Walking on Water
1999 Darwin Award Nominee
Confirmed True by Darwin (24 November 1999, California)
One particular group of Christians attempted to follow in Jesus' footsteps more literally than most. They worked to master the secret of walking on water. Diligently, day by day, the group tried to be closer to God by making a sincere effort to walk on water. These Christians continued their unorthodox practices until the leader of this small Los Angeles group unexpectedly died while practicing in his bathtub. His wife said James spent many hours trying to perfect the technique of walking on water, but had not yet mastered the ability. He apparently drowned after slipping on a bar of soap.
Note from Giles Read -- "These people obviously haven't realised that anyone can walk on water. I've done it myself. Just wait until the lake freezes..."
Mircea Eliade was onto something when he noted that since time immemorial, us mere mortals seem to be permastuck in an imitatio dei/divine drama. As above, so below. We will do almost anything to transcend our natural binds in pursuit of a supernatural power, or in Eliadian-speak, we eternally return or timeslip from profane reality back to the primordial sacred inception (cosmogony).
What compels us to slide down the axis mundi pole and down into the rabbit hole in order to hang out in supernatural wonderland? Do we inadvertently trip the invisible ground wire from time to time, or are such moments rites of passage ~ penulimate proto-journeys if you will, for that last great, one-way carriage ride to the Beyond?
In secular terms, ultimate thrill seekers well know this rush. They plunge, jump, soar, dive, race, and climb to the depths and/or heights of their existence, defying their mortality whilst summarily hoping to overcome it. That's why there continues to be hundreds of new Darwin Awards bestowed upon a new and tragically deceased population each year.
And yet, what of the religious? Check your own religiosity (or irreligiosity) at the door for a moment here. And while you're at it, set down that cumbersome little designer bag with the nice OPR [other peoples' religion] logo on it. Then try to imagine what supernatural truth informs the Vodou priestess in Toronto, or the snakehandler in Tennessee, or the modern-day dervish in Istanbul, or that sannyasin in the forests near Kathmandu.
And for that matter, what giant leap of faith ~ however erroneous the rest of us 'know' it to be ~ must that last trip have been for those Heaven's Gate adherents? Can you imagine? Neither can I. I'll never forget the surreality of staring up at the Hale Bop Comet during my stint on the other side of the globe, and wondering anew at the links between inner and outerspace.
Just as I fail to understand such cultic convictions, I cannot fathom how Abraham could sacrifice Isaac. Well actually, I kinda get how God could talk Abraham into his covenantal scheme. But had God been bargaining with Sarah, all us motherly types totally know what her reply would have been. Suffice to say there would be no need for exegetical translation with her "No way, Yahweh!" rebuttal.
Oh me of little faith and I mean that entirely in Wieselian terms, given his worldview that "no faith is as solid as a wounded faith."
Faith really is the final frontier, methinks. It is the quintessential sacrifice and leap from that somewhat solid ground of reason to the prodigious plane just beyond and around the corner.
Yes, faith, which hails from the Latin fides "to trust, believe," arguably entails no small amount of sacrifice in my books, beginning with the baby called Reason that invariably needs to be tossed out with the holy water in all such conundrum moments within the various scriptures and/or religions. Not to say that reason and faith don't live in holy matrimony - they do and must. But faith lives liveliest when tested. That is to say, when reason has long hit the road for firmer ground, or so sayeth that quote, "faith isn't faith until it's all you're holding onto."
It's the kind of big F faith that Abraham wrapped Isaac in. And by big F, I mean the sacrifical kind: one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.
But think beyond Abraham here to the life and times of other Axial Age and beyond, to the gods, prophets and messianic likes of Jesus, Sakyamuni, Confucius, Lao Tsu, Mani, Mohammed, Confucius and Agni. The sacrifice typology is alive and well with each of their prophetic deeds and words and mythos. And lest we forget, from ancient times through to contemporary, we have sacrificed countless lambs in synecdoche with God.
As civilization advanced, so too did its religious rites. Sacrifices saw a subtle shift from the violent, social-control domain of the public altar, to the ruminating psyche and self-sacrificing austerities of the individual practitioner.
One step removed from these forefront figures are the lesser characters who helped redefine sacrifice ~ if I may be so bold as to reduce the whole lot of the aforementioned religio heavyweights to a small case menial noun 'figure' for a moment. These secondary cast members in the Divine Comedy of holy historic dramas are the countless mystics, saints, and religious epic heroes who help make religious literature so inspiring and profound.
Christ and obvious scapegoats aside, there are but three in the dead poet's society of religious history that whisper sacrifice and truly walk on water in my books - Saint Francis of Assisi, Arjuna and Rumi. Beyond the ascetic archetype, we see that sacrifice is very much at the heart of each of their tales and teachings. Saint Francis - because he is the veritable posterboy for imitatio dei or in postmodern terms, WWJD?; Arjuna, because he was able to intellectualize challenging Indian epistimology in the face of battle against family; and Rumi, because he used words and dance to overcome his near constant cravings for intoxicating Turkish hashish and lascivious women. No small feats, any of them.
And so it is that I return, in cosmogonic fashion, to the Darwinian roots and heart of this blog ~ our oft pathetic attempts at hierophany.
While most of us are not half-human, half-God (except perhaps, Holy Hubby, when he stands before his sacred altar called the Weber barbeque, proclaims himself Prometheus, and works his alchemic magic with dead cows as offering to the Goddess and demi-gods and goddess who are his wife and children) ~ we can aspire to great moments of sacrifice through our lives and times. Through the sacrifice of time and energy in great or small works of social justice. Or through the sacrifice of worldly pursuits in favour of humility and devotion.
I can't lie - it would take a greater leap of faith than I currently possess to lay my children at the base of Mount Moriah - even on our collective worst familial days. And it would take an absolute Übermensch will for me to race my chariot headlong into battle against family or friend or foe, as Arjuna immortally did, regardless of the Divine game or eventual stakes.
Yet I would risk life, limb and dignity by tiptoeing barefoot across the Puget Sound for the promise of a Miracle, and the amazing and certain grace of Truth.
On that note, I must now go finish my game of Risk with Holy Hub and Holy Son. My hold on Alaska, Alberta and the Northwest Territories is as tenuous as my theological quest for God in the gaps between reason, chance and providence. The rules of both games befuddle me and the "capture the flag" metaphorical correlation between both is not entirely lost on me. Do I sacrifice where and what I have now for I might have and/or become? Conversely, both games might easily be reduced to a grand crapshoot - albeit one sacred, one profane.
I'm willing to go roll the dice for my shot at world supremacy whilst ensuring I remain queen of Alberta, my home and native land of bubbling crude. Oil, that is....Fort Mac tea.
Not only that but Alberta lakes freeze in the winter. All the better for me to do my own sacred walk on water moment, complete with a triple sowkow for good measure. It's all about the epitaph.
As above, so below.