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Friday, April 1, 2016
STEVEN W. BAKER
STEVEN W. BAKER
OF STORYTELLERS, GODS, AND KINGS
(written in Santa Cruz, Bolivia)
"God save the king." --Samuel 10:24
"It is in the process of being worshiped that God communicates His presence to men." --C.S. Lewis
"Power is founded upon opinion." --Napoleon Bonaparte
"All kings is mostly rapscallions." --Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
"The secret of happiness is freedom. The secret of freedom is courage." --Thucydides
Chavez is dead. The old Pope abdicates to the new.
We sense collectively the vacuum of power atomized
Humanity so readily succumbs to the spell of tyranny
Often functioning more like ants than free men.
Through unevenly ingrained millennia-old habits
We have come to see in our leaders salvation or doom
We, the object of their necessity, stand effectively humbled
Ever ready to obediently serve and do what we are told.
We imagine someone grander than our mere selves
Remember, not long ago the powerful demanded worship
Forever deserving of our obedience, loyalty, and faith
Simply because of some convenient voodoo mythology.
Good men bowed under the Inca in huge, high cities
As freer men relentlessly patrolled the Incan perimeter
Citizen-slaves obeyed their “god” without questioning
Though the path of progress lay in another direction.
I guess we don't operate the same way any longer
But, still, the chains of command and obey run deep
Chavez didn't expect the press to question
The old Pope demanded adherence to his dictates.
We've advanced a little over the long centuries
Leaders are no longer, normally, objects of worship
Yet, in reality, we've thrown in our lot with the Incas
The Law must be obeyed, we must not be free.
Of course, some freedoms we don't need and can't have
If you had total freedom, I would have none
So both of us agree to meet the other half way
But that’s not the extent of it, something lies submerged.
We are told, even now, what we must do to live together
And, if that works, a leader might gain our respect
But, unless you happen to live in North Korea
You probably don't have to declare love and fealty.
And let us not forget the Master of command and obey--God!
Kings, Popes, Presidents all wrapped themselves in His cloth
Shedding light from above on all those deemed loyal
To this day, they bask in the power citizens conjure.
Few remember this all started with simple campfire stories
The tribe or clan gathered around the warm, glittering light
Surrounded by the darkness and all that was unknown
Howling in the distance could easily be the supernatural.
Fear, mortality, the terrible aloneness had to be defeated
Or surely men would perish in a cruel land ruled by death
The job of the storyteller was not exclusively telling truths
To entertain, to teach, one hero is worth a thousand cowards.
So stories became larger than life, reflecting the struggle
To overcome the frailty that could lead to the darkest ending
The pair were shamed in the Garden of Eden, but carried on
Odysseus never watched the sun rise with fear in his heart.
Somewhere long before names are known, some storyteller
Perhaps attempting to explain “Why?”, created something new
Whether springing from some inner truth he alone perceived
Or the result of wild imagining and the basic desire for more.
Campfire stories started to be about more than mere humans
Gods ignited people’s imaginations as if with fire itself
And nothing has ever been the same. We are not alone.
That simple idea brought power to some over others.
In the beginning, it seems that God was a playful entity
He might create the world on the back of a very large turtle
The founders of a mighty city might spring from rock or river
Mother Earth, the Pachamama, was honored, not feared.
God provided a successful hunt, life, the world we know
But that was merely His job as compatriot in arms
I think the Afterlife came later, and how to get there
Became the tool that could be used to change this life.
Storytellers eventually became chiefs, and chiefs kings
The kings loved the stories of God with a simple twist
How convenient to keep the people under control
Praying for salvation in some unseen world to come.
God became the bane of those who did not obey
Angry and vindictive, demanding love and worship
A mean King who could grant eternal life or endless pain
Our leaders became Gods, or their good right hands.
God went from being part of the Earth and its people
To standing apart as the grand Inquisitor and Punisher
Now, I don't really mean to equate man and God,
But, surely, we are not given life merely to be slaves.
Even our modern ideas of God derive from old kings
We must blindly love and obey, not some leader now
But He who plays games with our lives and destroys at a whim
What else can be the source of God's wrath and vengeance?
The Biblical portrait of God is from these long-dead kings
He stands with kings. He stands with the Pope.
He even stands with that ugly little North Korean twerp
He stands beside the shepherd tending his sheep.
But only if we worship and praise and love and obey
Can we attain that most elusive of goals--immortality.
We can't just be friends or co-workers and be happy
God demands what infantile kings always sought.
In the end, without God at their side, leaders lost power
Without the voyeurism, judgments, and punishments
Especially without the fear induced by loss or fire
Without guilt, even God loses power over His dominion.
We are still, many of us, caught in this terrible trap
The quest for more always begins with loss
The desire for life starts before the first breath
Eternal life is the whip and the chains that bind us.
Lost somewhere between the wanting and the having
Lies forgotten the source of the entire enigma
The discovery that more is always less for another
Our fatal flaw is that enough is never sufficient.
When we pretend that someone else is taking care of things
We can believe that all is just part of Someone's plan
Surrendering our will, our love, our freedom, our lives
To some awful despot who might live in a castle or heaven.
The old storyteller sitting in the circle around that campfire
Just tried to express his sense of awe and longing
His truth was stolen from him and corrupted by those
Who sought nothing but to grind the rest of us to dust.
STEVEN W. BAKER
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