Monday, July 19, 2010

In Which Amy Potentially Misunderstands A Famous Bible Passage

I think one of my peculiar strengths is how willing I am to be such a public blogger dumbass. This is different than being a dumbass in person. I like to think I’m okay in person – if I don’t 100 percent know the answer to something in person, I usually don’t say anything, which is why more than a few people think I’m quiet and reserved, which cracks my friends who really know me and my sister Agatha up.

Besides, if you just wait awhile, you don’t have to say anything, someone else will explain exactly what the five dream levels are in Inception (because God knows I still don’t get it. Except that I would like very much to have Joseph Gordon-Levitt in charge of my survival in a zero G dreamscape. Yes please and thank you.)

But online, especially here on this blog, I have zero problem talking about stuff I don’t truly understand. What’s the difference? Well, this blog is SUPPOSED to be about God, Jesus, spirituality, that sort of thing. And anytime anyone waltzes in with The Answer To Everything when it comes to religion is just begging God to smack them down. Repeatedly.

And if you have the Dumbasses like me to pose the questions that you may or may not already know, you either #1 – Get the smug benefit of thinking you’re smarter than me because you already knew that answer (but watch out, you’re begging for a smackdown) or #2 – Secretly thank me for asking a question you always wanted to, but didn’t because you didn’t want people to think you were a dumbass too.

I proudly admit my dumbass status when it comes to God, Jesus, spirituality, that sort of thing. I AM A DUMBASS! YAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYYY!

But I’m trying.

So here’s the latest example. It’s a very famous passage, and I’m sure you’ve heard of it, even if you don’t go to church:

Matthew 6:27-29

27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life[a]?

28"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.

It’s so nice, Luke said it twice!

Luke 12:27-28

27"Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 28If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!

Wella’s Stella (she is her own person, but I think it’s funny how it rhymes) and I had been emailing back and forth last week about a few things, and in trying to bolster my courage, Stella had said there was an amazing NPR story by Garrison Keillor about that verse and she signed off with “You are a lily.”

To which I thought, that’s nice in one of those crunchy granola Christian-ese whenever-you-wanna-talk-about-God’s-beauty-and-grace-you-tie-it-to-one-of-those-environmental-examples-like-flowers-sunsets-walking-in-woods-kinda-things-but-I’m-not-really-a-lilly-because-I’m-kinda-bloated-right-now things.

Even though Stella had no knowledge of my thought process, she followed up with the link to the Garrison Keillor story, his beloved News From Lake Wobegone segment (YOU GUYS! This will make My Mother The Phone Harpy and my Dad The Great Stoic Wonder SO HAPPY). It’s segment four, if you wanna hear it for yourself, the story about Bob, an aging dancer who invites his parents to New York City to watch him dance in what might be his final performance.

Here’s the most important part, in case you don’t have time to listen –

"The Arts is a life of faith. It's pure faith. People preach about faith who have no idea what faith is, but artists know. Artists are the lilies of the field that Jesus talked about in the Sermon on the Mount. 'Consider the lilies - don't worry about what you're gonna eat or what you're gonna wear; consider the lilies. They toil not and they spin not, and yet I say unto you that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.' The life of the artist is pure, pure faith."

So when Stella sent me the link, I dutifully listened, was dutifully moved in the dutiful manner, and dutifully emailed her back:

Yes, I believe that The Arts is a life of pure faith


With the lilies in the field example, I always think about the lilies past the bloom. The ones who are dying, or half dead on the vine. Not all the flowers in the field are shining examples of beauty. What about the really ugly mottled flowers of the field. What about that awful flower
(I meant the Corpse Flower!) in the Huntington Gardens that has the most unbearable stench when it blooms every ten years or so. What happens to all those flowers, huh? I suspect I may be the Stinky One. Heh.

Because that’s what’s always bugged me about the Lilies In The Field example. I’m sorry, but we’re not all lilies, okay? Oh God, I’m going to hell just by saying that.

No, we’re not all Lilies In The Field, because some of us, perhaps a great many of us, create art that is frankly, not good. I include myself in this grouping. There are BUNCHES of times where I’m not happy with what I’ve written. I know I can do better. My friends know I can do better, but they’re not telling me because they’re concerned I’ll beat them up, because they know I go to Boot Camp twice a week in addition to my regular gym schedule, and my guns are awesome.

They don’t have to be concerned, because I am my own worst critic. It’s very rare that I write anything to the degree that I think approaches Lily In The Field Status. I think it’s happened maybe once or twice. Out of twenty plus things I’ve written, I can say I honestly like Zig Zagged Ostrich. I adore Muppet Midsummer Night’s Dream so much that I don’t give it an assumed name. (but I wrote it! I wrote it! It’s mine! Come find me by googling it!) The rest are okay. Not great, just okay.

I haven’t been a Lily In The Field since 2005. And even then, you can’t rest on your Lily status forever, because we all know Lilies aren’t forever, like anything, they wither, they fade, they die.

Which is why I never really bought the Lilies In The Field parable.

And Stella, who has SO much more patience than I do, emailed back.

I got the feeling it was about taking it one day at a time.


This is where taking it day by day comes in for you. In the middle of the day, you're in bloom. I think God's saying to you that you're in the mid-day - maybe even in the morning. It's early, yet...even though it feels like sunset (or midnight) sometimes.


(Amy The Writer says) “What about that awful flower in the Huntington Gardens that has the most unbearable stench when it blooms every ten years or so. What happens to all those flowers, huh?”

They become very, very famous. For 10 days every decade.

(Amy The Writer says) “I suspect I may be the Stinky One. Heh.”

Doubt it. But I'll come smell you if you like.

This is why Stella is awesome and I am a Dumbass. Not because she’ll come and smell me (but that is awesome in and of itself.) But because I thought the Lilies Of The Field example was about the Quality Of Your Art. And instead (I THINK), it’s about Be Patient And Take It One Day At A Time.

It’s not (I THINK) that the Lily is beautiful. But that the Lily exists in that very moment. The Lily doesn’t know when the end comes. The Lily (I THINK) doesn’t know there is an end. The Lily just Is.

In whatever state, whether budding and about to burst, or full bloom, or faded, or withered and dying at the edges and nobody looks at it like I am afraid I am. The Lily Just Is.

And just to prove that I am a total dumbass, I make these official declarative statements:

1. The Lily takes it one day at a time.

2. Stella is an awesome friend and you can’t have her. She has her hands full with me. HA!

3. I do not smell like the Corpse Flower. I would love to smell like Stargazer Lillies. But I actually smell like Vanilla.

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