The next morning the cow was still alive, laying on her side. Her four legs were moving simultaneously as if she were on a last stroll through fields of gold. The calf was drinking from her udder, waggling its tail. The sight was unbearable. We decided to leave on a trip to the hill of the glowing finger.
We crossed a river. I craved to hear music andput Steve Forbert’s album Alive On Arrival in the car’s cd player. The album was Steve Forbert’s debut in 1978 and it has been dear to me ever since. Especially ‘It Isn’t Gonna Be That Way’ which had often offered consolation on the countless other occasions when dreams had gone up in smoke.
But now opening track ‘Going Down To Laurel’ didn’t seem to fit the mood nor the landscape. I took Steve’s cd out and played Life Is People by Bill Fay instead. Though I had heard it a couple of times before, the epic sweep of organ and the poignant words about war and destruction of opening track ‘There is a Valley’ took me by surprise.
On becoming laughter itself
The dying cow in the meadow had disturbed my peace of mind and caused the images of war to come back again. When had the bloodshed on our planet begun? Some would agree with Saint Augustine and say it was after the Original Sin in the Garden of Eden. But I had never read the first chapters of the Bible in such a literal way. The ousting from Eden appeared to me a rather archetypical drama of coming of age. In the beginning a child experiences no separation between itself and the world around. It does not judge, has no sense of good and evil. As you would expect of a true paradise: All is One.
Let me illustrate it by something that took place in my own childhood. I must have been about four or five years old. During a vacation my parents took me to the cinema where they showed movies for children. I’d never been to the cinema before. I sat in the front row and was awed by what I saw on the silver screen. One of the movies was with Laurel and Hardy who were driving in California trying to sell Christmas trees. At one point they start getting into a row with the owner of a house who resorts to destroying their tree. Upon which Laurel and Hardy start ruining the house. It becomes a frenzy of absurd reciprocal revenge. After a while I got up from my chair and stood bent over from laughing in front of the silver screen. The child in me didn’t judge whether revenge was good or evil, didn’t take sides with either one. Nothing stood between me and my laughter. I had become laughter itself.
But alas, it is a feature of our species that sooner or later we are all driven out of paradise. We eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil: we internalize the punishments we receive from grownups and from then on we judge ourselves as well as others. We strive to be like God, pursuing perfection for ourselves and demanding it from others, too. But we are human, imperfect by nature. And a winged angel swaying a flaming, flashing sword guards the way back to the garden of oneness and openness.
Today psychologists call this winged creature the superego. So maybe those who blame the Ancestral Sin for the violent nature of our species may not be that wrong after all. For the fiery, flashing sword doesn’t only kill the child in us, but also points menacingly to ‘them’ outside. We make judgments, divide into categories of good and evil and in the end resort to crucifixion.
Valley of weeping and thirst
Deep under the embers of a smothered heavenly fire, still hides the child in us. We long to revive it. But the road back leads through a valley of weeping and thirst, where life presents itself in ways we definitely wouldn’t have chosen ourselves. But those who walk the valley uprightly, find springs of water along the way and a hilltop at the end where grace and glory reside.
As I was listening to the closing lines of The Valley, I added one more line in my mind:
The suffering of every animal
Is written in His palm as well.