Jesus said many things. Every single one of them is vital for us to hear. A particular statement of Jesus was especially appropriate for me today.
Mark 4:9 (ESV) records Jesus’ statement, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Jesus was concluding His Parable of the Sower. This Parable illustrates for those who understand it that His teaching will be rejected by some listeners; be accepted by some other listeners, before they then discard it; be heard by a third group of listeners, who are so distracted by the things of the world that they do not allow themselves to be persuaded by the teaching; but will be welcomed and adopted by a fourth group, who will then bring Jesus’ message to others—and to many others, too.
Jesus, being the Son of God, knew things as God’s own Son would know them. He reflected in His parable the inevitability that resonates in His words. That inevitability must be awareness in Jesus of how it is from His Father.
Jesus does not rail against the listeners who reject his message. Simply, he says they exist. Also, he does not chastise those who are enthusiastic at first but later become indifferent. They exist, too. Likewise, those who are too distracted by the world and its pleasures even to pay attention exist.
Jesus’ approbation is reserved for those who welcome and adopt His message, yielding thereby—as He says it—“thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold” (4:8).
Jesus is frank later, when He and His disciples are alone, away from the crowd that heard the parable. Explaining why He speaks in parables to those who are not provided with the “secret of the kingdom of God” (4:11), as his disciples are provided with the secret, He states that the parables are designed to provide the crowd with knowledge but not with understanding.
That the crowd might “see but not perceive…hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven” (4:12).
This same idea appears in Jesus’ words in the other synoptic gospels, in Matthew 13:13 and in Luke 8:10. Each alludes to Isaiah 6:9, which records what the Lord commissioned of Isaiah after that prophet stated his famous line to the Lord: “Here I am! Send me.”
The Lord hides the truth from unreceptive people.
It might be said that Jesus’ profession was to help people to hear, up to a point, a point as spotted by God.
Jesus helped his disciples to hear, totally, but Bible readers know that even the disciples did not get it about much of what Jesus said, despite their possession of the Secret of the Kingdom of God and their ability to hear.
I personally know that it is not easy to hear.
I mean no factiousness when I shift this biblical reflection to physical hearing. I am deaf.
Today, I spent the late morning and early afternoon with a woman who is an audiologist. Her profession is to help people to hear.
During approximately the past twelve years, I used a pair of hearing aids that were the state of the art at the time I bought them. I am told that hearing aids have a presumptive life of about five or six years. Mine are not the state of the art any longer.
I was with this audiologist today because I have been sufficiently troubled about communication using my old hearing aids that I have bought a new set that really are the state of the art, and we were engaged in fitting and programming.
“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Now I hear.
But there’s a nice human knot to tie around this package of parable, of those who hear but in various ways and for various reasons do not retain what they heard, of the Lord’s sovereign intent to withhold knowledge from those who are unreceptive in hearing, but also of Jesus’ approbation of those who do hear and who do use what they heard to spread more widely the truth of the Lord.
During our first meeting, my audiologist showed me a graphic of the inner ear, and while describing it, she said “You know, Mr. Eberhart, my God has three parts, and I think of that when I look at this picture because it shows that the inner ear has three parts, also.”
Well, you can imagine then that our forty-five minute meeting last an hour-and-a-half while we two—a sister and a brother in the Lord—delighted one another with our stories…of hearing.
And our stories continued today, while I said, “Too much reverberation,” or “There's an echo,” or “God bless you for what you do for me, that I may now hear.”
I am seventy years old.
In the Bible, the Psalmist is usually King David. However, Psalm 90 is attributed differently than usual. It is identified as “A Prayer of Moses – the man of God.”
Moses tells us in Psalm 90:10 that seventy years is our human allotment. The King James Version of the Bible elegantly renders seventy years into English as--three score years and ten.
Moses goes on to suggest that, by reason of strength, we humans might reach eighty years. But, he reminds us, that extra decade should be understood realistically for what it is, for, as he states, human life is “a span of toil and trouble: they [the years] are soon gone, and we fly away.”
The baby in the picture is Devar Collins Stanley. He’s eleven days old. He’s still got a long way to go.
Devar is Channa’s and my new grandson. He’s the fourth child of one of our daughters and her husband.
Devar was a big baby at birth, and he’s already regained his birth weight and added two ounces.
Good lookin’, ain’t he?
