But of Its Portending

All things die and the world moves on.

How is that for an opening line?

But death itself is merely a catalyst of change in the world. Old things must pass away and new things arise. Traditions – those old ruts worn deep into the red earth of our psychi – grow over as we depart their arid consistencies and blaze new traditions of logic and meaning into the underbrush. How this change takes place, and more importantly, why, is not for me to discuss here. Accept this: time changes people and how they think.

Must we be surprised by the shifting modes from generation to generation? How our parents thought and thus lived WAS different from their parents. The environments of our antecedents changed because of certain technologies or art influencing them and their culture at that time. Our ancestors chose to either react against or consume their culture’s thinking. In this way, they created new environments, new ruts of logic to grant some meaning to their lives. They created and reinforced “tradition” by adding by-laws and more by-laws and thus changed the traditions entirely over the centuries. This fact remains: their thinking changed and they changed.

They had to, because no method of thought is ever timeless or static.

The cycle of creation, death and regeneration continues in us. Before we die, we must build new technologies, create new art, reform the traditions, etc. not only for the sake of expression, but also because creation is what creatures reflecting the Creator must do. We must react with or against the current tides of thought just as those before us. It follows, then, that the old traditions and ideas, have weakened and rusted since our parents recreated them. Through overuse the modes have grown starkly “out of context”. Once again, no method of thought remains timeless. Rather, we in this generation, must disassemble the modes, reanalyze them, and reconstruct them, using both old parts, and new fabrications that streamline, contextualize and maintain truth to us in our age before we also die. The modes – be it theology art, logic, traditions – must change.

Allow me to clarify: the underlying morals never change, but the rules dictating and illustrating how we interact with them, do change. Truth itself will never change. The means to truth change but not the end. Another illustration is to say that many waters, many springs of thought boil forth in their time and place, creating and bleeding into semi-permanent runnels and branches which then feed the greater unchanging rivers. Too soon, those primary sources and runnels dry up and die or change direction or new fountains break through the earths surface and trickle in a new pattern. Yet all of these in their time and place lead upwards to the eternal Being of the sea.

With that thought in mind, why is so much energy forced into forming and protecting the younger generations from their context? Why arm them from sin with rusty butter knives of thinking. Let them create change with tools fitting the problems of their time. Perhaps in the days of our grandfathers, giants loomed across the land. They killed those monsters with those butter knives but now we suffer a thick plague of flies so we pray for giant fly swatters and for women and men to lift them. If time is a flood; why try to repair the crumbling dam, using old styles (merely rags) of clothes, reformation era stones of theology and logic? Wings tied to horses and carts can not fly at the same pace as airplanes. Update. Adapt.

This poem spawned from the understanding that trying to save things is futile. To fear change is a profligate sin which paralyzes self from experiencing God through the newness of change. If we embrace the dynamic circle of life, we realize that our telos is not to save ourselves or our progeny from the changes brought by “this present age”. Through death we propagate new life by allowing our methods of thought to be taken, broken down and reconstructed for a new context. OK. Enough. Read this poem. Admittedly, it’s hard to follow. This poem is meant to sooth the pain of change.

The rabbit’s in my lawn again yesterday, today 

eating as it can between macadam 

yellow heads and leaves of grass. 

From kitchen window (pane half-cocked, still wet)

I see the rabbit stooping.

Mouth to the ground, ears aroused. 

Remembers it the distant rain?

For yesterday, the afternoon heavy, gray broke 

its fasting pouring hail and water

down upon this velvet strip of earth

over rabbit’s den, over thorns and weeds

Into the deep cracked, black macadam,

Oh, the seeping rivers fell. 

“She will die soon,” I say aloud to the kitchen sink. 

look how she hobbles

like a stranger, penitent. Like a burdened pilgrim,

or prophet whose heavy tongue, weighs down, weighs down 

by this mystery of death. 

Yet no soon does this thought pass between

my lips of mind, then I understand that

the end begins only when I 

acknowledge my desire

for something -be it anything,

any experience however transcendental,

any rabbit – to live forever.

Because nothing lives forever.  

Death is inevitable, and my desire

illuminated, intensified, this truth.

In death is beauty, not of its desolation or loss,

but of its portending. 

Beyond all of the poetic jargon, this poem is a simple narrative about a rabbit that I saw hobbling around the house for several weeks. It seemed weak and sick and I strongly desired to help the poor thing. My sympathy for the rabbit wished it would never die. Which is not a terrible sentiment. Not to digress, the sentiment itself looks forward to a day when no rabbit or human will hobble sickly through a few short months or years. Despite this, the sentiment in its context remains unrealistic.

Why? And how does this poem relate to the thoughts preceding the poem?

Very simple. People fear change because they are both afraid of the ending and afraid of the pain that ending brings. A tradition is created mainly as a method of preserving and upholding human happiness in specific context. Thus the tradition is acceptable in that it create a tiny sphere of happiness for the human as long as the human who prescribes to it lives according to its standards.

Here is the problem: People are selfish to believe that their specific tradition/mode and thus their specific method of happiness is applicable to everyone in every time and space. This idea is embodied in the rabbit. We all desire our own aesthetic and religious principles or traditions to last forever.

But I say unto you that the end begins when you desire your thinking to live forever because now you are aware of the end and the inevitable shift that will happen even if you choose to ignore death. Or, if the end is realized, the tendency may be to prepare for it by stockpiling specific traditions, modes, logic, etc. onto the minds of the progeny so that they can have the same happy life you did. But you can not prolong the end. You cannot escape change. Your thinking can not preserve your ideals. In fact, I would recommend not thinking about how to preserve your thinking, rather focus on living and teaching the truth in your context. Focus on showing your progeny how to adapt. The kingdom of heaven can shape-shift into any color of heart in any era or land.

The very obvious question is “what is my portending? How will an end or change to me and my thinking and the thinking of my generation be any good?” The use of portending in the poem might be confusing. I use the word in the sense that death portends a change, a newness, a certain beauty that could not have happened otherwise.

I cannot tell you what your ultimate portending is only that if change of thought occurs in your life or in those younger then you at least you can observe and experience something new. When you die, death will be exhilarating because it means that someone new will take your mind’s place and weight upon themselves and use it’s truth for good. The world, then, made lighter by one soul, can move more easily and quickly into the Kingdom of Heaven.

3 thoughts on “But of Its Portending

  1. Thank you for the mental image of grandparents killing giants with rusty butter knives.

    Maybe we should treasure the butter knives a little and give them a place of honor for their part in slaying our grandparents’ giants? Even if we now fight our wars with fly swatters…

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    1. Thank you for your comment!
      Yes! and what better way to treasure the solidness of those rusty butter knives to use them by welding them into a giant fly swatter? I should qualify that I don’t think the butter knives, or the old modes of thought were wrong. No, they were very good for their context but now we must adapt what they used to the what we experience now.

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      1. Perhaps… As long as we don’t wield the “butter knives” and the “fly swatters” against each other, and we remember that we’re all on the same team. A team has to have some give and take…

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