Friday, May 22, 2009

Time Is Not Dishonest

Consider the father of the blind man healed by Jesus. This seems, somehow, like it would be a great honor, to be noticed and healed by God. But the virtue of humility is that we can do without such honors, with their necessities. We'd rather not be damaged, to need healing. Give us peace, with silence.

That's some other world though. Maybe one of the moons of Saturn -- lifeless and remote and rigid with ice. Here, on this planet, heat and cold are redistributed across the globe by wild storms and great winds, and the continents themselves crumble into the seas. What hope have blind men, in such a turbid and geotectonic place? What house may stand? What father can remain secure or unmoved? How often does Jesus pass, to calm the waters or heal the blind?

We speak in parables when the pain of specificity would be too much. As with so many things, parables mean nothing unless they touch us. Imagine then some tale of a knight who battles a beast. From a distance, we cannot say who is winning, hero or monster. But we should know which side to take. We can see more clearly when we get close. The peril is that we are close enough to be hurt. There it is then. We live in a troubled place, and we have to choose sides. To do so with intelligence, we have to risk something. But the alternative is cowardice or betrayal.

No, time is not dishonest. It is brutal in its wisdom. It separates seed from seed, and it shows who has finished the race and who has turned away. Harsh and necessary truths, which none of us in the field may know before the proper time.

So it must be for our little ones as well. One of the few certainties in life is that pain is coming. How we would thrust ourselves between them and the hardship that awaits them. How we would take their fate into ourselves if we could. What deal wouldn't we make? We tear open our organs that God might show mercy -- our senses pour out their humours and something in us must be melting -- like fat over the flames of an altar. Is God moved? What dignity wouldn't we shed in our begging that those we love be spared? But they are not spared. There is only one salvation, and that is by way of a cross.

We don't need a God who passes by. Such a God might as well be made of stone, for all he hears. We need the God who comes up along side of us, and who stops and abides a while. We need the God who loves little children. We need the God who weeps.

Yes, I have ranted in these pages. Jack H is after all a literary device, designed to an artistic end. But even his most dolorous and self-pitying self-indulgences have trailed a shadow of irony and self-awareness -- of almost calculation. There has been a purpose in it. If I should remove the mask that I play at being, the face beneath on first examination would be indistinguishable from the mask. But masks can show more truth than faces do. The Greeks in their plays, after all, wore masks not to hide the actor but to reveal the character.

The universe is such a mask. It isn't the face of God, but it suggests his character. So it is with parables. Stylized, spare, yet on such a featureless plain we find ourselves. And so it is with the parable that is Jack H. Beyond all the specifics, beyond the jet-stream of words and the aurora borealis of images, it is hoped that the heart in the man behind the mask has made some connection with the heart of some other person, some other parent, some other human being who has loved or who aspires to it. It is hoped that among his readers, the author will have touched the heart of God, who will, should it so move him, come along side and abide for a time.

We are, after all, children, and blind.


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