‘Nuff of the proud grandpa stuff.
Here’s what else I want to say.
I was born seventy years ago, in the year 1946. Because of my behavior with each of our grandchildren—including Devar—I suspect that many grandparents muse as I do upon the births of their grandchildren, wondering what the world will be like when this brand new, yelling baby reaches the age that the grandparents themselves have attained.
My maternal grandparents were Charles and Magdalena Butcher, and I know they mused this way about me because my mother told me that they did. My paternal grandparents would have mused this way, too, I suspect, except they both died before I was born. (Sadly, my sole relationship with them is through my dad’s poetry.)
So today I’m focused on the year 2087, for Devar.
What will the year 2087 have become for seventy-year-old Devar Collins Stanley, if he is blessed to attain his allocated three score years and ten?
I haven’t the faintest notion. (No, I do. But I’ll get to that below.)
When I was young and sitting on my grandmother’s lap, she used to enchant me with recitations of the technical increases she had lived through during her time. Can you believe it? When she was a girl there weren’t any airplanes or radios, and even cars were just toys for rich people.
Also, though, she bemoaned the decreases she observed during her years.
Particularly she noted the decrease of fundamental knowledge of American and western culture, that was evident to her as her years ran on. Can you believe it? When she was in school, she and everyone else memorized entire sections of books and whole poems and famous speeches and founding documents and knew by heart the big events of western history…and also, she would admire, using the basis of their thorough knowledge, they knew how to discuss these things, too.
When my grandparents mused about me, their new grandson, in 1946 and looked forward to 2017, what did they imagine the year 2017 would have become for me?
I haven’t the faintest notion.
Of course, I have my own notion of what the year 2017 has become for me, now that I am here.
There have been great advances during my seventy years—for example, technical, medical, explorational—some of which my grandparents might not even have understood in concept. Just the same, there have been further decreases in knowledge of—and even respect for the idea of—western culture, which has led to inability, because of lack of knowledge, to discuss it even rationally.
Here my point. For Devar, during his possible three score years and ten, there will be great events, some of which will be determined by commentators to be advancements, some others of which will be determined by commentators to be disasters. That’s just how it is. The total of the up compared with the total of the down?
I haven’t the faintest notion.
I do have one notion about Devar, however, of which I am certain on the basis not only of belief but of evidence.
During his three score years and ten, if he devotes himself to his life on the basis that the God of the universe, its creator and redeemer, is in active and personal search for him in order to bring him into a loving relationship, then he will be blessed, irrespective of the what ups and downs his time in history experiences.
Along with Moses, Devar might become a seventy-year-old man who says, as Moses does, “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” Psalm 10:14, ESV.
…and that’s the very same Moses who already acknowledged, just four verses earlier, that life is tough.
Now, here’s one more notion I have about Devar, and about all our other grandchildren, extant and as they may appear. When you’re a child, three score years and ten looks endless! When you’re there, not so much.
Moses suggests you may get four score years, if you have strength not only of body but of character (that latter part is editorializing by me, your grandfather). But you have good genes, and that may help you as well.
That grandmother of mine from whom you descend? She mused about things in the world until two weeks short of her one hundred second birthday. That father of mine, the poet? He mused about things in the world until three months after his one hundred first birthday.
And may you be blessed.
“I left the light on for you. Thanks for coming. There’s new coffee, still hot. Welcome to our home.”
I brought him in and closed the door behind him, against the night. I poked up the fire. I poured him coffee. I sat him down.
“So,” I said, “I got your message. Thank you for asking about it. Thank you for coming to get my answer. You must be a pilgrim, too. Let me tell you how it was.”
It was hard to focus on his face. Maybe the light was too low. He seemed to smile.
“Once upon a time….”
Once upon a time when I was young and the world was green, I dreamed that I—and my family if I ever had one—we would live by the ocean on the coast of Maine. That would be our home.
But I didn’t stay young, and the world didn’t stay green.
I did get a family though. I loved my wife, and she and I loved our four children, and when we were grown-ups, we bought that nineteenth century salt water farmhouse and barn, with its acres on the coast of Maine—and with its meadow, and with its apple trees, and with its forest, and with its bold rocks instead of a beach, and with its muddy slough where I moored my boat.
