John the Baptist must have been exhausted. I’m not even sure the whole beheading thing wasn’t a bit of a relief given all the haranguing and beating his head against the brick wall of human stubbornness and sin for who knows how long. In my most sarcastic moments I imagine Jesus grumbling something to himself about how crucifixion would be easier than dealing with these dolts. (Yes, clergy often have a solid case of gallows humor.)
But I’m tired of it. I have a stack of posts in my queue that sit unfinished because I just cannot summon the energy to tell people, yet again, things like: sexual ethics doesn’t boil down to “penis+vagina=good. always.” Really. Or yet another set of posts about how, yes, racism still exists, yes it is a sin, and no you don’t get to say “not all police.” I’ve said these things. I’ve said them, a thousand others have said them better than me, and I suspect we all feel a bit like John the Baptist; crazy ass prophets hollering our heads off (literally) out in the wilderness while all the comfortable people refuse to make eye contact and shuffle away sideways.
How hard is it to get through our thick ape skulls that the worth of every one of us comes from the sliver of the divine that powers our soul? My dog gets it. I suspect my cat gets it but just doesn’t care, she is, after all a cat. My horse totally gets it. We human beings keep on bumbling around in the dark yelling at one another for the things we’re most afraid of ourselves and spooking at this thing that keeps swimming past our ankles, terrified it will grab us and pull us down.
I think our fear of whatever it is in the water with us is where so much of our anger, our hatred, our insistence on the rules comes from. We’ve tried grabbing a fin as it brushed past us, but our fingers slipped through it like a ghost, we just grabbed our own ankle and toppled over into terrifying darkness. Here we are, all bumbling around in ankle deep water, terrified of slipping into the depths, terrified of what we can feel beneath the waves, pulling us that direction. Pushing and ordering and forbidding one another getting too close the edge. We’ve forgotten, we were born there. Down below the surface, down where darkness and light, where chaos and order are all mixed up together. Down/Up in the firmament of heaven, where God moves like a dove, like an otter, like the great Blue breaching impossibly out of unfathomable depths.
So knotted up has our collective human soul become we can do nothing but shout one another down, legislate one another’s lives, cling with determined ferocity to what was, because any move might be the one that topples us off this little sand bar and into the depths, and that we just can’t have; because we are afraid. We beautiful, glorious creatures. We were created for those depths you know, made for them. I know, because the mermaids and angels of our imaginations are our own souls trying desperately to get us to remember; longing to be free of this shallow, narrow world. Longing to see how far down the firmament goes, how far up heaven reaches.
All those beautiful, shining souls, wings clipped, fins slashed shivering in the surf getting more and more dried out, withering away to husks; snapping and biting and clawing for every bit of space as the tide runs down the sand and time runs out. The brave ones out at the edges are already gone; maybe you didn’t notice, they simply took a step backward and sank out of the light of the harsh sun and into the dark that suddenly wasn’t; terrifying that is, freeing certainly. Wide and open in every direction; whale song echoing off seamounts like symphonies, filling the ears of all those who had been deaf until that moment.
No wonder they never come back, the rainbow hues of their fins and feathers healed the deeper they sink; laughing bubbles, realizing the tugging at their ankles was no creature but the Sea Herself, calling them home. What is behind but a shrinking, fear ladened bit of sand, water not deep enough to swim. Fear has kept us chained to shore, fear of the different, fear of freedom (real freedom). And so we erect walls, and make rules, and set orders and give everyone their place because up there on that little bit of nothing that’s all that keeps us from looking out to sea and wondering…
John and Jesus, King and the rest, a hundred thousand nameless saints who came out of closets, or sat down at lunch counters and burst free of all that fear and striving; they surface and call out to the huddled masses “swim, swim” above the waves until they are hoarse. They have seen the sandbar for the prison it truly is, it’s walls called Patriarchy, Christendom, Morality, White Supremacy, Class, Power, Wealth. The waves chip away, eating holes through which the prisoners who are bravest, or most desperate, slip free, calling back: “swim, swim, be free!”
I’m tired of throwing myself against those walls, of trying to make them seen. I want to explore the depths, I want to narrate the ocean floor of God, a spiritual Jacque Cousteau. Swim, be free. Take a breath, look for more, take some time down in the great Expanse to heal and grow and become fearless. Because from the outside? The walls are rotten, and the waves are helping our cause. This is the hope the prophets offer, the song of the depths, and a view of the crumbling prison we cannot see from within its walls.