Yesterday we had a workshop on story telling. It appeared to me that I was the most curmudgeonly attendant there. The workshop was conducted by an Episcopal priest who is a professional story teller. Her stories were allegorical but not scriptural. The sort of story telling that scripture utilizes are simple allegorical stories that tell us something about ourselves if we identify with the stories and the characters within them. It can be creative, and constructive. Half of the people at the workshop were Anglicans and half were not church people but were interested in this sort of story telling. The priest may have specifically avoided scriptural tales in view of the participants. The act of relating to one another through listening to allegorical tales, reacting to the characters in the stories in the various ways that one does, and vicariously to one another as a result, produces an interesting and valuable insight about how one thinks about oneself and the tangible and intangible reality you think you know. Whether fable or parable, allegory or metaphor we can delve into a head space ourselves or learn from others. Of course whether we were church goers or not, there was no discernible difference in the responses. And yet when I look at the liturgy on any Sunday, the readings of scripture, the hymns, the psalms sung, even the prayers have significant elements of allegory. What that does is allow in interpretation a respect to the diversity amongst us. Our God-given right to be ourselves in all things of the spirit and to follow where that will lead in charity and harmony, even the curmudgeonly.
Posture and Identity
I see lately that Donald Trump at his meetings now sits with his arms crossed tightly around himself, wrapping his body tightly, seemingly holding onto himself for dear life. Trying desperately to keep himself together. His spokesperson brushing the glue of fatuity on what bits seem to be coming apart. Such a contrast in the past with the free swinging style of yesteryear, erect, leaning forward, hands in the air, gesticulating pointedly. He was loose and seemed fearless. Confidence galore. At meetings in the past, basking in the act of signature, displaying it with aplomb. He reeked with self satisfaction and moved with grace and triumph. At best however, a popinjay with a farrago of ideas. It's hard to align Jingoism and professed Christianity. Body language, posture, motion and outward expression have disappeared now into an inward wrapping physically that is reflective of the current state of mind of the gentleman. It also is reflective of his current belief that his country should adopt his posture, wrapped tightly around itself, inward looking, unwilling any longer to be expansive, open, free swinging, but fearful and casuistically protective. Cosseted secrets; now looming destruction. Now up a tree, dogs baying, no higher can he climb, no distance or speed he can run to elude the hunters. No tree high enough. What a turn of events. The posture of the leader. The posture of the party. The posture proposed for the country.
My mother was a cook who often cooked offal for her family, and we grew up, as most boys do, enjoying what ever your mother cooked since it was all you knew, growing up on the bald prairie. It is also true that we were flesh eaters as well but we made no distinction between flesh and offal. Now if my mother was Greek or Italian I could probably attest to her love of offal but she was of English origin and I put it down to her enhanced learning curve and willingness to try everything. I remember everything tasted pretty good.
Later in life the pianist and I spent some time in Greece and wandering through the market in Argos one day we came upon the de-fleshed hung lamb, mutton, goat,and calves , all for sale of what was left, offal swinging from the rafters. Brain attached to spine, pancreas, liver and kidneys attached as well, Heart and lungs tied in place, cleaned stomach and ileum and testicles also swinging freely. I recounted to the pianist my mother's culinary exploits and what we relished. Pancreas (sweetbreads), Liver, Kidney, Stomach and Ileum (tripe). Stomach is better tripe than ileum as the lining is thicker and juicier. Brain does not have much flavour so we tried and skipped it, so never risked Mad Cow Disease. A favorite I remember was stuffed heart. Cardiac muscle is tender. Lung is used in wieners so we got it that way. We never tried testicle, possibly a last straw for her. We fed udder to the dog. The pianist was unimpressed with my childhood tales and lucky for me flesh is always on the menu when we married. Still I have to say, by and large offal, is not always awful.
Pinocchio and Jiminy Crickets
When I was a little boy I was given an illustrated book, my favorite, about Pinocchio. Written in 1883 by Cario Collodi and popularized by Walt Disney it is a satisfying allegory of life. Ranking with the Wizard of Oz or The Book of Jonah as lessons to digest and implement. Of course the stories are colorful and remain for a lifetime but one has to be old to fully as possible digest the allegory and listen to the ghost of the cricket (Il Grillo Parlante} to implement the lessons of Pinocchio. Whether the Wizard of Oz, or the ghost of Jiminy Crickets, (Jesus Christ coded) or God could teach and reach in all these needful somewhat humans is a question fulfilled in Pinocchio and the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Man and the Scarecrow but not in Jonah. He remains too human. Of course that is the point of that allegory. There is not a winner every time. Our self righteousness doesn't always allow us to listen. When Richard gave yesterday's sermon he noted that God had changed his mind and forgave the sins of Ninevah. He didn't mention that Jonah was pissed off with God because he had been sent to confront them and God forgave them. I suppose always wanting retribution is only too human but it seems the sin of the self righteous. God, Wizard and Jiminy Crickets forgive me and protect me if I'm too human.