In winter, when blizzards stopped the world, and the snow piled itself halfway up the windows, and we slept under twice the blankets, and the air was finally still, we could hear fog horns on the sea. The fog horns were calling us safely home.
Not just us, the everyday us—the fog horns were calling our souls safely home as well.
We had our home. I was a salesman, and the sort of salesman who is a dreamer—not about sales but about freedom. We had our home; I thought we had found Innisfree. You know, as in the William Butler Yeats poem--
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, and a hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
You know the rest.
Decades passed. Not just years, but decades.
We made a life, sometimes in quiet desperation, sometimes with a warrior’s mighty shout. Our children grew and went their ways, except for one of them who stayed at home.
The world’s convention was that the one who stayed at home was less able—this son who was a stayer at our home. Yet his soul was able, at providing unquestioning love.
We were in command of our life! We.
Where was our home?
Was home our old, salt water farmhouse and barn?
Or was our home within that church across the road? Was home somehow or other to be found in that churchly atmosphere, breathed upon by God, whom we did not command?
I met the living Christ in that church, while standing as a stranger stands beside the rear-most pew, being loved upon by congregants who didn’t need to notice me, but who noticed me anyhow. That meeting shook the foundations of my actual home across the road.
It changed the atmosphere inside that home across the road. Christian faith was a fruitful, not a dreamy, Innisfree.
Our children—most of them—were going away. Our farmhouse was emptier. The last two cats and the dog were dead. Even our pastor was leaving our church-home to minister in a new way and from a new location.
Where was our home?
My formerly urgent daily work—once a “home” for my time—was done; I retired. My wife’s formerly urgent daily work was not yet done, but she was scaling back to a slower pace, her “home” becoming easier to maintain.
Where was our home?
Unbidden, I found I had a new variety of work to do. I had pilgrimage work to do. It was work of a different kind from selling. It was a work of being with. It satisfied my soul. I discovered I was reaching out to everyone—to everyone, Christian or not—to everyone who sought a deep home.
I wrote a book about my life and about how I got this way.
Pilgrims read my book. Others read my book just for its light-hearted account of my life. But many of the pilgrims wrote me to say, “Hi, pilgrim” back to me.
This idea came into my head. We together can seek our deep homes together.
But first, I realized, I needed to live in my own home, first of all.
“Re-heat this coffee? I see you’ve not drunk any.”
It was hard to focus on him. And he said so little. Nothing really. Just his eyes, which were hard to see but which seemed to watch.
"You know, I lived in this book for ten years before it was done. It was my home. It’s world was my home, my deep home, where I sought to be at peace.” I held the book up.
I reached and poked the fire. “I’m thinking of home,” I mused aloud. “Say, you want to know how that book began?” I chuckled, making a joke. “How that home began?”
“Well,” I laughed, “not began began. But began after I finished writing it through for the first time, which caused me to discover what the book had been about all along, while I wrote it through for that first time.”
“The book is about how neither my wife nor I was in command of our lives, although we thought we were. That’s what the book is about. We were pilgrims, led toward home by…well, by Someone who demanded allegiance from us in exchange for salvation. You know how that is?”
He seemed to nod.
I lifted a paper from the table beside my chair. “Here’s how the book began. Before my editor and I scrapped this beginning and built the beginning that’s in the book right now. That scrapping and building was like hammering up a house and then stepping back and saying, ‘Nope. Wrong. Guess I wanted a ranch and not a colonial.’
“Here’s how it began. I’ll read it to you. Ready?
Before our conversion, my wife’s and my souls survived well enough. But they survived as makeshift rafts, cast adrift on a troublesome sea.
We experienced relief from our plight—and we came at last into harbor—when we opened our souls to Christian faith. We were rescued…and we were home.
Home is where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in. Robert Frost said that. Heaven is where, when they invite you to come there, only your faith will get you in. Jesus Christ said that…or words to that effect.
How is your soul, reader?
Is your soul homesick? Do you long after relief?
If so, then please read on.
I put the paper back down on the table. I smiled.
“That’s the whole of the first chapter. No Prologue—as there is now—no nothing. I just plunged right on in. I addressed it directly to the reader, in that quaint, slightly twee way, as they used to have in the 19th century: establishing a distance between the now and the then, making me the story-teller, letting you know that I am playing with language, letting you know that I hope you will enjoy the ride.
He seemed to get it.
