I speak of this journey on the path between the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life as though it is an individual adventure. It is, certainly. But it is also a social journey, the journey of the family, the journey of the community, the journey of society, the nation and humanity. Yesterday George Zimmerman was acquitted, in the State of Florida, on the charge of murdering Trayvon Martin. There was never any question that Mr. Zimmerman shot and killed young Trayvon. The question had to do with the crime of murder. And by Florida law, which says in essence that if you are afraid of someone, you can shoot to kill, Mr. Zimmerman was not guilty. He was afraid of young Trayvon. He is exonerated under the law. The case is closed.
I believe, truly, that Creator/Spirit/Mind/Source, with infinite compassion and wisdom, will in good time call everyone involved to healing and to home. But somehow, in this twisted travesty, I have difficulty imagining the task complete in my lifetime, or in yours. Who knows what the path holds for Mr. Zimmerman. Nor can I imagine any quick and easy cleanup for the Florida legislature, and their voting electorate, that chose to pass laws that embrace and codify fear and its cousin, hatred, as legitimate bases for the function of society. And what of this life so rudely cut off for young Trayvon?
We have a common phrase in English, “the straight and narrow.” It is an allusion to a teaching of Jesus quoted in Matthew that many of us learned as kids: “For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matt 7:14, NRSV) The common meaning of both the phrase and the way it was taught is, “Be good, really good, which is really really hard, and you might, after you die, get to heaven.”
But that is not at all what these words are about. They are about finding our way, as individuals, as communities, as societies, nations and humanity. These words are about finding our way off the merry-go-round of fear that keeps us travelling round and round the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, one lifetime after another. As Joni Mitchell wrote, “We’re captive on a carousel of time.” (Joni Mitchell, “Circle Game”) The lights are bright and the music is loud. It’s hard to imagine, riding in the nighttime of this blaring sorrow, that the Tree of Life is just a few steps away. It’s hard to leave the cotton candy and the popcorn. It’s hard to venture into the quiet darkness. And when we do, there’s a pretty good chance that our leaving will threaten the whole show enough that someone will just shoot us in the back. Because the merry-go-round, friends, stops when the riders all walk away. And that’s a major threat to those who can’t imagine anything besides that ride.
The way, the truth and the life, friends, looks like a tiny path in the darkness from up here on the merry-go-round. It is not illuminated by the lights of fear or greed. It is not paved and policed by laws that say the right thing is to live behind a gate, to be afraid and to shoot to kill whenever we have the least worry about our seat on the painted pony, or that someone might have the audacity not to be aware of or paying attention to us and to our rules about our street, full of our possessions. Too bad about that, young Trayvon, too bad.
It’s hard, today, not to run right back to the merry-go-round and jump on a pony and just chase Mr. Zimmerman down the same way his neighborhood and the laws of Florida are set up to hate and chase down folks like young Trayvon. But friends, the way, the truth and the life demand that we close our eyes to a false light that draws us like moths back to that endless circle of fear, hate and despair.
Yes, we must, with complete detached engagement stand in the path of fear. Yes, we must with complete detached engagement let our government and the Florida legislature know that these laws point us down an easy path to certain destruction. Yes, yes, yes and YES!!!
But we must do these things from the clear path that leads to life. It’s not really that the path is so small and narrow. It’s more that we refuse to look for it. It’s more that we keep coming up with reasons, even when we have found the path, to stop singing and to turn around and run back, get on our pony, claim our seat, hold on to our righteous stuff and hate someone. We dare not. We dare not forget our song.
We sing it with confidence, forward to young Trayvon. We sing it with confidence to Mr. Zimmerman. We sing it with arms around mom and dad Martin. We sing it with clarity to the Florida legislature, and to the judge and to the jury, and to all the corners of our own hearts that want to turn our tears back into bullets.
The way, the truth and the life leads only one way between the trees. It is lit by one light and sung by one song. Let us close our eyes. Let us open our hearts. Let us sing our song and let us walk forward on that path.
© Two Trees in the Garden. Quote freely, with reference.