Maybe when I was a freshman in high school, I thought I might be a writer. I thought I said good things, even if I said things I didn’t understand. So I wrote stories like “The Same Fire That Keeps Us Alive” and “A Picture of the Universe,” because I had this idea that, in order to get to the transcendent, I had to transcend the mundane. I had to get beyond normal expectations. I went after the weird and bizarre, constantly asking myself, “Now, why haven’t great minds gone here? Why haven’t they made worlds where people walk upside down, their hands feet, who survive on mercury, and live on a flat planet sitting still in observation of our world?” I thought I needed to be a prophet.
A prophet and seer are different. A prophet speaks on behalf of God, when God is unwilling to communicate his revelations through normal means. A seer is an interpreter of the mundane for the blind. He shows the blind that the transcendent is in the mundane. This is a very Chestertonian idea, I know. So is this next one. The transcendent is not a shy puppy that the seer has to coax out of some hiding hole underneath the front porch. The transcendent is a sudden tornado and the seer is a storm chaser. The only people who miss it are the ones hiding in their basements, shaking puppies on their laps, telling themselves that nothing is really out there, that it will be okay.
A seer has a dirty and dangerous job. It is much less lofty and respected than the prophet. He has to get into his pick-up truck and chase the tornado with the only camera he can afford, his eyes. When the sky clears and people are sitting on their front porches waving to their neighbors, the sweaty and dusty seer has to come up to them, to be that solicitor, and tell them about what they tried avoiding. Some forgot that they forgot, but at the word “tornado,” ask him, “So? Why does it matter if a tornado just came through here? I feel fine!” Others are so conscious of their rejection, they yell him off the front porch and pick up their shotguns.
I am tired of prophets. We need seers now, people to stay outside and remind the forgetful of promises finished in the present. I could add another turn of phrase here, one about how the past is impossible and the future does not exist, but that would be pedestrian. I want to say how the promises that God fulfilled in the past were fulfilled in the present. This is a fresher concept; the past is a collection of presents. So when Christ died on the cross and resurrected three days later, those were present fulfillments. When the seer remembers, he is remembering the present. And tornadoes will continue to blast through our feeble presents like trailer parks until the way is made straight, until everyone sees him.
I don’t want you to think that God is somehow responsible for suffering, though. God hates tornadoes, because they are in rebellion. They are off their leashes. God is not against destruction and cleansing fires, where they are due, but he is against his children suffering. He does not like it when his creation groans. We have confused the metaphor of a tornado for an actual tornado. Why did we do that?
Often, I doubt whether or not I can say the things I say. I doubt what I say as I say it. All I used was a slight juxtaposition between prophet and seer (even then, some might not like the distinction), a clever but fairly vague metaphor for transcendence, and then a didactic bit about God and the problem of suffering. What I did was not enough to get us both to where I wish we could go.
And I used to think that getting to the place I want to go is the responsibility of the words. I would speak in vague language and avoid the concrete like a conservative citizen avoids it when it’s wet. I used to say that our words always fail. Our words are spoken by an idiot, I’d think, signifying nothing (reference). Why couldn’t I see that words are more than pack animals to rough up and abuse? Why couldn’t I see that words were children? They are to be loved, not condemned constantly for not being good enough. Here I could say, “after all, Jesus was the DIVINE WORD!!!” but it would be too obvious. Like lyrics, explanation is done well only when expectations are not met. So I need to think of another way to get at this, a way to hit you in the chink of your armor.
Words are to be loved, because they were given as a gift to us when we were children. We were never given the option to accept words. They were put in our mouths and we took them, because they were good. On our first day out, we craved them and for the next year or so, we tried to make them ourselves. We imitated what we craved until the world said, our bodies said, our mothers said, “That was very good.”
Thesis: Because our moms told us that words are very good, they are.
Result: Because words are very good, we are responsible for failing to communicate.
Call-to-Action: Be a slave to your words, not your words slaves to your ideas.
Since birth, I have had no choice but to learn what to do with words. Because of my parents talking to me when I could not respond, I was given a gift I could not refuse. It was never my choice. Here, there are obvious parallels between infant baptism and the gift of words. A subtle reference to the parallel, like, “my parents baptized me with words” would not do well in the jungle, so I will say it plainly: the gift of words, like baptism, is a good gift given to children which they cannot refuse. If you don’t like that, wave your hands.
Like Bob Dylan said, you got to serve somebody. There is, unfortunately, no option between the Devil or the Lord. We are slaves to the Lord, either way. We are chained to him by the gifts he has given which we cannot refuse. One gift is words.
We’re screwed, really. There is no way to be free. We are commanded to say something, even if we don’t like what we say, if we criticize ourselves as we go along, hate what we say, disavow ourselves, blame the words, hold onto a bad attitude, deconstruct, accuse God of being unfair, to dance away. Our only choice is to stay still and start speaking.
Life is very much like a mandatory dance class. The dance instructor has a gun pointing at us at all times. He is yelling at us to be dance and enjoy it. But we don’t want to. We want to have a bad attitude, when really dancing wouldn’t be so bad. Our pride holds us back; we don’t want to be ashamed, we don’t want to look silly. But everyone around is dancing. We want to stand apart. But we can’t. We are given the choice between one option; to be happy as a slave. But we hate dancing and we tell ourselves, “It wasn’t my choice to begin with to be here!” Too bad. Our only choice is to shut up and dance.