“Our home is in the hands of the Lord. Neither my wife nor I is in command of our lives, though we used to think we are. Our home is where the Lord sits us down. He puts us there for his purpose, not for ours.”
I smiled, and he seemed to smile, too.
“Even here, of all places the least expected. Here, in Virginia—and not the ocean end, the mountains.”
He was still hard to focus on. Maybe a trick of the angles—he seemed taller than I remembered from when he came in. He raised his hand for a moment in a gesture almost, it seemed, of blessing.
Then he was gone. He didn’t use the door.
Recipe by Dikkon Eberhart
1 13’ Whitehall Pulling Boat, with anchor
1 match – just 1
coupla potatoes and a chunk of butter; salt
Mise en scene:
Don’t burn your fingers when you grub the potatoes from the ash, open them, and, while they drip with butter, you eat them in the dark.
Pour water on the coals until they are really out. Toss everything into the boat. Drag the boat down the beach to the sea. Wade out beside her and pull her farther until she’s afloat. Stare off for a time at the black horizon.
Await revelation. What if I ask her? Maybe I’ll dare.
By Dikkon Eberhart
The title of this post is a line from Flux, a poem of my father’s.
Flux has stuck by me during my adult years, not because of any verbal magnificence it possesses—deliberately it possesses none—but because of its insinuation and acknowledgement of enigma.
The next two following lines are--
There is a somber, imponderable fate.
Enigma rules and the heart has no certainty.
Dad continues in this poem, using brief snippets of a few lines, to cite one imponderable event after another. As an example--
The boy, in his first hour on his motorbike,
Met death in a head on collision,
His dog stood silent beside the young corpse.
So, Dad offers no release for the reader. His poem informs us that the imponderable dominates in life, and, therefore, that life is stranger than any of us expected.
My life has been stranger than I expected. Not imponderable. But improbable.
I ponder this matter because I have written a memoir. The memoir is jauntily titled, using imponderables--The Time Mom Met Hitler, Frost Came to Dinner, and I Heard the Greatest Story Ever Told.
As is the nature of memoir, my book is an attempt to understand myself and my life's experience. It is an attempt to make order from what Dad terms the imponderable—indeed to provide certainty for the heart, which Dad’s poem denies is available.
I wrote my memoir to acknowledge that the circumstances of my life are stranger than I expected, and yet I seek to order the strangeness.
There is a point, I believe, in the strangeness. Not only is there a point, I believe, but I go farther than that. I believe the strangeness is deliberate. I believe my life has been infused with strangeness for a purpose. I was sixty years old when I learned what that purpose is. Then I wrote my memoir.
I'm seventy now. If anything, I have become more certain of the existence of the purpose although the purpose is stranger than ever I expected.
My publisher has the professional responsibility to determine the demographics and the psychographics of the primary reader of a memoir such as mine. All very well. However, beyond mere statistics, I believe the person who reads my memoir may read it with that same sense of the imponderable about life as my dad expressed in his poem.
Like me, that reader may find that life is stranger than any of us expected. But what I hope that person may ask next is the more important question. “Yes, but what is the purpose of that strangeness?”
Now, I am a Christian. The Lord's purpose that we should ponder the strangeness of our lives is that we might engage with Him in His working out of our lives, for His glory.
At my age of sixteen, I pondered questions such as that.
Back then, on any afternoon on the coast of Maine when nothing else pressed Dad and me—and when the sun was strong and the wind was light and the tide was low—he and I might offer to take Grandmother and her house guests, the German Readers, out onto Penobscot Bay.
Grandmother and her German Readers enjoyed it when we took them aboard Dad’s cabin cruiser to the outer ledges of the bay so they could view the seals. Grandmother’s half dozen or so German Readers came to Maine during two weeks every summer for relief from Boston’s heat and to keep up in their former language. Generally, they used 19th century family sagas and romances, which they read to one another as they sat and knitted in the evenings. Aboard the boat, however, they would exclaim and be cheerful at the playfulness of the seals, while I passed around little cups of sherry and a tray of Ritz crackers which had experienced more humidity than was good for them.
At my age of sixteen, I was impressed by the German Readers.
For example, it was not easy to bring them aboard. Dad and I would power the cruiser over to Grandmother’s—her house was nestled just back from a wide rock with her beach down below. She had no dock. Dad would lie-to in the boat about fifty yards off as I ran the launch back and forth to the beach and brought these ancient ladies off shore two or three at a time.
