Sunday, April 29, 2007


Jason, who is still alive, is vomited up by the dragon that protects the Golden Fleece. Nearby stands Athena, poised to rescue the hero.
"Homer meant by Athena mind and intelligence. And the maker of names appears to have had a singular notion about her, and indeed calls her by a still higher title, divine intelligence, as though he would say, This is she who had the mind of God." --Plato, Cratylus, p. 147
Let us imagine American life before and after the Revolution, or life before and after Harper's Ferry, or again, before and after Martin Luther King Jr.'s march on Selma, Alabama. The nation has survived bloody internal convulsions, as well as foreign wars; and up to this point we have survived to contemplate the "before and after". Nonetheless, our birthday today at Tholos seems to be the most solemn one so far; and we have to wonder whether "mind and intelligence" or some other aspect of God will light our way beyond the present chapter of history.

As citizens of an American nation (or as citizens of any nation) we recognize that--like the naked man in the mouth of a dragon--we are not in the usual kind of trouble.

Christian and Islamic absolutists are convinced they won't die themselves, as they bring the "before and after" to a crashing end.

How shall we frame the end of history? Clearly a species that will continue to slow cook its habitat rather than change lifestyles is not in line for "natural selection". Creationists can't figure out how mass extinction takes place. It won't be so biblical when no one's around to enjoy the end of history, and witness the harsh judgment of those they always hated, feeling liberated enough to clap and cheer and howl, as folks do at a football game. We give God more credit than that; we think God is more subtle.

Most people don't know that God was put on trial at Auschwitz by a small group of learned Jewish men who were imprisoned there. Elie Wiesel had lost his mother and little sister in the camp by that time, and it broke his heart to witness that trial. He was only a boy himself; but he understood the finding that God was wrong.

There was a "before Auschwitz" and an "after Auschwitz" and it is our responsibility to remember what happened. Keeping the "before and after" is a sacred obligation. And Elie Wiesel has said that "the opposite of love is not hatred, but indifference". Believing what he said, we cannot be indifferent to Israelis bottling up Palestinians in a ghetto. We cannot be indifferent to an American-led jihad for oil. We cannot be indifferent to Sunni and Shia pinning notes on the bodies of each other's Iraqi relatives, which read "this is what happens to unbelievers".
"There is so much to be done, there is so much that can be done. One person--a Raoul Wallenberg, an Albert Schweitzer, a Martin Luther King Jr.--one person of integrity can make a difference, a difference of life and death. As long as one dissident is in prison, our freedom will not be true. As long as one child is hungry, our life will be filled with anguish and shame. What all these victims need above all is to know that they are not alone; that we are not forgetting them, that when their voices are stifled we shall lend them ours, that while their freedom depends on ours, the quality of our freedom depends on theirs."
--Elie Wiesel, Night, p. 120
Look at the Golden Fleece! How beautiful! How near at hand and elusively out of reach! It is the venerated object that bestows blessings and healing upon the community that possesses it. Now is the moment when it should belong to the whole world.


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