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2007 12 11
In Jesus’ Name

1. Naming in Vain

Our Jesus was begot of Ookpik and Sable. And though not their only begotten son, we believed him their most miraculous.

When Jesus vanished one whole year we thought him dead. Not so, according to the veterinary phoned us from afar. Not yet. Despite his spine getting mostly severed by the car that hit him. He might survive another week, said the vet. Maybe two.

Seven years later, Jesus suffered fatal Feline Leukemia. But it was when his pain got too much for me that I killed him. I killed and then wrote “a Wake” for him. Inspired by him. By the elemental, pure as flame truth of him.
We were laughing when we named you Jesus.
We were fierce and free,
and you were such grace made flesh that forever was moments in your gaze.

I remember the world bending
to your silent incantations
-- how could it be your fumbling feet --
and your vanishings..
in fairness, perhaps, to spheres undignified by you.

I remember how you burst back from corners of an eye,
on the breath between a blink,
saying, "Hold me now. I love you -- I am fierce."

How long before your undeniable heart was beating through us too,
drumming our abstracted silences a vapouring beneath the thunder?

How long until the clan of us
was shouting "Jeeeesus!" in the rain and chirping at bushes?

I remember your foregoings,
the conclusive entrances of your returns
-- sunshine bottled silence corked with night --
rain, snow, earth, the very seasons glittering your midnight arctic cloak, singing,
"I have grappled unknowns by the throat. Dry me. Feed me. I have returned."

And when you did not return..
the silent night of muffled questions in the dead of winter for a year..
your prisming light receding, candling on waves of time, drifting from our shore...

But you remembered us.
When we found you broken on that metal slab,
spine crushed,
beset by soot-sayers
-- "Walk? Well, he might live," --
you smiled, you smiled at us
dear heart and sang again,
"An unknown has grappled me too well. Take me away from all this now. We are returned."

And so we were.
And it was spring for seven years;
a leaping spring,
a spring of leapings,
and oh, but how you lived.
How you walked, prowled, roamed, just as you loved,
on every side of wild.

You taught us a feral love,
and every week another lyric for the singing of it.

But now we called you Kitten
because one resurrection was enough.

Seven years of spring...

When spring was ended
-- and summer too --
when another prophecy of doom ushered the winter of our hearts..
it was by my words, by my side, in my arms that you died.

How your last sigh makes me wonder where lost to eyes the spirit flies.

Did I hold you well enough
my love?
Will you wait for me,
my love?
Oh, wake my heart.
Oh, wake again.
No regrets having named him Jesus. Not one apology. It was meet, it was right and he’ll never be outside my heart. That recent fiasco over the Muhammad teddy bear made me wonder, though. Made me wonder something completely different from where lost to eyes the spirit flies. Like, how glaringly cultures keep clashing.

Our Jesus had itching feet. Went regularly missing days on end long before going missing one whole year. And we’d go out searching him. Regularly. Rain, snow, sleet, whatever. Worried out of our skulls. Shouting “Jeeeee-sus!” over top our lungs like revivalist circus freaks. Chirping, making come-hither sounds at each every bush and hedge. Which there were plenty up at University City.

What did passers-by think? How did neighbours react our roaming hollering for “Jeeeee-sus!” at all random hours? That we must have been fully certified as freaks, no doubt. But so what of it? We could hardly have cared less to save our souls. Each time after finding our Jesus, feeling all giddy and born again by our relief, we’d giggle about it something fierce.

We took having no care what everyone thought entirely and carelessly for granted. Reading about the Muhammad teddy bear -– how likely it might have led to public lashings, imprisonment and (or) even to death -– etchingly underscored the isolation of our carelessness in both time and space. We’d not have been calling for our Jesus that way in European middle ages. Nor in the Salem, Massachusetts of 1692. Nor would we have named him Muhammad –- never mind gone out hollering his name in vain at all random hours -– anywhere and everywhere fundamentalism rules to present days.

Intent has no bearing where fundamentalist ideology keeps ruling religiously. Fully admitted: I was laughing when I named him Jesus. Thank god for mercifully permitting my existing in 21st century Toronto, Canada. In times and spaces where taking naming in vain has finally become the laughing matter it ought always have been. Sure I was laughing. Doesn’t mean I was just joking. I meant it as an admirer of most everything the historical person Jesus stood and died for. Because our Jesus so clearly, obviously and undeniably not only was a person -– but, as a person, was the very best anyone could have aspired to become. I meant to un-ask whether animals are people -– and to begin asking whether humans might ever become people too. Not necessarily pure as flames and driven snow like our Jesus was. Nor wholly innocent of any original sinning. Just whether humans might start aspiring to even some personal decency. Some dignified personhood. Preferably prior totally consuming and (or) catastrophically annihilating what remains of (not only) our natural world.