They would need to wade into the surf before clambering into the launch, and then, when I pulled up alongside the cruiser and each boat rocked on the sea, they would need to climb aboard over the gunwale. The boarding ladder had three steps. A lot of leg swinging was needed, up and over the side, and balancing on the after deck, before each lady was safe to totter to a bench and to sit down. Usually, all this was accomplished while wearing a loose skirt.
I had known these ladies my entire life. They were all in their seventies by then—widows, gemutlich. Most of them represented families that had been in American for several generations at least. But two, as I recall it, had immigrated to our country with husband and children in the 1930s.
Deeply cultured Germany—imponderably—in the 1930s was becoming a place where it was not a good place to be.
At my age of sixteen, I ran barefoot over any boat in any sea. For me, there was no place near, in, on, or under the sea that was not a good place to be.
But I remember an imponderable regarding these ladies which emerged for me at my age of sixteen. As I became stronger and more flexible, these companions of my Grandmother became weaker and stiffer…and yet they waded, and they climbed, and they tottered bravely upon the deck just the same.
I didn’t know anything about this business of being in one’s seventies. I couldn’t conceive of it. Now and then, though, I felt their eyes bearing upon me thoughtfully, I, who was my Grandmother’s first grandchild. I, who was so much the spit and image of my father. I, who ran barefoot over any boat in any sea.
The ladies seemed to me to be weighty with how strange their lives had been, stranger than any of them expected. I could not articulate this weightiness which showed in their eyes. I sensed it but could not fathom it.
What point had they found? Was it similar to what I have found now?
The German readers did not caution me about my life to come—how could they? My life was imponderable, its strangeness yet to be revealed.
But I do not think that any one of them—were she alive today to discover that I have written my life down in order to make literary and theological order out of my own personal flux—I do not think that any one of them would find that fact improbable.
The man was on top of the world. Or on top of New Hampshire. Or, merely, on top of New Hampshire’s Mount Sunapee.
He sat on the deck of the summit lodge with a 360 degree view, interrupted in a few directions by clumps of trees, and in one direction by the mechanism of the ski lift. The sun was warm, for February. There was little wind; the ski runs were well groomed. It was a Wednesday. School vacation week had brought families to the mountain, the man’s family included. At the moment, though, he was alone.
He was exhausted by the blandishment of the present time.
During vacations, many persons desire to drop out of the present, the man included. In a week, the same public arguments and scandals and breathless excitements will once again nail them all to the—might the man say ‘to the Cross’?—of the present moment. But vacation offers a momentary cessation of the noise.
“I’m looking even more like my father,” the man had said to his wife that morning, after shaving.
“Yes, you are.”
The man’s father had died twenty months before at age one hundred and one. The man’s father had been a poet—highly regarded, internationally lauded—whose fame had then faded before his own demise. But the father had possessed the toughness to hold stubbornly to life.
“You know the critics?” his father, sitting in the sun at age ninety-nine, had asked him.
“They’re all dead.”
His father had smiled. “And I’m not.”
After the man’s father reached a high place at age one hundred, he continued to push life’s rock uphill for one more year.
The man missed his father fiercely. Often, when he was driving alone, he put into the CD player a spiritual which promised that those who are separated by Jordan will one day find each other on the other side.
Also, his father had been a skier. In his father’s day, athletes ascended mountains by strapping sealskins to the bottom of their skis and walking there. A day might be occupied by a long climb, stopping now and then for a breather, a swig from a flask, and a refreshing pipe when the view inspired. There would be a picnic in the snow at the top, and then would come the reward at the end of the day—that one, long, delightful schuss back downhill again.
Today, of course, we use a speedy chairlift to carry us through the air to the top of the mountain, and we are able to enjoy a score of downhill runs in the time that the man’s father had experienced one.
Mechanical devises nowadays truly do make life’s uphills easier to master than was the case a mere century ago. But that does not justify chronological snobbery, as C.S. Lewis called it, our unexamined assumption that things of the past ought to remain in the past and ought not to trouble us cleverer moderns. Our chronological arrogance allows us—or so we think—to dismiss the truth that things of the past had their own integrity in terms of their own time. We are allowed—or so we think—to judge the things of the past in terms of what we believe are our more enlightened modern insights.
