Living backwards

If you want to enter the kingdom of heaven, you must change and become like little children (Mt 18.3).

“Grow up,” we tell children. What a quaint notion! Jesus, meanwhile, tells us to grow down, or grow back, to childhood.

That Jesus! Always doing things inside out and heading in the opposite direction from the way we know he’s supposed to go. Because we’re not going that way. After all, we have a cumulative 50,000 or so years of history, since the emergence of modern human intelligence and spirit (which is perhaps the era indicated by the poetic and God breathed into his nostrils the breath [spirit] of life, Gen 2.7), and surely we’d know by now which way to move forward in life!

As evidenced by, for instance, how we’ve advanced from helping to extinguish Ice Age megafauna (like mastodons) to extinguishing all kinds of species, all around the world, plus turning the seas to acid, clearcutting the rain forests that provide a big chunk of our oxygen, overfishing the seas to virtual collapse, and in general doing our best to destroy Earth.

And how we’ve advanced from mere tribal or clan rivalries, to the proud ability to barely keep the world from igniting into some variation on nuclear holocaust. Or how we have such advanced notions of spirituality that various factions want to reinstate theocratic rule, maybe even complete with capital punishment for infractions of morality!

Meanwhile, we embellish our society with Amy Vanderbilt-like propriety on who may marry whom, since God forbid we wouldn’t want to end up with things like, say, polygamy, like most of the greatest heroes of the Bible practiced. Why, we want only biblical family values! Not the ones that biblical figures actually practiced!

And various factions argue the advanced philosophy that a proper nation is governed, if not entirely populated, only by those of, well, proper complexion. Others, after all, might be not legally resident, or otherwise sponging off of society, like those indigent aliens that God kept on bleeding-heart-harping about how all of society should have compassion on. Loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, set the oppressed free …. share your food with the hungry and provide the poor wanderer with shelter … when you see the naked, clothe him … (Isa 58.6-7).

So if we were to take Jesus’ rather silly advice, we’d have to abandon all our stupendous advances, and return to—well, return to something closer to innocence. Of heart, of culture, of society, of Earth.

Compassion for the least fortunate, the most vulnerable, without asking whether they “deserve” it or not; mercy for those we disagree with, since if we are the ones who prove to be wrong, we’d be appreciating plenty of mercy, ourselves; patience to pause, appreciate Earth and its life, societies and the lives who  make them; grace always to want and hope for what is better for all, not necessarily what counts as “more”.

And grace to roll with the surprise, maybe, at finding that most people’s response to our showing this kind of heart—is to extend the same to us in return. Give, and it will be given to you. Rather than being depleted, both we and life around us might begin to be more enriched, more fascinating, more fulfilling, more rewarding on almost every level.

We’d find that the face of the God who breathes life into us is also looking back at us through the faces of those we breathe life into, like sunlight through a stained glass window, transforming it from bits of glass to an artwork of beauty and wonder. And we’d find that this same return to more life and innocence is spread from those others, to yet others—because, if evolution teaches anything, it is that the life God breathes into the world is contagious and persistent.

Could it be done? Actually, I don’t know of anything Jesus said that couldn’t be done, because what we think of as living backwards, really turns out to be going forward to what we really should be—sort of like this (from Enigma, “Return to Innocence”—I’m afraid this video will ask you to open in YouTube, since its makers did not permit embedding):

I think that would work. In fact, as far as I’ve ever known, it’s the only thing that does work, and breathes life back into our lives—where we can then breathe it back out into the world around us, returning full circle the breath of life God gave us to begin with.

(Here are the lyrics, if you’re interested:)

Love, devotion
Feeling, emotion
Love, devotion
Feeling, emotion

Don’t be afraid to be weak
Don’t be too proud to be strong
Just look into your heart, my friend
That will be the return to yourself
The return to innocence

If you want, then start to laugh
If you must, then start to cry
Be yourself, don’t hide
Just believe in destiny
Don’t care what people say
Just follow your own way
Don’t give up and use the chance
To return to innocence

That’s not the beginning of the end
That’s the return to yourself
The return to innocence

Don’t care what people say
Follow just your own way
Don’t give up, don’t give up
To return, to return to innocence

If you want, then laugh
If you must, then cry
Be yourself, don’t hide
Just believe in destiny

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One Response to Living backwards

  1. And if you noticed—the people in the video keep getting younger and younger, just lke our hearts do.

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