Well. I met with my local Pastor and it seems like it’s gonna take a little bit longer for me to become one myself than we thought. Like a couple years longer or maybe longer than that. But, she did mention the possibility that I could become a Deacon, which is still a position of service in the Church, and which requires less formal education. Becoming a Deacon could be an end in itself, or it could be a step on the way to becoming a Pastor. In either case, it’s gonna be a while.
Which is fine. I’m feeling more and more okay with this thing – this call. I’m not in any kinda rush and I’m not in charge, so it’s fine. I’ll tell ya, I sure do appreciate having people around me who can relate to what I’m experiencing and give me some guidance and info. Without mature, responsible adults around, I can go into Crazyland pretty quick. Because I’m crazy. (It’s okay for me to say that because I am one.)
So. Whaddaya wanna talk about? Oh yeah – I was gonna write some more about the raised by wolves thing. But first, here’s a story from India that was told to Joseph Campbell by his friend and mentor Heinrich Zimmer, in Campbell’s words –
A starving and pregnant tigress comes upon a flock of goats and pounces on them with such fervor that she brings about the birth of her little one, as well as her own death. The goats scatter, but soon come back to find the newborn tiger by the side of its dead mother.
Tho goats adopt the baby tiger and it grows up believing it is a goat. He learns to bleat and eat grass, but the trouble is that grass doesn’t nourish tigers well, and he grows into a weak and miserable member of his own species.
One day, a large male tiger pounces on the flock and the goats scatter. The young tiger, not being a goat, remains standing there. The big male is surpised to find a young tiger living with goats, and when he enquired into it, the young one simply says, “Maaaa.” Mortified, the old tiger swats him back and forth a couple of times, but the only response coming forth was more bleating and grass nibbling.
The old tiger brings the young one to a pond and makes him look at his own reflection for the first time. He leans over and points out to him, “See, you look like me. You’re not a goat. You are a tiger, like me. Be like me!” He then brings the young tiger to his den and shows him bloody chunks of gazelle meat from a recent hunt. Taking a big chunk, he says “Open up and eat this!” “Oh no, I’m a vegetarian,” says the little one. But the old tiger would not take no for an answer, and shoves a piece of red meat down the little one’s throat, causing him to gag a little. Now the real tiger food is in his gut, getting into his blood. Spontaneously, the young one gives a a tiger-like stretch, and then a small little tiger roar.
“Now you’ve got it! Now go into the forest and eat tiger food!” says the big one.
Is there something larger than our ego that wants to come through, to demand authenticity and genuineness in the way we live? Are we to cruise onwards toward that inevitable ending, that certain exit on terms that were assumed and purchased for the first half? The second half of life is not a chronological issue, but a psychological one, in which we question what values and paradigms we are living by.
This is a question for each of us, whatever stage of life we’re in – are we tigers living as goats? If the answer is in the affirmative, then a second question – what is good tiger food? In other words, if we are not living as we ought to be, activating our fullest potentials, then what must we do, what would nourish us towards that?
No wolves, but the basic idea is there, the idea of being raised wrong, raised to be something when we should be something else. Then we get smacked upside the head and realize what we are. That’s pretty obviously my experience with the call to Lutheran ministry – whether Pastor or Deacon. There are other versions of this story – Campbell told it a lot – where Smokin’ Joe elaborated a little more on the role of the large male tiger, calling him a spiritual guide, a tiger guru, who slaps the novice into consciousness and initiates him into his right path – here represented by the forced feeding of gazelle meat. The novice is shocked and horrified, but the reality is, he’s a fuckin’ tiger and should be eating meat.
This all metaphorical, of course. I’m a vegetarian. I ain’t talking about being all macho and tough or any dumb shit like that – though I am about the toughest piece of gristle I ever met – this is about becoming a spiritual tiger. Jesus was a tiger. The Buddha was a tiger. Mahatma Gandhi was a pacifist, vegan tiger in a diaper. Martin Luther was a tiger. Those cats were big as life and bold as brass and that is how some folks are supposed to be. Some are called to other things.
Let’s do this another way – just ’cause I mentioned Harry Potter in another post and I wanna play with that. My mother is a Hufflepuff. My father is a Slytherin. I was raised to be a Slythlepuff or something – all the worst attributes of the two. And I pretty much was when I was drinking. Things changed when I got sober. I didn’t know anything about the whole Potter phenomenon until my rotten kid got into it a couple years ago and dragged me in. We were talking about doing Potter-themed Halloween costumes one year – before I really knew much about the books. She was thinking about being Hermione Granger. I asked her who she thought I should be.
“Hmmm. With a face like that, I’d say, Sirius Black.”
I had no idea who Sirius Black was or what his character was like, but the “with a face like that” struck me as pretty dang funny. And I am a scruffy, bearded, tattooed scalawag with sunken cheeks, so I could play Sirius pretty convincingly – though I kinda relate a little more to Remus Lupin. Both of them guys’re Gryffindors – which’s what I am. How that happened, I dunno, but I am pretty Gryffindorish and that online test I took said I was one, so there’t’is. The Potter books are all about figuring out who you are and what you’re supposed to be – and there’re pretty clear about the novice’s need for older, more experienced people to provide guidance along the way.
I was wondering if/when there was gonna be anything to tie the pieces together and I think I mighta just tripped on it – people who know what they’re doing providing guidance and direction. The Lutherans have a process already – they call it the “discernment process”. So all I gotta do is show up and be ready. And I gotta do some writing exercises – there’s this workbook thing. I gotta write some stuff. Maybe some of it’ll end up on here.