Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Poseidon...and My Prometheus

Mighty Poseidon, rising above the waves, trident flashing in the lightning and muscles rippling in silhouette against the red sky--the Greeks told of three brothers, Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon who divvied up creation, and this Water-God almost has a moral "middle" position, since Hades/death is traditionally bad and Zeus is good. Of course, you should know that Zeus is not good--he's a human-hating rapist jerkwad--but that's besides the point. The point, right now, is the story of the water-bending master, saved at birth by his mother from becoming the devouring delight of Cronus.

Cronus wanted to eat Poseidon, but Rhea, his mother, swapped him out for a colt and hid him among a flock of sheep. Cronus ate the colt, thinking she'd given birth to it, and Poseidon survived to become the Earth-shaker and Tsunami-maker of the Greek pantheon. As an adult, Poseidon spent most of his life punishing mortals who'd either cheated him (like the king of Troy, who got a multi-headed sea monster in return for refusing to pay Poseidon for the walls the god built) or simply ignored him (like the Athenians, who chose Athena as their patron god instead of Poseidon, who in return flooded them). When he wasn't punishing people, he was sleeping with his male or female lovers.

Yet despite Poseidon's sordid story, there's something so charming, thrilling, terrifying about the sea that the ancient Greeks flocked to worship and honor its patron god. A man-shaped being who can calm the sea--

Wait, I've heard this before. But my man-shaped being who calms the sea doesn't just take the shape of a man--he is a man. He, too, has many lovers, but lovers of his soul, bonded at heart and united with him in faith. He, too, was saved from the ravages of time (Cron means time), for his body never saw decay, and at birth all the best-laid plans of men couldn't kill him--but instead of sacrificing a colt to save him among the sheep, his mother saw him lay down his life as a sacrificial lamb to save the world.

This is my Jesus, who calms the sea. When he stands, hands outstretched, to order about the sea--the scariest part of all Jewish history, the terrible dark force of water and Leviathans and nature so frightening that Revelation comforts Jews by saying "there will be no more sea" in the new heaven and new earth--when my mild-mannered lover orders the sea he is protecting his people. His is gentle power, gentle fingers, the rippling muscles of a carpenter in silhouette against the stormy sky while the disciples panic in the boat besides him. "A bruised reed he will not break"--he is like the Ying in Daoist ideology, the gentle river that bends around the mountain, submits meekly, washes feet, and yet conquers the world and wears away rock. My sea-god is kind, and what Poseidon's tale teaches me, by example, is the sublime attraction and power of my Messiah's gentleness and, if I will follow in his footsteps, my own.

Teach me, Jesus, to calm the winds and waves with love like you do.

No comments:

Post a Comment