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March 27, 2013

PruningIt occurs to me that most outcomes are ignorant of their origins. As I drive down the Merritt and I see any number of trees that extreme weather has uprooted and snapped in its fringe second growth forests I realize that their great great grandparents suffered the same net result at the hands of another force of nature – 17th and 18th century colonists who tried to stave off starvation with subsistence farming.

Every one of the 500 things that I have designed in the built world will get swept away by glaciers at some point in the next several hundred thousand years. While future outcomes are easy to fluff away (just ask a smoker), the outcomes from past events are easy to understand. Except when they are not.

When I first moved to Connecticut 35 years ago Good Friday was a state holiday.

Unlike Easter, the events, if not the actual date, of Good Friday are about as verifiable as any 2,000 year old set of circumstances. A messianic rabble rouser was apprehended, questioned, and executed right after Passover.

The biblical recounting of Good Friday is a stark set of versions of how one human faced death. Most of us sorta know that each of us has an expiration date. But most of us fudge its impact in the day to day (ask a smoker).

But it is the outcome of Easter that turned the history of Good Friday into a living movement for 100 generations. Whether due to the post-mortem fanatical hype of Jesus by St. Paul, or the spectacular presence of The Risen Lord to hundreds, the outcome is the outcome – the largest belief system in the world.

Without Easter, Good Friday is pretty bleak. But just as Easter is the essence of the supernatural, Good Friday is the evidence that humans have not changed much in a couple of millennia. I guess there is solace to be found in the fact we are no more shallow, callow, and self-serving now than 2,000 years ago, but that is thin comfort.

The same awkward machination between law and the vagaries of faith that render Pilate a compelling bureaucrat in the Good Friday story made Good Friday a legally defined religious holiday in a country where there is no state religion.

We can now buy booze on Sunday, and human love is slowly being extricated from government accommodation of religious prohibitions, but when the subjective and objective meet in law and religion the outcomes are never good for every perspective.

While the Easter Outcome makes a small ancient event epochal – and “Good” – its simple, sad and indicting facts seem as fresh as a dark daisy in a world where, unlike Easter, outcomes seldom have anything to do with faith.

So I watch the next wave of tree death along the Merritt – men in huge machines (rather than leading a team of oxen) grabbing the trunks of trees, cutting them thru and setting the instantly dead, felled tree aside –  I realize that this time it’s a protective preemption of nature’s unpredictable malevolence.

First we killed trees to create a place to grow food to survive. Then, a century or so ago, we in New England realized that was folly (given 30 inches of topsoil in Kansas) – and the forest exploded in new resurgent growth in those fallow fields made relatively fertile by hundreds of years of cultivation – until nature effectively thins that herd.

Now the state kills trees because they might be dangerous in their overgrowth. Kind of like what happened to the rabble rouser 2,000 years ago. His culling by the state sparked a huge explosive growth in belief in the story that followed. Sometimes cutting back creates greater growth – its called pruning.

Outcomes are often completely ignorant of their origins.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Karen Kumor permalink
    March 27, 2013 9:28 pm

    Thank you for a meditation today. I read it after our rehearsal for Holy Week this evening

  2. Audrey permalink
    March 28, 2013 6:55 am

    Thoughtful (as always) and leaves me wondering where you stand on the idea of God as the Master Gardener. My theology of the Cross is terrifically unorthodox… and, still, God lurks in the thicket, if not, perhaps looking the other way.
    How about for you?

  3. March 28, 2013 8:39 am

    I guess I think I am a weed that has been allowed to flourish. Cultivation – Only God knows if I am an invasive species or a hot house flower – but I am Grateful in the ground I have been given.

  4. Merv Kaufman permalink
    March 28, 2013 9:36 am

    A beautiful essay, Duo. Timely and much appreciated.

  5. March 28, 2013 9:48 am

    Very nicely put, Duo,

    I think that all of this points to the cyclical nature of life and the world. We, as short term tenants, sometimes just do not see our place in the overall cycle due to our own arrogance….

  6. Julio permalink
    March 29, 2013 5:12 pm

    Food for thought.


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