10 May 2016

Demi-thoughts, with a parable quoted in full

Today I have nothing to say. I’m writing these words after waking; not because I want to, but rather I’m… I almost said “whipping myself like a mule,” but that’s not true: I breathe the process too eagerly to need to be whipped—my superego requires nothing more than to glance my way and I’ll perform stupendous tricks.

The labors of the spirit. Supposedly they are their own reward. That seems like a correct assessment, I think it’s true; but I also say it’s healthy to question everything, even the things that seem right… especially the things that seem right.

Life will always feel like a bait-and-switch unless you find your bliss in the NOW, in the present moment. Is that sound advice? Perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps it’s better to plan for the future. My sweetheart and I were reading Juvenal last night, who says, in his seventh Satire (Peter Green’s translation):

But what will the harvest yield, what fruit will all your grubbing / Bring you?

I’m bad at mastering the payoff, by which I mean something like maximizing the return on one’s investments. I’m good at pouring energy into tasks that appear thankless at present; yet I’m remiss, to say the least, at collecting interest… I’d rather broadcast seed and let grow what will. Because of this, I fear that I’m the worst servant in the tale that Jesus tells in Matthew’s gospel (25: 14-29)…

For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.

Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.

But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money.

After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.

And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.

His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them.

His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.

His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.

I’ve always felt uncomfortable about this story, because I have an aversion to the realm of financial dealings that Jesus is troping on. But I am located on either of the extremes—it all depends on what my true talent is. I assume that my gift is imaginational; if that’s correct, then I invested wisely by writing my books (“going in for my chances, spending for vast returns,” as it is written in Whitman’s “Song of Myself” §14). However, if my gift is social, then, by failing to become the U.S. president in 2016, one of my best-loved ancient Nazarenes might judge me to have turned out “wicked and slothful.”

But I’m out of time now, dearest diary… so, sometime soon, please remind me to mention the other biblical passage that puzzled me when I reviewed it this morning—the one from Luke’s gospel (16:9), where Jesus is said to have said:

Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.

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