The man was sixty, and he was feeling about his own past a new weightiness. There were now accretions upon him. They were the results of life assumptions, relevant to himself in years before, of the events and philosophies and choices by which he had lived. He was beginning to experience the old person’s anxiety that these important events and philosophies and choices were hidden from young adults of the present.
What must the burden of the past have been on his father at age one hundred? That man could reach back nearly to the Boer War. The Boer War! Scarcely anyone today has even heard of it, but it was a bellwether of its time.
Lounging in the winter sun on his New Hampshire deck, the man thought back through forty of his own years, and he remembered himself on the deck of another summit lodge such as this one, but on the other side of the world. Then, he had been high in the Bernese Alps, enjoying the same mid-winter ambiance as today, except that the mountainscape was limitless—dazzling alpine peaks, stretching all the way into Italy, with the Jungfrau as a magnet to the eye.
On the deck with him were skiers who had taken the train up the valley from Schoenreid to the base of the funicular car. Then the funicular car had carried the merry group to the summit, where they had debouched upon the deck of the summit lodge and now sat in the sun, drinking beer or schnapps, and eating fat sausages with sauerkraut.
As compared with the present day, no ski garment worn by anyone on that long-ago deck was an advertisement.
The man’s father came along the deck and sat down next to him. “Just like in the 1920s,” he said, and then he laughed, “Except in those days we needed to climb up, and once we got above the tree line, it was harder.”
“There wasn’t any way to know which route across the snow fields was safe. If you were the first to cross.” He filled and lit his pipe. “And we always wanted to be the first to cross.”
The man had a vision of his father as Nick Adams, from Hemingway’s Cross-County Snow, but as a Nick touched more closely by the muse than Nick the brawler ever was.
“In those days, were you ever here, right here?”
“Above this valley, yes, but lower down,” he gestured down-valley, “by the Diableret Glacier.” His father mused a bit and then said, “You know, if we time our runs right, we could make it there today. It means skiing the snow fields above Saanen and Saanenmoser. Then we could ski back down to Gstaad and take the train back up the valley to Schoenreid for dinner.”
And was there ever anything more romantic sounding than that?
As it happened, the man and his father didn’t make it all the way to the Diableret. His father was more comfortable with a slower series of runs, and they ended by dropping down out of the snow fields and into the trees above Saanenmoser. So the up-valley train ride was shorter, and they were early for dinner, and the man’s mother was pleased.
The man’s memory up there on top of New Hampshire could take him back only forty years, to the 1960s, to the conflicts he had himself lived through, for good or ill. But when his father had been young and was skiing the Diableret, back in the 1920s, the lessons his father was concerned about came from another great conflict so recently ended—from The Great War.
The French speakers were wounded and vengeful; the German speakers were resentful and truculent; the English speakers (except some of them like Churchill) were hoping conflict itself would go away; the Russian speakers were saying nothing at all because they sagged under the Bolshevik weight and were silenced. And the Americans were ascendant…and talking all the time.
Less and less was privacy valued in society. Taste was for publicity, and human aspiration and salvation was adjusted now in political terms—what can government do about man’s lot, how can government use humankind for its own glory? And Christianity was no longer the one world religion that was generally understood in the West to be true.
But the man’s father had his own father—the man’s grandfather—back in the 19th century. The lessons learned by the adults of that 19th century time concerned what had happened in their own pasts.
Big were colonialism, its pros and cons, and also rationalism’s challenge to religion. Manifest Destiny was, indeed, still manifest. Explosions were occurring in what was later to be called psychology, physics was bending time and finding that light has gravity, and cubism, Dadaism, and other movements of the artistic avant-garde were delighting or affronting, depending. The big storm that rumbled over the horizon was the fight between capitalism and communism. That would have its hellish impact later…but only after the democracies finally decided to fight back against their own destruction and defeat fascism. Then they could turn to communism.
Yet, as the man mused in his silent space atop that New Hampshire mountain (he had recently re-read a good deal of C. S. Lewis…together with the Gospel of John), there’s a longer perspective as well, and it was there in the man’s father’s day, as well as in the day of his father’s father, too.
There is an even greater Father still, and He saw the universe at its beginning, knows its present, and understands its future. He isn’t compelled by chronological snobbery; he has not our limited human perspective. What all persons struggle with today is no different from what persons struggled with in ages gone by. All persons climbed through life, up their snow fields, and they took their looks from their summits all around.
