Story is Our Sacred Duty

And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.

Genesis 2:19, KJV

We speak for mountains, for oceans, for dirt and dust and dead civilizations, for rain and rivers, for trees and toads and triceratops, for the dead, for the future born, for ourselves. We are the conscious speaking beings of our planet, and our words have a weight and responsibility. Each word is a prayer, a promise, and a spell. We bind them in our books and bear them in souls. Out of the loom of our minds we weave our world.

Yet, we are not the fullness or center of the world. Rather, we are the sacred authors of its stories. We are the parts of the world that speak back to it, those motes that fling our fragile bodies beyond its borders to gaze back upon it and ourselves. And so, we have the duty of doing it’s seeing. In our tellings we accept the first task given to man, to name that which surrounds us, and in doing so to partner again with God in creation.

When we realize our words as being we create, we accept the mantel thrust upon us at Birth. When we live without this knowledge or when we resist accepting it, we distance ourselves from being meaningful humans. We mute ourselves—we mute the being whose first duty is that of speaking the being of all, speaking the fullness of existence, giving name and meaning to all we see, hear, touch, experience, dream, nurture, love, and destroy.

This is our portion of life to ever be at work at our first duty. To see, to name, to speak the world into meaning, after God speaks it and us into being.

Evil meaning is not the fault of God, it is our own manifestation.

Nor does beauty belong to God, it is our meaning to make.

God made the substance—the very time and space we exist in and the matter/energy that we exist of—of our world. But man determines what that substance does and what it means.

Our birthright is more than we allow ourselves to imagine. And our lack of creativity is our fundamental flaw. It is when we fail to imagine more for the world we inhabit that we fail our part in the creation story.

This first sin in the western mind came with imparted knowledge, rather than made meaning. We ate the idea of a world that breaks apart into good and evil, and so our meanings and lives became locked in perpetual struggle.

When Nietzsche imagined a world of meaning beyond good and evil, he sought to take us back to our initial mental wonderland and that sacred First Breath of humanity. God breathed into Adam then assigned him the first task of naming all that saw. The gift of humanity—reason, sight, speech, the gift of meanings and ways infinite in direction—came with a duty. The naming was not simply a process of language, it is itself a story of our fundamental nature. We make meaning before we make good and evil. Meaning exists outside of this dichotomy.

When we trade the challenge of making meaning for the perceived peace of an imparted story we choose as truth, we shut ourselves off from our purpose and the human spirit breathed into us by God. Our souls are never saved in the battle of good and evil. Our souls are freed when we give meaning to the stories of life; we make a small degree of order in the Chaos—a beachhead on which to build.

Jesus taught by story. He described the duty of life in his stories about himself. “I am the way, the truth, the life. No one comes to the father but by me.” This is not a law—this is a story.

Jesus is the story of humanity, returning us to our relationship with God not by profession of a belief, but by the living of a way—seeing and making meaning of the spirit of religious teachings. We must See the poor and sick and disinherited. We must Speak with them and share in their portion of the Story. Yet, we resist because to make meaning of their experience is a challenge to our comfort and wealth.

Jesus showed that life is more than imposed rules and roles. Jesus challenged those rules and roles again and again not by arguing from them, but by showing a way beyond them. When asked about taxes (Matthew 22:15-22) his response challenged his questioners to consider an image on a symbol (Caesar’s face on a coin).  The underlying meaning is that we are images of God and we should render unto our maker what is due to our maker. The parable is not about money and paying taxes (this is the limited viewpoint of his questioners), it is about performing sacred duty and honoring our nature.

We can take the parable further and say that in our making meaning we impose a tax on those who carry our words and meaning, and that rendering due is a process of joint responsibility. If we imagine our words imposing a duty on our listeners and readers, by those closest to us, perhaps we will choose to make better meanings. Perhaps we might make rendering due a life affirming process of mutual seeing, rather than a transactional one of give and take. Laws hold people responsible for actions, religions hold people responsible for choices, but I imagine that God holds us responsible for making—and being—Meaning.

When we stop seeing all things through the rubric of good or evil; when we stop making the full measure of meaning simply knowing and following the laws/customs of religion and the laws/customs of the land, when we instead choose to love God and to love one another, we move beyond good and evil. We move into the Kingdom of God. It is a choice and state of mind, not a place and time.

We do not thrive as robots of good deeds or as believers of a specific narrative. We are at home as poets of dreams. When we dance our life/death we Live. We form the world by the sounds of utterance that form never ceasing streams of meaning. We make our place in time by snatching mere moments and giving them space and time in form and line or in measured meter, note, and melody.

We trace out these spells in technologies of symbols. These cure into concrete memories that carry our consciousness through chaos — this small order hard earned as an act of resistance and ego without which we lose all we ever were, did, or dreamed.  We write runes that challenge Imagination before they grant answers. Silent sentries stacked and ordered, waiting for eyes to see, and minds to make their meanings new again in the fertile soil of new imaginings.

What wickedness can we not imagine our way around or out of? What hope do we fail to dream and speak? What limited meanings in ruts of habitual thinking take us to graveyards of every dead civilization, and what new paths can be made through the dark forest if we dare to do the work?

When we free ourselves from seeing and telling stories with a predetermined eye we open up the truth we find in them.

And this Truth shall set us Free.

Or shall our dream be earnest of the real

Future when we wake,

Design a home, a factory, a fortress

Which, taught with effort, we can really make?

What is we want really?

For what end and how?

If it is something feasible, obtainable,

Let us dream it now,

Autumn Journal – XXIV, Louis MacNeice


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