Okay.”  Or “ “Did you know that bacon is full of sodium?”  “Okay… that sounds fake to me…. But okay.”  You: “I just got back from a trip to see my grandma.” Me: “Okay… that sounds fake to me…. But okay.”

(By the way, did you notice my super cool little equation in that last paragraph?  There is this totally rad tab on your computer under document elements called Math:  Equations.  It took me quite a while but you feel pretty zippety doo dah smart when you figure it out.  If you like that equation, look at this:

a +  b + c ≤  ½x + a² -√54

Or this:  Ð∝∇∅†Ψ℘ξ

Okay, that one actually is fake —I just made that one up. Doesn’t it look real though, kinda like hieroglyphics?  But it is actually math symbols.  Who knew?

Me:  Okay…..that sounds fake to me ….. but okay.

Every time I say or hear that line I LOL!  This just totally cracks me up for some reason.  It is so like something Charles Dickens or John Irving would write into their characters’ dialogues.  It is also something I can imagine C.S. Lewis doing in Mere Christianity which I am currently rereading and recommending to every one I know.   Lewis illuminates so many Truths brilliantly. But also,  I can imagine if rewritten, several quotes going more like this:

Lewis: “Christianity insists that a great many things have gone wrong with the world that God made and that God insists, and insists very loudly, on our putting them right again.”  Me:  Okay…… that sounds fake to me…. But okay.”  Lewis:  “Besides being complicated, reality, in my experience, is usually odd. Reality, in fact, is usually something you could not have guessed.  That is one of the reasons I believe Christianity.  It is a religion you could not have guessed or made up.”  Me:  “Okay… that sounds fake to me… but okay.”  Lewis: “Moral rule is there to prevent a breakdown, or a strain, or a friction, in the running of that machine (human beings).”  Me:  Okay … that sounds fake to me… but okay.”

This imagined dialogue so perfectly sums up the Judeo Christian world view and  what happens when we decide to believe the lie that God should not be allowed to run our lives or the world He created. It sounds kinda’ fake to us that God deserves to be worshiped and in control when we think that we should be worshipped and in control.  Our minds turn Truth to Fake Lies,  when we put ourselves on the throne of our lives rather than allowing Jesus to be king of our lives and God to be sovereign in the universe.  Sin means that, Truth starts to sound Fake to us and Lies start to sound True. Read the tragedy of “Eve, Adam, and the Snake” and you will understand. God tries to tell us something that is Truth, no matter your religion, no matter your history, God sends the idea of Real Truth into our minds, our souls, our spirits, our communities, our world and we  collectively and  individually say,  “okay…… that sounds fake to me….. but okay.”  Because sometimes, many times, we do not want to believe the truth. Unless we pray, “Create in me a new heart, oh God.”

I mean seriously, the entire story and message and words of Jesus, really? Can’t you hear Peter saying,   Okay… that sounds fake to me…. but okay.

The opposite of wanting to believe truth is a lie also often happens. We hear something fake. And we know somewhere inside our very souls that what we just heard is not true. Our world says things like :  “We have to wage war against those people because they are evil.” or “Put yourself first. It feels good and doesn’t hurt anyone”.

And we are silent.

We want to believe and eat, drink, and be merry,  and go back to watching our show.  We aren’t bold enough or confident enough in God’s truth or we just already worship what “They” are offering so much,  that we don’t  want to make waves, or look them in the eye and say, “okay…..that sounds fake to me… but okay.”

Or maybe it is a more intimate lie, like a spouse says:  I have to do this; or a child says, Mom everyone does it, or a boss says, it isn’t a lie it’s just how business is done, or a pastor says, well they will only spend it on drugs or alcohol any way or… And we do not say, “okay… that sounds fake to me…. But ……. HEY, WAIT A DAMNED MINUTE…..that is NOT OKAY with me!”  [As Lewis also  says in MC, it is  not frivolous to use damned when you mean that it is in fact “damned” because “nonsense that is damned is under God’s curse, and will (apart from God’s grace) lead those who believe it to eternal death” (Lewis 45).}

Oh how we long to say to death,  to damnation, and even to  Grace, “okay… that sounds fake to me…. but okay.”

