Monday, May 07, 2007
Eden ruined
Maybe things are winding down now. I'm back from Virginia. I'm now officially a GRE score (notes to self for future reference: 1) don't take that test within a month of getting married, 2) don't take that test within a month of the end of the semester, 3) don't take that test at 8 am). My last speech for class is now over and done with.

Then again maybe things aren't winding down. This is the last week of classes. Next week is finals week and getting guys checked out of the dorms. The next week is wedding week.

Anyway, here's a speech I wrote a couple weeks ago for class. The topic is "despair," so I figured it'd be interesting the think about what it might have been like on that day between the resurrection and the crucifixion. I shuffled my iTunes through Elliott Smith and Pedro the Lion the day I spent writing and prepping it to get me in the mood. Sources are linked...

We live in Eden ruined. It is distorted, perverted and lost. It used to be here. But it is gone.

One of my own brothers has said, “Because I remember, I despair. Because I remember, I have the duty to reject despair. I remember the killers, I remember the victims, even as I struggle to invent a thousand and one reasons to hope.” My brother may find it in his heart to reject despair, but today, on this day, after everything I have seen and heard, I cannot.

Look around you. Clear away the brush. Heave those rocks out of the way. You can see them. They are the ancient remains of a once proud civilization. Once upon a time there was a kingdom. It was a paradise called Eden. There was a river there that splashed life everywhere it touched. But the killers were Adam and Eve. I remember them. They shook hands with the Devil. What they didn’t see was the curse that ever since drips venom through my veins—through all of us. It is battery acid that has corroded and dissolved us. We once knew God. We know him no longer. We once knew one another. We know one another no longer. We once knew ourselves. We know ourselves no more. We once knew creation. But even that is lost. The victims are all of humanity. I remember us. Once upon a time there was an ancient heavenly connection.

I have heard it said that when God made the first man, he made him out of stuff that sang all the time and glittered all over. Then after that some angels got jealous and chopped him into millions of pieces, but still he glittered and hummed. So they beat him down to nothing but sparks but each little spark had a shine and a song. So they covered each one over with mud. And the lonesomeness in the sparks make them hunt for one another, but the mud is deaf and dumb. We’re all a bunch of tumbling mud-balls, you and me, trying to share our shine. It is not supposed to be like this.

Look around this room, this room of smothered dreams, of snuffed out expectations. There’s James and John. They’ve sat in stoic silence since morning. I remember that one time they offered to call down fire from heaven for Jesus. We called them “Thunder Brothers.” Today the thunder is quiet. They haven’t moved in hours. Over there is Peter. Peter the fisherman has never had an unspoken thought. He didn’t get back here in until late last night. He’s been sobbing in the corner, convulsing uncontrollably and moaning like something inhuman. Something happened. Something bad. But he won’t talk to any of us. We keep the door locked. I don’t know what’s on the other side. I used to think I did.

As one of your own poets has said, “I have seen the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the Gentile streets at dawn looking for an angry fix, angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night.” This is us here in this room. We represent a generation. We are destroyed by the madness of the curse, we ragtag camaraderie followers of Jesus. It sounds so ridiculous now. Followers of who? We followed him to what?

I am misery. I am alienated from my God. Once upon a time God loved us. But now we have been abandoned. He has forgotten us. If he was once friendly to us, he is no longer. This is all God’s fault. This is no sorrow like this sorrow. This is God’s gift to me. This is what he gives to me because he is angry. He fastens the curse like a yoke around my neck and its crushing me. Because of his fierce anger, we are rejected.

I am disillusionment. I am alienated from my brothers and sisters. How do I know this? Have you seen a crucifixion? Have you heard the bone-jarring clang of hammer on iron nail? Have you heard the blood-curdling screams, the inhuman moans? Have you heard the bloodlust of a crowd rise and swell with cheers and jeers? Have you seen the bodies caked in blood convulsing and quivering and then hanging limp? Have you smelled the stench of sweat and blood and rotting flesh of a body left to hang for a week? Have you heard the greedy squawking of crows and vultures circling overhead, eying a feast below? This is what we now do to one another, to our brothers and sisters. This we do in the name of Jehovah, in the name of Rome, in the name of power over the powerless. If humanity was ever a joyful harmony of voices, we are now a terrifying cacophony of fear and pain. Everyone fails me. Even you would if I gave you the chance. Any goodness we may show one another, is really nothing more than shallow manipulation. I only scratch your back so you’ll scratch mine. And I only stab your back to keep you from stabbing mine.

I am cynicism. I am alienated from myself. Shame and guilt gnaw on my soul with the same undying appetite of a flesh-eating zombie. I wear shame and guilt like clothes and carry them everywhere I go. They are my constant companions. Maybe I can deceive myself into believing that they go away. I can deceive myself a lot of ways. Pride is a lurid mistress. She makes me believe that everyone is wrong but me. She makes me believe I can do everything I put my mind to. She makes me think I will never fail. She is also a liar.

I am abandonment. I am alienated from creation. It groans. Do you hear it? Did you see the sky go black when Jesus died? Did you feel the ground shake? This world was not made to bear the curse. Tornadoes, hurricanes, volcanoes, tsunamis—creation wretches to expel the curse. And we are the carriers of the curse as if it were a virus, and so creation hates us. Men and women were not made to be buried in its dirt. The dead contaminate the ground and so it quakes, as if a violent sneeze rids the body of germs. We are like spurned lovers, humanity and creation, spitefully hurting one another.

What if this Jesus was our last, best hope? What if everything is now lost? God, our god, why have you forsaken us? I heard him cry that on the cross, that you had forsaken him. But I think you have forsaken all of us. You have always given us victory over the enemy. You were there when the Red Sea swallowed the Egyptians. You were there at Jericho with the trumpet blasts. You were there with Gideon. You were there with David when he conquered Goliath and the Philistines. You were there in the days of Hezekiah when the Assyrians mocked you at Jerusalem, but they crawled, whimpering back to where they came from. You were there when Judas the Maccabee rose up against the Gentile Greeks who desecrated your temple. God, I thought you would save the day today. So, oh God, where are you now?

Because I was there. I heard the hammer and the nails. I heard him scream out. I saw him slump and die. And I thought he was the one who had come to save us. I saw miracles. I saw Bartimaeus open his eyes for the first time. I saw Lazarus step out of his tomb. I thought a kingdom was coming. I thought I had this figured out.

It seems if we were made to hope, then we were made to lose it. Perhaps the curse is greater. “Comfort” is a hollow word. We live in a world where hope is extinguished.

We live in Eden ruined.

posted by Peter at 9:16 PM
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