We today are also comfortable with the sins we have chosen, until we learn to ski with the Father.
The man walked down to the snow, stamped into his skis, and pushed off for the long run home.
Once, in Detroit, when my last sales appointment of the day cancelled, I went to the zoo.
Detroit has a good zoo, with lots to look at and to admire. One of the things they have is a lion house. That is, there is an outside yard for the lions, with rocks and a cliff, and with grass and trees. There is also an inside house for the lions to retreat into, which is through a crevice in the cliff where the cliff comes down.
Visitors may watch the lions outside, but they may also go into the lions’ inside lair and watch the big cats there, too.
I stood for a long time outside, pressed against the fence around the lion’s yard, watching the lions as they sauntered or lay still. I had owned lots of cats in my life, and, while I watched the lions, I entertained myself with the assurance that I held a deep appreciation for cats as a species, and that enjoyed a canny level of communication with them.
Most noteworthy among the lions was one magnificent male at the height of his nobility and kingliness. Perhaps eight feet long, with rippling muscles at the shoulders and hips, his regal head was topped with a full mane of black hair. His tail was a whip with which to express his emotion.
The favorite among my own cats had been Beamish. A magnificent male in his house-cat’s own right, Beamish possessed the strength and dexterity, from a sitting position, next to an open door, suddenly to spring into the air and to land, balanced perfectly, on the top edge of the door itself, without his landing causing the door to swing at all.
While I remembered Beamish, my big male lion occupied the rest of my attention. I ranged back and forth along the lion cage fence, trying to stay close to him as he surveyed the scene and kept the lionesses under the strictness of his eye. In time, though, he grew weary of this entertainment and made his way to the crevice into the cliff and went inside.
I followed him inside and discovered that I could get nearer to him inside than outside. Now, he was in a vertically barred cage, alone for the moment. There was a single horizontal railing keeping me away from the cage. The gap between the railing and the cage was about eight feet. When outside, I had been about forty feet away from my lion. Now, I was standing next to him!
Here—I thought—was Beamish, but in his wildest imagining. Here was Beamish into whose eyes I had often stared, nose to nose, sometimes for ten minutes at a time, neither one of us blinking. In those minutes of communication, it had seemed to me that Beamish and I were both drinking in the holy similitude of our natures. Of course, the unenlightened might deny the brotherhood of Beamish and I and speak of differences between species, but we knew better, we did.
Just so did I now stare into the eyes of my lion.
Here was a lion of Daniel’s command!
Due to our depth of sharing of all that is weighty in God’s universe, we two—my lion and I—we knew things together. My lion had the power of savagery, but we knew things together, he and I. If the need had arisen, I knew he would have muted his savagery, and he would have lain his chin on his forepaws and purred at me, and he would have allowed me to stroke his nose.
We two Romantics, my lion and me, we certainly knew how Keats or Shelley should have written of us, or how the German Romantics should have painted us. They should have shown us urgent in a swirl of cloudy fog, atop a crag, with our eyes staring into a vastness of cosmic possibility.
Even now, my lion and I, we held one another’s eyes in affection and—dare I saw it, reader—in love!
Perhaps, even, here in my lion at the zoo was the very type of Aslan, as C.S. Lewis had known him—Aslan himself, the Christ of Narnia, who loved the children so. Perhaps here before me was the very nobility that called for a self-sacrifice of such purity and of such literary and artistic absoluteness as, finally, to thaw the witch and to turn all Narnain captives free.
Yes, I thought to myself, yes, I can see it now, there in the eye of my lion.
Oh—I gave a figurative toss of my hand--what of his bars?
Did not we, all of us, have bars of our own? Was it so very big a thing in the cosmos that I should be able to walk away from his lion house any time that I wished, when he could not do the same?
From his eye, I understood that he, too, saw our fates as the Romantic puzzlers they were. We were fellow travelers on God’s green earth, he and I, and I was pleased to learn that we each took these puzzlers with the sardonic humor to which they were entitled.
Then my lion “spoke” to me!
At the very height of our conversation, my lion turned his head, turned around, shifted his tail aside, and shot a long stream of hot urine between the bars and accurately across the front of my shirt.
Note to self: Dikkon, remember to distinguish reality from poetry.