We drive by this house sometimes on our way home.  I don’t want to ever see who lives there because whenever I find out more information about something I like, it always ruins it for me.  But she / he always has some sort of philosophical hand written paper sign in the window you can see just as you pass the corner.  I assume the signs are posted by  a middle aged “she”, but that might be my prejudice.  On the  signs are often famous short quotes, like “To do good is to be wise” or cheerleading sort of things like, “Dare to Dream”, “Live in the Moment” – very New -Agey stuff which is not necessarily non-Christian. Lewis also says in “Mere Christianity: “You (Christians) do not have to believe that all the other religions are simply wrong all through…. You are free to think that all these religions, even the queerest ones, contain at least some hint of the truth”.

Truth, real truth, if you want to hear it, never actually sounds fake to you.

But back to the sign-lady – you have to be able to read the signs in about 5 seconds as you accelerate past.  Then as you keep driving you let yourself think profoundly about these profound statements.  You ask yourself, do I believe as that sign just said, that:  “Life is too short to waste on hating.”? Maybe I think hating is a jolly good way to spend an afternoon? Maybe I wish I had more time to spend on hating.  Or do I honestly  think that:  “The Truth is more Important than the Facts”?.  Am I sure there is a difference?  Or: “Always desire to learn something useful” On this one she cites Sophocles as the author so you start gaining some speed in the 35 mph zone as you frantically start thinking, Useful? but what about jokes? Are they technically “useful” but on the other hand, jokes do come in useful at awkward parties. But are parties even that useful? Is laughing at jokes considered useful?  But isn’t laughter called the best medicine and isn’t medicine good for you? But what does she mean by “desire”, is it just the wanting to learn that is important, not the doing of it?  So if I  desire to learn, but I really need to chill with some “Bachelorette” or “The Biography Channel mini-series on Donald Trump”, well then, wouldn’t Sophocles approve since I desire to learn? But what does it mean to learn?……

The current sign in the window simply  reads: “Don’t be flaky.”

I love that.

I would often love to just  look someone in the eyes and say: You are being flaky. Just stop. Right now.

Definition of flaky:

  1. Separating or breaking easily into thin small pieces; 2. Crazy or eccentric.

I would most often love to look in a mirror at my own intensely personally emotive self- consumed babbling self and say, “Jane, old girl, the more you talk, the more you are breaking into thin small pieces like the crazy eccentric flake that you are.” And I would respond with that other great saying of my daughters: “I know you are but what am I?”  And then crazy eccentric breaking Jane and Jane the miraculously beloved child of God would laugh at each other because it is all and always going to be Good, if we keep our equations straight.

God + Faith, Hope and Love + = Goodness and Mercy all of My Days.

In other words, any time you are saying something,  especially when you are saying something serious, or argumentative, or analytical, or mean, or divisive, or pompous, or hateful — ( or you are letting  any words at all come out of your mouth when you are tired and grumpy) —always imagine that there is a Me out there responding to your most serious self-consumed comments with, “Okay…. That sounds fake to me…..but okay.”

And then, look yourself in the eyes, and say, “Don’t be flaky”.

Then keep on driving past.

Animal Soup

Animal Soup: More on Dragons but Also on Monkeys, Dogs and Hens.

January 30, 2015

By Jane Tawel

Okay, I am going to tell you something that may make you feel a bit insecure, but my husband has an animal with your face on it. My husband, Raoul, has this funny idea that every one looks like some kind of animal or other.

Now don’t tell him I said this but, I personally think this is because he himself for some years has looked like the most adorable fluffy -eye-browed koala bear. (See below) Isn’t he the cutest? And aren’t you just dying to feed him eucalyptus leaves? (He is also mostly nocturnal, come to think of it.)

Jane and Raoul

I on the other hand, as you can see in this picture, look like a sad-eyed, pop-eyed, long-eared basset hound who is constantly eating or looking for food.

My husband will look at someone and say: “Doesn’t that person look like a pigeon?” Doesn’t that person look like a rat? And he has always had a thing for women who look (to him) like cats. (Remember, his wife looks like a basset hound.)

