Thursday, November 12, 2009

pacifist government leads to overturned stones

I'm doing a little research about pacifist governments-- if they really existed--what they might have looked like, what principles guided them, how such ideas played out in the reality of a war-prone world. Are these governments/groups necessarily religious? Naturally, I'm starting with William Penn and Gandhi.
Reading today, I ran across this quote by Penn:
If you would know God and worship and serve God as you should do, you must come to the means he has ordained and given for their purpose. Some seek it in books, some in learned men; but what they look for is in themselves, though not of themselves, but they overlook it. The voice is too still, the seed too small and the light shineth in darkness; they are abroad and so cannot divide the spoil. But the woman that lost her silver found it at home, after she had lighted her candle and swept her house.
It's the last line in particular that fascinates me. I'd never really considered this interpretation before, for some reason. I always thought about it as the same parable as the shepherd with the 100 sheep who won't rest until he has found the one lost one... I thought of God as the shepherd always searching for us... and appreciated very much that Jesus told a parallel parable featuring a woman as the personification of God searching for us (the lost coin) until we are found.
But Penn turns this on it's head. The idea that we must search for God within us by cleaning house. I like it. I like it very much.
Of course, this calls to mind my favorite Bible verse that's not in the Bible, but from the Apocryphal Book of Thomas. And the Doresse translation is best:
Jesus says: "I am the light which is on them all. I am the All, and the All has gone out from me and the All has come back to me. Cleave the wood: I am there; lift the stone and thou shalt find me there!"
Lifting stones and cleaving wood. That's hard work. But God asserts God's presence is in all things--living or no. The work is my job.
I also ran across this poem today...
Cleave a piece of wood, I am there -- by Tom Hansen (published in Literary Review, Fall 1993)

They decided to take Jesus at his word and got a piece of wood (it happened to be shaped just like a head) and planned to do exactly what he said, but first they sat it on the floor and stared at it for days ... Nothing happened. No God there.

"Well, what the Hell!" they said and got an ax and cleaved it hard and heard it all at once explode. But all they saw inside was splintered wood. Then faint and aromatic, as if from far away: a scent not quite familiar yet not strange ...

Outside they nailed the head together, bored in eyes and tamped them tight with toilet paper soaked in cedar oil. Then touched a match to each and watched. The spiritus snaked up - and after dark they saw them ... Red and staring. Burning blind.

All night long they sat there almost willing to believe: what they saw before them must be true. Above them wheeled the galaxies. Within them atoms hummed. Compacted knots of energy set free by some strange wind.

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