Love, said Father Martin.
10 November 2015
My little apartment is silent.
Except for the blurring exhale of the heater.
Ryan is helping a widow in our neighborhood with home repairs.
He left with his tool set, wearing those outdoor work pants that I super like on him.
Right after he made us dinner of fish and veggies.
And I am curled up in the center of our couch, in the middle of our spotless, empty living room, with twinkle lights in the tree next to me, reading the conversion tale of Piscine Patel from Hinduism to Christianity. Which is: The Life of Pi, chapter 17.
Before I dive in, to give weight to when I speak for my respect for certain books, here is a bit about me and my bookshelf-
I do not believe in owning books that do not repetitively entertain or that do not profoundly move me, so that their presence in my home is like having one's brilliant mind that I've intimately connected with accessible to me at the drop of a dime. Otherwise, I am fine with all the other books I like being a car's reach away at the library. My bookshelf is pruned and primed like that of a minimalist woman, and it only contains books that feel so important to me as to be something like an extension of my own mind. I am eager to read all of Ryan's books now that we've joined libraries, and perhaps broaden my tastes to his strong economic and law interests. I savor Ryan's mind, so I'm excited to see what words hold him.
And in my home library, The Life of Pi has made my cut.
To start, it is in the setting of India - the first international country I ever set foot, so I have a great nostalgia when I read. Also, this book carried substantial meaning to me before I even read it. You see, I grew up in a small white-girl gang. There were four of us, starting as 9 year-old hoodlums. The types of organized criminal youth who glued their body parts to each other's with gluesticks and crawled around on the floors underneath blankets, croaking, "Mauled by bears. Mauled by bears." Basically, we were forced into this cult because we each made no sense to anyone, so upon discovering each other, our nonsense was now appreciated. And also, extremely hysterical. And upon that bond is how it all began. We were each of different hair color and different faiths. Mormon, Catholic, Agnostic, and spiritually into angels and auras. And each one of us literarily curious, to some degree, drawn to books in our own interests and backgrounds. Except, The Life of Pi made a mark on each one of our reading lists. We all found it religiously beautiful. And due to our diversity, I found that fascinating.
For me, Chapter 17 is perfect to standalone. It is so provoking towards the intensity of Christ's atoning love. Though it is not discussed in a traditional sense. And by that I mean, not told in the language we use, nor the descriptive phrases we say. And it doesn't start in our same point - where we are already widely saturated to the story, and it feels like a tale we were raised on. This chapter is told from the perspective of a zookeeper's son who is raised Hindu. And when introduced to Christ, the "avatar of God on the earth", against the powerful Hindu Gods, Christ makes no sense to him. And as this boy continues to think about Christ's life, it makes less and less sense. Until finally, the lack of sense in Christ NOT being a mighty and huge God, above the ranks of human mortality, finally depicts what a man of humble love He was. And that depth of love is something this Hindu boy has never felt so close to him. Christ was this boy's first awareness of a god who doesn't not reign as one, but is as just one of us, a man.
My favorite passage condensed (with a bit of my own additions so that it flows):
"And what a story. The first thing that drew me in was disbelief. What? Humanity sins but it's God's Son who pays the price? I tried to imagine Father saying to me, '[description of all the zoo animals hurting and killing each other]. Something must be done. I have decided that the only way the lions can atone for their sins is to feed you to them.'
'Yes, Father, that would be the right and logical thing to do. Give me a moment to wash up.'
'Hallelujah, my son.'
What a downright weird story. What peculiar psychology.
I asked for another story, one that I might find more satisfying. Surely this religion had more than one story in its bag--religions abound with stories. But Father Martin said their religion had One Story, and this is the one that they came back again and again, over and over. It was story enough for them.
"That a god should put up with adversity, I could understand. The gods of Hinduism face their fair share of thieves, bullies, kidnappers, reversals of fortune, treachery, yes. But humiliation? Death? I couldn't imagine Lord Krishna consenting to be stripped naked, whipped, mocked, dragged through the streets and to top it off, crucified--and at the hands of mere humans, to boot. I'd never heard of a Hindu god dying. Devils and monsters did, as did mortals, by the thousands and millions. Matter, too, fell away. But divinity should not be blighted by death. It's wrong. It was wrong of this Christian God to let his avatar die. The Son must have the taste of death forever in His mouth. The Trinity must be tainted by it; there must be a certain stench at the right hand of God the Father. Why would God not leave death to mortals? Why make dirty what is beautiful, spoil what is perfect?"
"Love," said Father Martin.
Coming from the backlight of Hindu God's who are powerful and mighty and shine, putting down evil and coming to grand rescues. And then there is Christ. Who gets tired and hungry and is heckled. "What kind of god is that? It's a god on too human of a scale, that's what. There are miracles, yes, mostly of a medical nature, a few to satisfy hungry stomachs; at best a storm is tempter, water is briefly walked upon. Any Hindu god can do a hundred times better. This Son is a god who spent most of His time telling stories, talking. This Son is a god who walked, a pedestrian god--and in a hot place, at that--with a stride like any human stride, and when He splurged on transportation, it was a regular donkey. This Son is a god who dies in three hours, with moans, gasps and laments. What kind of a god is that? What is there to inspire in this Son?"
"Love," said Father Martin.
"And this Son appears only once, long ago, far away? Among an obscure tribe in backwater of West Asia on the confines of a long-vanished empire? Is done away with before He has a single grey hair on His head? Leaves not a single descendant, only scattered, partial testimony, His complete work doodles in the dirt? Wait a minute. This is more than Brahman with a serious case of stage fright. (Brahman is the Hindu version of Heavenly Father). This is Brahman practically unmanifest. If Brahman is to have only one son, He must be abundant, no? What could justify such divine stinginess?"
"Love," said Father Martin.
"I'll stick to my Krishna, thank you very much. I find his divinity utterly compelling. You can keep your sweaty, chatty Son to yourself,"
"And yet, I couldn't get Him out of my head. Still can't. I spent three solid days thinking about Him. The more He bothered me, the less I could forget about Him. And the more I learned about Him, the less I wanted to leave Him.
That love. A measure of that love is not matched in Hinduism.
"Father, I would like to be a Christian."
Upward and onward,