Sunday, May 25, 2008

Snow White revisited

It was probably a year or two ago that my daughter asked me to join her in watching Snowhite and the Seven Dwarfs. I can't remember whether we had read the story before or not, but I knew this was the first time for her to see the movie and thus experience the full emotional impact that the audio-visual media inherently carry with it. So, we watched it with delight, trepidation and unbearable tension which only Disney (or so it seems) can create. We were screaming warnings, throwing our arms in frustration at the futility of our efforts to hold off then heroine's doom. We saw the wicked queen getting what she deserved in a supernatural act of heavenly justice, and yet our fears were not appeased, our sadness not erased by her fate. We wept with the Dwarfs, forlorn and dejected, joining them in spirit around the glass coffin where the beautiful Snowhite rested in perfect peace. The music enhanced the mood of dignified sorrow and suppressed grief.

Suddenly, my daughter gets up from her chair, walks over to the TV and shuts it off. I stare at her utterly confused, wondering what in the world she was doing. The movie is not over yet. The best part is yet to come. This is not how it ends. Then it dawns on me, She doesn't know how the story ends! She must be thinking, 'Snowhite is dead, and that's the end of the story'. It's time to shut off the TV and move on to something else.

Then I think of all the people who feel the same way about Jesus. Too bad, a good guy died. It wasn't fair, but that's the end of the story. Let's flip the channel, move on to the next thing.

But, that's not how the story ends. That's not the last page of the script. He is not on the cross. He is not in the grave. He is alive, as alive and accessible to us today as He was to Mary and the disciples on that extraordinary Sunday morning. Will I come to Him? Will I keep coming, each day? Or do I keep living like He is still in the tomb, shutting off the unveiling of the story before I heard how it really ends?

Dancing with the crowd

So, I am reading this book about the life in former Yugoslavia under the regime of Josip Broz. The story acts like a time-space travel machine, transporting me into the homeland nested in the Balkan peninsula and the childhood of a naive little pioneer, enthusiastically waving her little hand at the white-clothed object of her worship passing by in a luxurious limousine. Layer by layer, the countless deceptions are being peeled away before my eyes as I devour page after page of this documentary portrayal of, in so many ways, my own life also. I feel so stupid for being so naive, so unquestioningly obedient in playing my own little part in somebody else's grand scale charade. Of course, the time and the distance, the years and maturity, and ultimately my own personal encounter with the Truth give me the courage to face the lie and acknowledge that I too was shamelessly fooled, just like almost everyone else.

But, then, suddenly another layer appears, catapulting me into to the present - the here and the now - and asks the same question: Whose charade am I unwittingly playing my little part here, now? If I allow for the distance of time (or rather, eternity) to set me on a more objective ground, and looking back to my life right now, will I feel as ashamed and stupid for being so naive today in unquestioningly following the cultural and social cues, the modern day religious "in" crowd, playing my little part in somebody else's grand charade? Or do I look to my cues to Somebody else, even if it means I dance alone, looking very much like a lonely fool today, but, later, maybe... not so foolish in the end.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Off with her Head!

