Monday, March 05, 2007

Lessons from Hank Williams and the Big Church, or The Well is Very Deep Indeed

"Either the well was very deep, or she fell very slowly, for she had plenty of time as she went down to look about her and to wonder what was going to happen next." Lewis Carroll--Alice in Wonderland

Hank Williams

In Salvation on Sand Mountain, Dennis Covington explores the idea that human beings instinctively know where they come from, even if they don't. I believe in this. Somewhere in the deep, I know who I am. I know it when I hear bagpipes. I know it when I am afraid of the snakes in the garden. (And when they make me blind with fear-rage and I whack their heads off with the hoe.) I know it like I know what's True, even when I can't explain how I know or why. Last week, I bought Bill Monroe's version of the Hank Williams song, I Saw the Light, and I knew who I am when I listened to it. (Myrtle must have known who she was in her living-life, too, because she showed up on the front porch halfway through.) Hank Williams is as soft and familiar as wheat bread, clean sheets and bare feet in the summertime. He's somewhere in my vernacular. I think I've assimilated* Hank Williams. Yes, that must be it.

The Well

Lately, all the things I've assimilated are a comfort to me. I feel like Alice, tumbling down the well feet-first and in slow motion. Instead of bemoaning his tardiness, my rabbit says How could you DO this to me? How COULD you do this to me? How could you to this to ME? I want to say, "Hey Rabbit, you're the one who threw me in this hole." And as I go, fanny over teakettle as the case may be, I grab my assimilations off the shelves and hold them near.

The Big Church

Sitting in the Big Church on Sunday, I noticed a Very Old Man in the pew in front of me. His hair was very white and his skin was very brown. His wife had a slight bob in her head. At first, I thought she was just very much in agreement with the pastor, but I think she might have had a little tremor. I looked around in the congregation and counted the Old People. The Old GrayHairs. There were a lot. And I remembered how much I miss Old People. It isn't that there is anything wrong with Young People, even God says so, but I've missed those Old People in the same way I'd miss Hank Williams, wheat bread and bare feet in the summertime should I ever be denied. Old People, after all, are not as permanent as they seem. Or as we would wish them to be.
*Merriam-Webster defines "assimilate" as a transitive verb: to take in and utilize as nourishment.


Laura said...

...and sometimes even if you yourself don't automatically know who you are, others can see it seeping through. After looking at my art at U of M, visiting artist Sue Coe told me that I was born in the wrong body. My real parents are living in Japan. She was completely serious.

Robert said...

The "Big Church" fired my roommates pastor last week. ...then they told him to lie to his congregation. Actually the big church was being manipulated by one man. On man who has manipulated and deceived before. Yes, a large church here in Houston actually elected the former regional partner of Arthur Andersen to its session. (What is a better qualification than "big 5" accounting experience?) What did my roommate do, you ask? He went over to this individuals house and confronted him with the "God of hate" gospel. You know, the Jesus hates "lies, blasphemy, faithlessness" ...especially under the veil of church leadership. It was beautiful. Maybe this big church will escape the wrath of God. Ezekiel "lays the smackdown"!

susan said...

Laura, I can actually see that. I love the Japanese design sensibility that favors simple and beautiful forms. I can see that in your work, certainly. I wonder if that is what she meant?

Robert, that is quite a story and it makes me sad. At this point in my life, I would absolutely turn to dirt if my Big Church was involved in something like that. I can't take it.


Robert said...

There is an overlying theme here that needs to be told. Narcissistic men who fail in the business world will naturally run to other opportunities for a power trip elsewhere (apart from repentance). Lets call it what it is "career idolatry".

And where do they run? The church. The bad part is that the church elects these idolatrous pagans to their leadership! Why? Because they know how to raise/make money! Enter the whore of Babylon. As Christians we have a responsibility to encourage these folks not to heap God's judgment on themselves.

susan said...

Why is it so often about money?


Robert said...

'Cause if we have money, then we don't have to live, work or worship too close to the "brown" people. Plus, we have some left over to give to them so that we can feel good about ourselves.