 

Speaking of my husband, unlike he, I find the theory of evolution pretty downright silly, if you want to know the truth. I do happen to believe in Devolution. While I do not believe it is possible for a monkey to become a man, I absolutely know of people the world over who once were humans and now seem more like monkeys. And I don’t mean how they look.

Although sometimes….

monkey

 

A society becoming smarter technologically is not necessarily becoming wiser humanly. If there were ever a time of world history that is as “eat, drink and be merry because tomorrow you die” as this current era of our First World Countries, then we would probably have to go back to the Greco-Roman Epicureans, Solomon’s Kingdom of Israel, or the Qing Dynasty of China. In fact,  Ecclesiastes, a book of Solomon, contains the first record of this philosophy.

 

The book of Ecclesiastes is an essay on excess by a King of Excess who wrote it probably towards the end of his life when he wondered “what’s it all about” and “what was the purpose of it all?” Ironically, Solomon’s other writings reflect his youthful prayer to God when he first became King and asked not for wealth, health or long life, or even for a perfect life-mate (he ended up with 700 wives and 300 concubines) but he asked for wisdom. (So frankly, side note – I have always felt that men having multiple wives / concubines was not an indication of wisdom or even street smarts for that matter. Women historically having only one spouse is proof of women’s superior wisdom – I mean, come on girlfriends, would any of you actually WANT to take care of more than one man at a time? I would be happy to share the workload, frankly.)

First World Country people think they are living like gods, but if you look at the animal profile, we are living more like packrats.

Hoarders

 

imelda marcos

packrat

You know, when we feed our dogs, Daisy and Jolie,they do whatever is necessary to distract the humans and the other canine so they can steal the food of the other. They are not starving; they just want more. They are not really being mean. It is just their nature. They are animals. If we give them more food, they will keep eating more food until they cannot hold any more food in their stomachs and they will then vomit the whole kit and caboodle out. Then they want more food. They are not evil, they are just animals.

But when humans eat too much food, that  they then have to vomit out in order to eat more food, then we are not humans, we are animals. And when we devolve to animals, it is not our nature. It is our choosing evil over good.

 

define necessity

 

If you want to read good stuff on humans and animals read either C.S. Lewis or Jesus. Or both.

C.S. Lewis is famous for not only his theology concerning animals but also his vivid animal characters. There are many famous Lewis animals to choose from but some of my favorites include: Reepicheep, the heroic and noble mouse in The Chronicles of Narnia, who is more nobly human than many of that name. There is of course Aslan, the Christ figure (“He’s wild you know. Not like a tame lion.”)

 

And there is Eustace Clarence Scrubb (“There was a boy named Eustace Clarence Scrubb and he almost deserved it”.) Eustace is the boy who turns into the dragon (“Sleeping on a dragon’s hoard with greedy, dragonish thoughts in his heart, he had become a dragon himself.”) –and back into a boy in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Eustace only becomes human again when he allows Aslan to painfully rip off his dragon scales. (“It would be nice and fairly nearly true, to say that ‘from that time forth, Eustace was a different boy.’ To be strictly accurate, he began to be a different boy. He had relapses. There were still many days when he could be very tiresome. But most of those I shall not notice. The cure had begun.”)

Lewis understands that when we act like certain animals, we are sick, ill, insane and we need to be cured, reprogramed, healed. Lewis knows that it isn’t looking like an animal we need to worry about but acting like an animal.

Animals have no desire to be humans, did you ever notice that? I’m sorry but rather than teaching Koko sign language, we should be teaching people the language of love. Pets actually go a long way towards teaching us their love language if we let them. As A.A. Milne said in Winnie the Pooh, “Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That’s the problem.” Koko must have had a good laugh thinking we thought he wanted to be like us. He humored us.

 

Humans were created to instinctively know God’s language of love, but every time we listen to The Serpent and choose greed and selfishness over trust and love, we become like the animals in all the wrong ways. We can’t love our brothers as ourselves if we believe it is a “dog eat dog” world. Fyodor Dostoyevsky, like Raoul also compared people to animals: “People speak sometimes about the “bestial” cruelty of man, but that is terribly unjust and offensive to beasts, no animal could ever be so cruel as a man, so artfully, so artistically cruel.” Why do we choose death as a worldview and like true epicureans, eat our ways towards it when we could choose life and eat The Bread of Life and drink Living Water? If we can’t trust God’s love and care for us, and choose to live as fully and gloriously Human as we were created to be, with His Image in us – well, then I guess that ever since the Fall that has been a sort of Devolution if you will.

