Thursday, October 9, 2014

and...A River Runs Through It

I love this movie and book, inspired and written by Norman Maclean. I remain ever fond of the quote below:

Until now, I had never really thought of this quote in light of Revelation 22:1-2. Here is the King James version of the Revelation text, which would have likely been the working text for Maclean and is one of mine for today:

And he showed me a river of water of life, bright as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the midst of the street thereof. And on this side of the river and on that was the tree of life, bearing twelve manner of fruits, yielding its fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

Quite a few images come to mind at this juncture from Maclean within the context of scripture. We have imagination around creation and those first words from Genesis, some of the last words in Revelation (above), and the flood words from Genesis' sixth chapter.

Why has this merger never occurred to me? I have preached this quote. I have watched the movie more than ten times over. Here's my trouble up to now: I was mostly thinking of fishermen, disciples, and images such as Matthew 4:19 -- And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.

Also from Maclean's pen:
In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing. We lived at the junction of great trout rivers in western Montana, and our father was a Presbyterian minister and a fly fisherman who tied his own flies and taught others. He told us about Christ's disciples being fishermen, and we were left to assume, as my brother and I did, that all first-class fishermen on the Sea of Galilee were fly fishermen and that John, the favorite, was a dry-fly fisherman.

You may appreciate from the weight of this fishing motif how Maclean's visions previously had me thinking solely of the works of man, inspired by God, but nonetheless the works of man. You would not have to know me long to learn that the intersection of ordained ministry and some other activity, fishing in this context, is the basis of my own theology and practice. But it is for that reason, why I had been closed off to a broader brush stroke offered here by the poet, Norman Maclean. 

Here we can delve beyond the works of man, those who choose to follow and drop nets and become disciples bearing the fruits and blessings that spring forth from such choices. We are into creation, redemption, and big big waters.

I think of a river that runs through a giant tree.

When the great Flood came to pass
is it possible that Noah scanned from atop the waters 
the splitting of a giant tree, 
the tree of life,
and it grew closer and closer
seemingly sucking his craft toward it in a great wave 
yet Noah and his crew, 
expert surfers on this epic tide like none before, 
saw the tree(s) at a frightening pace as they screamed headlong through the fissure, 
wondering if they would hit either or both sides of the tree with their prostrate tree, the floating wooden craft he and his had built and now clung to for life?
Did they continue on their journey downstream, 
far away from the place where the river split the giant tree, 
only to one day return,
descendants, generations later 
now from the eyes of John of Patmos, 
they cruised again down the river observing the tree on both sides now?
Even more forceful as all things now merged.

Searching for images of rivers that have split trees leaves this author dissatisfied. Here is the best of what I can find in order to keep the imagination flowing, a split California Redwood, but it is far from all I want.

We often think of Noah's Flood as water coming up solely from below, from the ground, rising up, but maybe it came in all ways imaginable and unimaginable -- Tsunami's and Class VxV rapids. That'a a Class 25 rapid as multiplication tells us, which is bigger than my imagination. For those who can locate in their minds a basic washing machine rapid known as a Class V, well a class VxV is beyond human imagination in terms of destruction and transformation. Basically, it's a Tree Splitter, A Tree of Life Splitter.

I have left out hokey Sunday School renditions of Revelation 22, for they typically do not lift up my imagination. I don't want to think of a gentle babbling brook that is divided by a tree. It's not just about what I want, but think of the rest of the book of Revelation. Four Horseman and Seven Heads invite us to imagine a Class 25 Tsunami here as we draw near to the end.

I hope some artist will draw this scene, maybe in a tradition such as Transcendentalism, but we need Super Transcendentalism. A rapid with a black hole piercing through it at the speed of sound splitting the largest tree the world has ever seen.

Think of MacLean's language, all things merge into one... 

That's a lot of things,
All Things
Certainly, all things
a lot of water
And a big ole' tree

I leave you with a ruptured imagination.

Class VI rapid, barely navigable, just scratches the surface of what we are after.

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