Sometimes when I hear an idea, it strikes deep inside me like a heavy gong – and then comes an explosion of ideas – like fireworks going off every which way .
And as the “fireworks” settle down they sort themselves out into something resembling a beautiful Bach harpsichord concerto.
A beautiful experience. I had a friend once who built harpsichords . . . — but I need to rein in some of those fireworks.
I’m trying to capture some of my thoughts and bring them to a point – or at least some kind of whole, like a conductor’s score, bringing together the many voices into one theme around which many thoughts rotate.
Our brains do work like this. we just need to take the time to let our thoughts “rattle around” against each other, like the finale in a fireworks show, and then wait until we can catch echoes of the concerto – or sometimes, the fugue!
The Two Worlds: One world offers us Time and the development of a concert. In the other world, we stuff too many things into Time, and what develops is dis-concert-ing
So, today is Sunday:
I didn’t go there! But after the Ancient and Time-Tested Prayers, the Readings, the Sermon, and the (re)presentation of the One Sacrifice, it felt like I had been there – and I was filled with . . . lively thoughts, from what I had heard and seen.
“Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and all these other things will be added unto you. . . ,” we heard today. Ancient time-tested words of wisdom from our Master. We have two worlds presented to us: a world in which God is first, and we seek Him in His Kingdom; and a world in which we seek all kinds of “these other things.”
Actually, as a historian (non-professional!) I can tell you: Thus has it ever been so. The two worlds. In our computer age, surely we can understand bits and bytes, ones and zeroes . . .
. . . . yes or no, this world or that world.
Oh, we have Time to stumble around a bit, but in the end even our stumbling evidences a choice of one world or the other. Even in the pre-Christian religions men understood the choice that has been given us.
Remember the movie Apocalypto? Gentle, peaceful dwellers of the jungles of Central America, living at ease and in harmony with their surroundings. Then come the violent “Mayans,” a sophisticated, advanced culture which had descended over time into a stratified caste society of the humans who were powerful, wealthy Rulers; the humans who were obedient workers; and the humans who were slated for bloody and horrific sacrifice, in order, the Rulers thought, to keep their society powerful. They sought the things of a world that was other than the Creator’s world.
(I’ve just purchased, in order to re-read, Columbus’s Log Book, with an added journal from one of the sailors in a later voyage who was one of the hundreds captured by these Mayans. He tells his harrowing tale of being in a line of captives advancing towards the place of sacrifice . . . It is the stuff of nightmares.)
Well, there you have it. Again: two worlds.
And so this morning I remembered my vacation to Hiawatha’s land of Gitche Gumme:
(My priest would be quite surprised if he knew he had flung me into Gitche Gumme this morning…)
In Hiawatha’s land the two worlds manifest themselves. Gitche Manito, our Father, in pre-Christian thought, looks down upon His human creations:
Gitche Manito, the Mighty,
The Creator of the nations,
Looked upon them with compassion,
With paternal love and pity;
Looked upon their wrath and wrangling,
But as quarrels among children,
But as feuds and fights of children!
Over them He stretched His right hand
To subdue their stubborn natures,
To allay their thirst and fever . . .
But Man can resist the paternal hand of his Creator. And he does, quite easily and quite often. So we must choose the Creator’s world, one at a time, one by one, each setting his mind on our Creator’s world and not on “all these things” of this world which causes our “thirst and fevers.”
Sometimes a brave young man responds to the good teachings of Gitche Manito, even if he doesn’t at first know what the source is. It is the search for Truth that brings rewards: “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God.”
The seeking starts with serious and sober attention to becoming skilled and educated:
Out of childhood into manhood
Now had grown my Hiawatha,
Skilled in all the craft of hunters
Learned in all the lore of old men,
In all youthful sports and pastimes,
In all manly arts and labors.
With all this training Hiawatha still sought after Truth. He wanted the truth from his father, Mudjekeewis, now dead, now dwelling in the land of the West-Wind, among all the old fathers, who now had Truth.
Although warned not to go on such a quest, Hiawatha set off and “traveled” far past many known boundaries, poetically and beautifully told by the pen of H.W. Longfellow. Then at last “Filled with joy was Mudjekeewis when he looked on Hiawatha.”
But it is not an easy time for Hiawatha, this seeker of the Creator’s Truth, and he’s put to many dangerous tests and learns many disappointing, dismaying, terrible, tragic Truths and is eventually brought to the point of attempting to kill this “father” of his.
(Oh – back to Bach’s harpsichord for a moment: the dramatic, discordant movements of a concerto speak to the truth of the Theme also.)
How deadly and dramatic is our life’s fighting for the Truth!! All nature depends upon mankind’s search for Truth in the Kingdom of God.
Here is a fight worth witnessing!
Then began the deadly conflict
Hand to hand among the mountains.
From his eyry screamed the eagle,
The Keneu, the great war-eagle
Sat upon the crags around them,
Wheeling, flapped his wings above them.
The Bible, also poetically, says that the whole Earth is groaning and in travail, waiting for the Kingdom of God: (Romans 8:22)
Till the Earth shook with the tumult
And confusion of the battle,
And the air was full of shoutings,
And the thunder of the mountains . . ..
Well, that’s Longfellow again, but he’s saying the same thing as the Bible.
At last Hiawatha prevails! He is about to strike the death-blow when Mudjekeewis calls out:
Hold! at length cries Mudjekeewis.
Hold my son, my Hiawatha!
‘Tis impossible to kill me,
For you cannot kill the immortal.
I have put you to this trial
So to know and prove your courage;
Now receive the prize of valor:
Go back to your home and people.
Live among them, toil among them,
Cleanse the Earth from all that harms it . . .
With courage and perseverance, Hiawatha has prevailed in his life-and-death quest for Truth. He sought the Other World, he has seen the Other World, and he has received his command to “cleanse” the Earth.
I hope, I wish, I want us in our times to be as brave and manly as Hiawatha was in his times, because there are still two worlds; two worlds to choose and to develop. “Seek first the Kingdom of God . . .” then – but only then – all the other “good things” will come to you. It’s an orientation of primacy: bits and bytes, this or that, God’s things or “the other things.”
In the quietness and stillness inside our church today, there I was, watching the mighty battle of Hiawatha while the harpsichord played a Bach concerto in my ears . . . .