Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Poet Thinks About the Donkey - October 4, 2010

On the outskirts of Jerusalem
the donkey waited.
Not especially brave, or filled with understanding,
he stood and waited.

How horses, turned out into the meadow,
leap with delight!
How doves, released from their cages,
clatter away, splashed with sunlight.

But the donkey, tied to a tree as usual, waited.
Then he let himself be led away.
Then he let the stranger mount.

Never had he seen such crowds!
And I wonder if he at all imagined what was to happen.
Still, he was what he had always been: small, dark, obedient.

I hope, finally, he felt brave.
I hope, finally, he loved the man who rode so lightly upon him,
as he lifted one dusty hoof and stepped, as he had to, forward.

Mary is telling a parable about one of the chief parable tellers of all time. A parable is a story that often uses a device where statements are made, and then knocked down. This is known as a qal wahomer. Here Mary is setting up a tension between wild, freedom and captured obedience. Which do we prefer we wonder as we go through the poem? Are we tied to religion and only able to take one step forward in our duties as human beings? Yet in this role we can feel love and courage. Or do we have to choose between this and delight in our choosing? If we choose, though, our own paths in unbounded freedom, we will never be able to serve the whole? Confused? Undecided? Yes then, the parable has worked. In our uncertainty, we give ourselves over to a better, bigger thing.

What is this better, bigger thing for you?