Retreat, Day 3 and Eden to Patmos, Week 14.

Today I started on 1 Chronicles, that book whose first 11 chapters are all but unreadable. These chapters are information dense and thin on structure which means page after page of eye glazing opacity: genealogies and lists and unpronounceable place names. If you believe in Biblical inerrancy it's best to avoid 1 Chronicles entirely as it is so full of contradictions, both within itself and with other parts of the Bible. You can preserve your belief  by pretending to have read it, the practice adopted, you will be reassured to know, by pretty much all of your compatriots. But there are,scattered here and there, one or two little bits and pieces which offer just enough intrigue to keep you going. So in v 2:7, for example we get  ".....The sons of Carmi: Achar, the troubler of Israel, who transgressed in the matter of the devoted things....." , and in 11:22 the record of Benaiah, Son of Jehoida who "was a valiant man of Kabzeel. He struck down two sons of Ariel of Moab. He also went down and killed a lion in a pit on a day when snow had fallen..."

So in all this stuff, there are glimpses of the people who lived intriguing lives and suffered and transgressed and triumphed. What was going on with the devoted things? It is the details which bring it to life. It is the details which show me the depth of soul which lies behind all this theory and the gathering up of facts. 
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It was cold this morning. In the night there was heavy rain and when the darkness lifted, there across the Maniototo Plains there was snow on the mountaintops. Snow! In the first week of March! After our group meditation, I walked in the cool, shadowy morning, down to the caravan. I turned on the gas heater, made coffee and waited for those who might seek a few minutes in this warm little space. 

People have been silent now for more than 48 hours,and the cessation of noise is beginning to do its work. As in a glass full of muddy water left to stand, time and stillness bring clarity. One by one people came to sit for a while and talk and it was in the details that I glimpsed a depth of soul behind the theory and the facts of lives. It is all so tender, and beautiful. It is all so deep and painful. It is all so privileged. 

Comments

Elaine Dent said…
"...in the details that I glimpsed a depth of soul behind the theory and the facts of lives...all so tender...beautiful...deep...painful...privileged." I have some listening to do today. Your writing will remind me to pay attention to details. (Meanwhile I have progressed to Numbers---today Aaron and Miriam didn't like Moses' wife or his leadership; but I note the detail that Miriam only, not Aaron, was punished with a skin disease and had to retreat outside the camp for a week. Sigh. Maybe she enjoyed the week of silence. Maybe some of the women sneaked out of camp to spend time with her.)
Kelvin Wright said…
The trouble with the historical books is that they're so full of such details. The story was written, as are most stories, by the victors, and they tell a seamless story - well, several overlapping seamless stories, actually - but they were not sophisticated enough or devious enough or insightful enough to remove all the telling details. Like a murder scene cleaned up by someone who didn't know about the existence of luminol the Historical Books have evidence a plenty for those who are not unwilling to look. So, the women in the stories wave to me from the shadows. And others of the oppressed, also.

I am astonished, this time through, at what i have missed before. There is the victor's narrrative of the escape from Egypt and the long trudge across the desert, for example. But in Chronicles, sitting there in plain view is a genealogy of Caleb implying that he didn't burst across the Jordan in late middle age, as I was taught in Sunday School, but that his family had lived a settled life in Canaan for many generations. And there was not the initial establishment of Israelite monotheism, but a long and generally unsuccessful competition with Canaanite paganism and for many centuries a blending of the two. And the story of the killing of a Phillistine giant seems to have had various retellings each with a different hero before the story settled retrospectively on the shoulders of King David.

But in all of this it has become more real for me, more human. It speaks of the struggle of people like me: culturally conditioned and limited and blind. It has stopped being a fairy story, taking place in some never never land of the past where people lived by different precepts and a God who bear little resemblance to the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ interacted with them in ways unfamiliar to me.