Intent has no bearing where and when fundamentalist ideology rules religiously. Where and when naming in vain constitutes fundamental sinning. Where and when not totally submitting isn’t just criminal but damned and diabolical. Where and when questioning means not to ask but to challenge god’s truth as immutably given by whatever avatars or prophets.

We’ve been taking our way of life carelessly for granted. All of us. As if our cultural principle of tolerance were somehow normal. As if the foundation our principled tolerance provides for Canadian pluralism, democracy and Toronto multiculture were somehow universal. As if.

Better start appreciating not only the meaning, significance, source and origin of our principled tolerance but, perhaps more urgently, how religiously intolerance rules human cultures to this day and age. Otherwise we doom ourselves to repeating fatal errors while, as Al Gore reminds, time fleets ever faster from natural space. However much the rage a few millennia back, it’s just not such a great time for clashing cultures any more. Better stop taking -– even and especially our own –- cultural principles for granted.

2. Sticks and Stones

Ideological divisions merely over naming in vain expose gaps across cultures. Potentially deadly gaps plummeting precipitously down to our most fundamental cultural principles. Gaps perhaps too culturally incommensurable for understanding ever to bridge.

Here’s one recent –- glaring –- example. On November 23rd, the Toronto Star blared how, Prodded by Canada, nations punish Pakistan:
Canada joined other Commonwealth countries yesterday in deciding to suspend Pakistan’s membership to punish President Pervez Musharraf for invoking emergency rule and jailing thousands who opposed him.
Moreover. Also on November 23rd, the Law Society of Upper Canada sent me e-mail containing the following text:
In response to the situation in Pakistan, the Law Society of Upper Canada and the Ontario Bar Association invite you to attend a Gathering… Lawyers and legal associations around the world are united in expressing their support for their colleagues in Pakistan, and calling for the restoration of the rule of law in that country. The blatant violations of human rights and the attacks on the rule of law in a democratic society are unacceptable.
Yeah. Right. “Democratic society.” Has considering our NATO culpability in destabilizing Pakistan even occurred to anyone? I ask this despite greatest admiration for Benazir Bhutto and for the accomplishments of Canadian NATO troops. Despite lacking sympathy for “President” Musharraf. Despite all my sneering those cheering terrorism, those accusing our troops of murdering innocents and those claiming to “support our troops” by struggling to have the Canadian military disbanded. I have to ask this both despite and due to my life-long proponence of democracy. Has it even occurred to anyone how culpable we are in Pakistan?

We’ve been railing at the Bushes for the better part of a decade. Rightly so. For only the ridiculous ideological mingling of might making right with sole super-powering and the American Way could so ignorantly have emerged with the notion of imposing democracy at gunpoint. When democracy used to mean not imposing at gunpoint. Back when America used to be the bastion of democracy, anyhow. Thus has the cultural meaning of democracy been eroded beyond recognition and tarnished beyond repair. And in Middle Eastern cultures where democracy had never acquired non-laughable cultural meaning, the power vacuum of ignorant intervention has resulted in -– how many? –- millions of casualties.

We’ve been right to rail at the Bushes. Due to that administration’s unbelievable ignorance, Middle-Eastern fundamentalist ideology has been re-enforced and multiplied –- i.e., (not only) in neighbouring Iran. It’s high past time to realize how equally ignorant we’ve been in our naive efforts to “win hearts and minds”. Because, due to our ignorance, fundamentalist ideology has been re-enforced (not only) in neighbouring Pakistan.

There’s no more likelihood of altering cultural principles, ideals and ideologies by military force or economic aid than there is of forcing or purchasing understanding.

We’d have to prove our gods stronger. And we’d better pray it never comes to that. Since the last time any democratically elected administration successfully appealed to stronger gods it was by invoking the nuclear destroyer of worlds against the divinity of Japan’s emperor.

If interfere we must where fundamentalist ideologies rule -– let’s at least cease being so naïve about it. Let’s not be playing with nuclear fire. As in Pakistan albeit, allegedly, not yet in Iran. Let’s just stop believing anything we’d recognize as “democratic” can subsist where god’s truth is manifest to present days.

[Peter Fruchter teaches in the Division of Humanities at York University.]

[email this story] Posted by Peter Fruchter on 12/11 at 01:08 PM

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