i used to run through fields laughing, blowing bubbles floating up, up, away off to Who-knows-where … now I watch the bubbles burst, burst, burst – dreams, illusions, hopes, bursting into air … time and death bursting all our bubbles for we are puffs of air but for a time … till some child runs again through fields of green, blowing bubbles that float … up and up … swelling, rising, not yet bursting each bubble its own never to be repeated self precious beyond belief … while we in our old age move toward the end of time evaporating into eternity Whence we came.
A conversation between two year-old Elijah and old Grandpa (Bumpa)
Bumpa, you’re old. You know LOTS of stuff. What’s a crater?
Where’d you hear about craters, Elijah? Have you been watching the nature channel at daycare?
We don’t have the nature channel at daycare. We watch stuff for kids on PBS.
I don’t think we have any craters here in Minnesota.
Whew! So we don’t have to look out for craters?
Are you sure you have the right word?
Yeah. It’s all over the news this week. Didn’t you watch Adam Sniff?
Let’s make sure we’re talking about the same thing. Let’s look it up.
Yeah, let’s look it up. You want to do it? Or you want me to do it?
Let’s do it together on my iPad. I’ll be right back.
You don’t to have go upstairs, Bumpa. I don’t want ya falling. I have Mom’s iPhone right here. I use it all the time.
Okay, just google the word ‘crater’ and let’s see what comes up.
I don’t spell yet. I’m still liddle, but I know my ABCs. Sometimes in my car seat I punch a bunch of buttons and somebody Mom doesn’t know talks to me on FaceTime!
Okay. Let Bumpa do it. I’m 77. Okay?
Let’s just google crater and see what we learn.
Finding Wikipedia satellite photo in Google search
There we go, Elijah. Here’s a picture of Crater Lake in Oregon. Gandpa and Grandma have been to see it.
Here’s what it says on Wikipedia:
Around 7,700 years ago, Mount Mazama erupted in Oregon, disgorging 15 cubic miles of magma over the western United States. It took a quarter of a millennium of snow and rain to fill the caldera with the serene waters wanderlust hikers now know as Crater Lake. Image from a RapidEye satellite.
Wikipedia Crater lake description.
I don’t get it, Bumba! So why would anyone call somebody a ‘crater’? We’re not sposed to call people names, right?
Right! Maybe you have the wrong word. Or the wrong spelling. What was the other word you asked about?
Elijah asks about creezins
Yeah. Creezin! It’s like craters! Don’t you ever listen to the news?
I do. I listen to MPR when I’m driving.
Yeah, Mom and I do too on the way to daycare and on the way home. We get lots of news. It’s an hour drive each way. It’s like ‘crater’.
I see. Was there a volcanic eruption? I must have missed it.
Geez! It’s all over the news. Creezin! Everybody’s talking about it. Don’t ya know?
You mean raisins? Granpa eats raisin bran every morning.
Uh-oh! Are they going to throw you and Gamma out? Are they going to de-peach you cause you eat raisin bran? You’re white, but don’t live in a white house, right? Did you commit creezin?
Not to worry, Elijah. We’re safe. Grandma and are not going to be de-peached. Any other word you don’t understand?
Elijah asks Bumpa about cranes
Yeah. Ucrane. We have sandhill cranes and trumpeter swans at the cabin, right? Are there any ucranes?
We have sandhill cranes and frumpeter swans on the wetland, Elijah. So far as we know, there are no cranes by rhe cabin. It’s a long way from the news.
We’re like Greta, right? We’re conservationists, right, Bumpa? Do ucranes whistle? Or do they also whoop and honk?
–Conversation between Grandpa (Bumpa) and 2 yr.-old grandson (Elijah), Chaska, MN, September 28, 2019.
Readers of Views from the Edge know we’ve been offline for a while. There’s enough gloom in the world, and I’ve been feeling kind of gloomy. No one needs one more Gloomy Gus. So I’ve kept the words to myself, reading and writing for edification and a character adjustment.
You might say, I haven’t been home lately. Except for moments with grandson Elijah, whose latest word is ‘home’, laughter has come harder than words. Elijah sends me home to the self I’d almost lost — the childlike self not yet weighed down by adult concerns. Then, this morning, something akin to Elijah’s joy hit me. Turning again to William Britton’s Wisdom from the Margins: Daily Readings, it was almost as though I had been commanded home to joy.
“When I imagine Jesus, it is not simply as a person who heals the sick, raises the dead, stills the storm, and preaches good news. It’s also as a man of great goodwill and compassion, with a zest for life . . . brimming with generous good humor. Full of high spirits. Playful. Even fun. Interestingly, in the past few decades two images of a joyful Jesus have enjoyed some popularity. The first is The Laughing Christ by Willis Wheatley, a sketch that shows Jesus’s head throw back in open-mouthed laughter. The second is The Risen Christ by the Sea, a colorful portrait of Jesus wearing a broad smile and standing beside a fishing net, painted by Jack Jewell, a seascape artist in the 1990s. These two paintings, among others, serve to counteract countless images of the gloomy Messiah. . . . But I wonder if some eschew these portraits because of . . . their subject material. Is there something about a smiling Jesus that threatens our understanding of the man?”
James Martin, Between Heaven and Mirth
“Okay, “I said. I’ve been AWOL for a while, painting myself in the likeness of the faithful man of sorrows who weeps over the city, a serious, joyless man who didn’t smile much and laughed rarely, if at all, on the way to the cross.
Reading Jesus’ response to his critics gives a clue to a different character more like The Laughing Christ. Jesus’s rebuke to his critics — “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners “(Mt 11:18 NIV) — offers a clue to a laughing Jesus. There’s a glimpse of truth in most criticisms. Many Christians quickly rise to Jesus defense. We’re okay with the criticism that he ate and drank with sinners; we’re not okay with the accusation that he was a glutton and a drunkard. We become like my six year-old cousin and I charging up the stairs to tell Aunt Gertrude (Dennis’s mother) we’d discovered a six-pack in the basement refrigerator we were forbidden to go near: “I didn’t know my father was a drinkin’ man!” said Dennis. Surely Jesus was not a drinking man! “ There was never any beer in Jesus’s refrigerator. “Jesus was not a glutton and a drunkard!”
Both criticisms must have had a hint of truth to them. “Why do the disciples of John fast often, and make prayers, and likewise the disciples of the Pharises; but yours eat and drink?” (Luke 5:13.) Jesus must have savored the taste of a home-cooked meal, and lifted a glass or two in light-hearted moments at a party, not just at the Last Supper. The alternative to Jesus’s critics is not that Jesus never got a little tipsy or ate too much at a party. It would be ludicrous to criticize a tea-totaller on Weight Watchers for being “a glutton and a drunkard”! Jesus was no Gloomy Gus who never laughed. He wasn’t solemn or holy enough for his critics.
So here I am today, back online, opening my eyes to “The Laughing Christ” and “The Risen Christ by the Sea” that challenge the gloomy spirituality of gloom and doom, on my way home to a more buoyant joyful spirit the news can’t take away.