Jesus was pretty forthright in how he saw people and he saw many of them as the snakes that they were. He called the powerful religious and political leaders “vipers” and warned his disciples that when dealing with the vipers of this world, it is best to be as wily as one yourself.

trust

 

Jesus loved comparing his followers to birds. While his disciples are encouraged to be a snake with snakes, they are also exhorted to remain as innocent as a dove. This is double entendre because not only are doves considered pacifists even in our time, but doves were the sacrifice of choice of the poor since they were plentiful and cheap or easy to catch. Jesus also assures us that as much as God loves a little helpless dodo of a birdbrain, he loves we silly, sometimes mindless creatures even more. God promises to care for us, just like we care for animals who can not protect or feed or care for themselves.

You may be thinking: Animal Soup, what is that? A Marx Brother’s film? Mexican Menudo? Chinese Shark Fin? (You do NOT want to know what kinds of animal soups there are – well, okay, google it but sit down first.)

 

The best known reference I know of to this idea of animal soup comes from the poem “Howl” by Allen Ginsberg. Ginsberg laments “ah, Carl, while you are not safe I am not safe, and now you’re really in the total animal soup of time (line 72). This is an analogy to the “primordial soup” used to describe the origins of life on earth. I like to think Ginsberg was critically thinking along my lines of thought in terms of the devolution of human beings.

 

“Howl” came out of Ginsberg’s life among the rejects and outcasts of the 20th Century, much as Jesus lived among the pariahs and lepers of the 1st Century. It includes Ginsberg’s poetic assessment of a friendship between two men who have gone mad because they have lost their connection to normal time and hence, normal humanity. They are in the “animal soup”.

 

Ginsberg also talks about animals when he calls part of “Howl”, “a lament for the Lamb in America with instances of remarkable lamb-like youths”. This is not a poem for the weak of heart or the sensitive to obscenity, but there is much to recommend you to this poem, which explores many biblical themes such as sacrifice, guilt, the downtrodden of society, holiness, and redemption.

Now here’s a fun game. What animal do you see Jesus as? C.S. Lewis saw The Christ as the Lion of Judah. Jesus is of course the “Lamb of God”. He was born in an animal stable. He compared himself to foxes who had holes while he did not even have an animal burrow to sleep in.

But do you know what other animal  Jesus compared himself to? A chicken.

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” Matthew 23:37

chicken

 

Perhaps you have seen the film “Fly Away Home”. It is a film about a young pre-teen whose mother dies and who has to go live with a father she has never known in a country she has never been. The girl finds some wild geese eggs with no mother. So she decides to become the mother of the geese. The baby goslings accept the girl as their mother and the girl eventually learns “to fly” to save the lives of the geese.

All babies must do what is known as “imprint” on a mother figure. We are fascinated by stories of different animals  who imprint on animals very different from themselves. It is a marvelous fact of how animals were created. Humans too. If you were adopted or have adopted children you know first hand that imprinting is real and if you were not loved as a child by your mother, then you know the lack of imprinting will effect your ability to be a whole, unbroken human for the rest of your life. There may always be a lost, abused animal living in your soul if you did not have a loving parent to model.

Jesus wants to be our mother hen. He wants us to accept Him, God on Earth, as our mother, our model for how to live. He learned to live like we do, so that we could learn to live as we were created to live. First Jesus imprinted with us. Jesus was born like us, learned to walk like us, and to talk like us with a hick accent and all. He studied like us and laughed like us. He was careful so he didn’t scare us away but he was firm when we were in danger. Jesus cried like us, was a friend like us and he suffered like us. And then Jesus died like us, with our sins imprinted in His hands.

Then Jesus said: “Now I’m asking you to let me imprint on you. Now would you like to learn to live forever like me? Would you like me to teach you how to fly?”

If Jesus is the image of the invisible God and He is also the image of humanity at it’s finest, then He is a mother hen I wouldn’t mind looking like. My prayer is “Jesus, help me let you imprint on me today.”

Fly away home