Friday, June 1, 2012

The Leeks of Egypt

We are commanded to honor our parents, our father and mother. It's a commandment that carries a blessing. Must be important. But why? Social order? Well, yes. But there's more to it. Where is the social order in honoring what is not honorable? And not all fathers are honorable. Yet we are commanded to honor them. Give honor to what is dishonorable? There is no justice in this. There must be some other reason, than justice.

My father has not been an honorable man, in many ways. He is diagnosable narcissistic borderline personality, but maybe he can't help that. His neurotic treatment of his adolescent sons was unfortunate, but such is the burden of life, and maybe he thought he was right. His serial adulteries, however, his betrayals, and his rejection of his middle aged wife for a younger woman, or younger women, rather -- not only is there no honor there, but it is contemptible.

Yet I, somehow, have been commanded to honor him. His failures to his sons, as a father -- well, men fail, and need not be condemned for it. His manipulations and dishonesty are burned into his character, and are part of who he is. It's a confusion, then. And I, dutiful, mostly, most of my life, tried, when I did try, to obey that stupid and incomprehensible commandment. But I seem to be done with it.

The word honor is unfortunate in its multiple meanings. Not clear. It seems, in context, to mean respect or revere or value. What if a father is disreputable? -- or irreverent? -- or dangerous? Value him from a distance? That is obedient only as an expedient.

God wants us to honor our parents, because he wants to be honored, himself. We look at the stupidity and evil of the world, the confusion, the betrayal, and we know that behind it all, the presiding intelligence of God himself is responsible. He is not the active agent, but he is permissive. In any court of law, this indicates culpability. God, however, for good or ill, is not subject to our law. Well, there was that one time.

Again: God wants us to have the habit of honoring even dishonorable parents, so that we will honor him. It's not that God is dishonorable. It's that the evidence, sans revelation, suggest that he is. Thus he reveals himself, that we may act rightly, in not judging, but rather honoring him. We get into this habit, of obedience, by tolerating the madness of our crazy and dangerous and toxic parents.

We don't understand. We don't see the greater picture. We are submerged, and the only thing that keeps us from sinking to the utter depths is a lifeline of faith, which is obedience to things we may not agree with. It is, then, not so much about honoring a parent, as it is about ourselves being humble.

I really hate that.

Yesterday I learned that something I had said was taken, months ago, as a cause for offence, and someone got emotional and subsequently permanently avoided my company. Now I do have a tendency to brood, but this is just what it is -- someone being neurotic. Can't help other people being neurotic. For my part, I've concluded that while I can learn, I can't change. I can try to modify how I speak, but I can't change my intentions. I try to be tactful, but often I'm blunt to the point of being gauche. Too bad.

Most of what most people say and do is a manure pile, but often we find an onion growing there, tasty and nutritious, and on occasion we find a diamond. That's what being human is: being sustained by the onions in God's manure pile. And if we have a more noble character, we are thankful.


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