A friend of mine recently caught a water moccasin, one of the few venomous snakes living in Florida. Once she chopped its head off and thus removed the threat to her family's life and well-being, she decided to skin it, study its insides with her kids, and use the skin for a hair-band when it is ready. (She had repeated several times that they never kill wild animals unless they are dangerous to her family or their domestic animals). I was so impressed by my Joan of Arc. Chopping the head of the slithering Leviathan, saving her children's lives and doing something educational and creative! Wow, that's my kind of girl! I thought when I heard her story. Still under the impression of this marvelous example of fortitude and creativity, I went into our garage to set out the garbage for the next day's pick-up. I was too lazy to turn on the light, so I was stumbling in half-darkness when with a corner of my eye I saw something move. I jumped to the ceiling and when I landed back on the ground, I was next to a beautiful, coiled up orange, black and brown snake! Now, I am used to seeing snakes around our yard, black, skinny variety and on one occasion we even had a black racer in our house for a couple of days (don't ask me why for a couple of days!). But, this one was colorful. And color means danger. The alarm goes off in my mind. I scream from the top of my lungs, calling my husband, and with the same breath, like the evil Queen from Alice in Wonderland, I shout, Off with her head! Off with her head! In the back of my mind, I could already see the dramatic accessory gracing my hair, and with all its exciting details and nuances, the story of how I became the proud owner of such trophy begun to form in the crevices of my brain which were not completely flooded by rushing adrenaline. My husband raced out, a picture of Saint George saving his damsel in distress, wielding an old broom like a lance against the fierce dragon. But, instead of chopping its head right off, first he stopped and studied it for a couple of minutes; then he went on-line to check whether it was venomous or not; then he went back into our bedroom, retrieved a digital camera, took photos of the evil creature, and then went back on the Internet to study further in order to determine what kind of snake it was. This was taking way more time and intellect than I was ready to invest. My patience was fraying like the old broom in his hand. Be done with it! Off with her head! It echoed loud and clear in my mind. But he seemed to show no interest in such a violent way of resolving the enigma now stretched out on our garage floor, the curious head lifted up as the snake's eye studied us without blinking. It was a beautiful creature. And its eye seemed to show incomparably more intelligence than I was exhibiting in the moment. We stood there, mesmerized. It wasn't moving. We were not moving. We just stood there, and studied each other. When we peeled our eyes off of her and went back on-line, we were finally able to determine that the unexpected visitor was a corn snake, non-venomous, small rodent eating snake relatively common to this part of Florida. It was a good snake. It's the kind of snake you want around your house because it keeps mice and rats out. And I wanted it killed! In my fear and ignorance, driven by my rushing adrenaline, I was the judge, the jury and the executor, pronouncing the verdict, Guilty! and the matching penalty, Off with her head! without stopping to acquire the necessary facts to substantiate or dismiss such assumption. Then, I step back and think of all the other situations where driven by ignorance, fear and raging emotions I jump to the verdict and carry out the penalty without pausing to... breathe, think, to gather the missing pieces of information… maybe even pray? And another beautiful creature is maimed or destroyed by my ignorance and stupidity.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Do You See Any Weeds?

Sometimes I see our garden is a battlefield. The titanic struggle rages on as I stand alone on one side and the evil world of weeds, pest and merciless drought on the other. At the moment, the weeds and pests are definitely prevailing. I am humiliated and deeply discouraged. The other day, however, our daughter surprised me when she confidently exclaimed:

But Mom, I don't see any weeds in our garden.

I was completely taken aback because it is quite obvious that in our garden there is hardly anything else to see but the weeds.

My daughter is completely blind! I thought horrified. Then it dawned on me,

Perhaps it wasn't her who was blind, but me

My visionary daughter was blind to the things that were clearly blocking my vision. She didn't see our garden as a battlefield and the weed-infested wasteland. She saw our garden as an immense gallery of butterflies, bug-eyed froggies, stubby-tailed lizards and an extravagant fireworks display of flowers – an endless kingdom of miracles inviting her daily to play and learn, frolic and grow.

I need more of such short-sightedness, I sigh as I internally take a step back from my intensity laden mission.

I get so lost in the battle and the weeds that I become blind to the glory all around me - the miracle packed reality hidden to the driven, preoccupied, inattentive eye. 

I ponder some more, wondering where this apparent incongruence will take me next.

Part of me also realizes that sometimes I am completely blind to the weeds of my life. I confidently proclaim, 

I see no weeds, all the while it is quite obvious to the eye of an experienced Gardener that weeds are everywhere. 

For, a true garden lover knows the difference between a weed and a marigold. Sometimes he lets them grow side by side, until the marigold has taken strong roots and can withstand an earthquake that pulling the weed next-door entails. He also persists in fighting pests and weeds until his flower beds are freed from impostors, seedlings planted and even the most secluded corner of the garden is full of the colorful luxury feeding every sense and, most of all, the soul of the gardener himself. Most of us, however, live in blessed ignorance and incompetence of a child while weeds prevail. 

Is there a wise gardener who knows and believes that I can do better, create more beauty than what currently, pathetically is? Can that person come alongside and show me how to reach that place of beauty and goodness? Am I willing to let go and surrender to his loving guidance, even when what he does makes no sense to me and seems to destroy me?

And so one mirror leads to another and the life starts getting an unspeakably richer dimension.