ARE WE WAITING FOR A SAVIOUR?
By Maryanne Pope
What if Jesus came back, as promised…but then turned around and left again because He was so disgusted with what he saw here?
It’s an interesting question…and one I inadvertently explored when I found myself on a real humdinger of a psychological, emotional and spiritual journey after the death of my husband, John.
Perhaps journey isn’t the best word to use. Plunging headfirst into a long, dark, seemingly bottomless pit of sorrow, anger, despair, confusion, denial and self-pity is a more apt description of that perilous first year of grief.
Speaking of plunging, John’s death was the result of a preventable fall at an unsafe workplace…your basic cause & effect stuff.
But in that first year as a young and terrified widow, reality wasn’t particularly palatable. So instead, I grabbed on to a belief that sounded pretty damn good at the time: that God has a Divine plan for all of us.
It worked. Believing this temporarily made me feel better.
But then I got to thinking (call me crazy) that since there is a plan, the logical next step would be to figure out what it is…at least the John and Maryanne portion of it.
Well, one thought led to another and I came up with the brilliant idea that since we all seem to be waiting around for The Saviour to return…maybe John was him. Maybe John was the long-awaited Second Coming of Christ!
Hilarious now, I know. But in my shattered state, I figured that would be an acceptable reason for John getting taken out of the game at 32…far more acceptable than something as mundane as a missing safety railing.
Again, reality wasn’t cutting it in terms of the feeling-good-again portion of the program.
Now, as a story-teller, my spectacular (albeit false) revelation made for some much-needed lighter moments in my book, A Widow’s Awakening.
However, now that more than a decade has past since John’s death, I’m realizing that as ridiculous as my idea was, perhaps this Saviour-belief warrants further examination.
For whether or not those of us in the West (and elsewhere in the world) are individual believers in Christianity or not, I suspect the underlying fundamental assumption that Christianity (and subsequently Western society) was founded on – Christ as the Saviour – is so deeply embedded in our individual and collective psyches, we aren’t even aware of it anymore.
If this is the case, then perhaps it wasn’t so strange that the shock of John’s sudden death dislodged, if you will, this Saviour-belief buried deep within me – and sent it bubbling it to the surface at a time when I so desperately wanted to be saved…from the hurt.
Hypothetically, let’s say Jesus did “come back,” what would he have to say about the state of our world?
A) “I love what you’ve done to the planet since I left…keep up the great work! A couple more decades and you’ll pretty much have trashed the joint – but I’ll still love you…and so will my Dad!”
B) “You IDIOTS! You’ve really mucked things up now…I can’t fix this mess! Nobody can! That’s it…I’m going back to the fluffy clouds to eat cream cheese and prance through a field of wild flowers.”
I’m betting on B) – and frankly, I wouldn’t blame Him. And I doubt he’d have used the word ‘mucked’ when the alternative would be far more appropriate.
But let’s say Jesus did stick around for the Saving part of The Plan. How exactly would He accomplish this feat?
Sweep a magic wand across all the bad stuff and see it magically go away?
Possibly – but not a lot of lessons would be learned by the worker bees (that’s us)…so then the poor guy would just have to come back again in another few years.
Not a particularly effective strategy for a Saviour.
That’s because it’s a myth.
And myths are not supposed to be taken literally. “Stories are tools to understand valuable human lessons,” wrote Northrop Frye, “not truths in themselves.”
Please click here to listen to an audio clip (45 sec) from A Widow’s Awakening (“Sam” is John).
I’m really beginning to wonder if, on some deeper level, many people are waiting for a Divine entity to swoop down and fix the many significant and overwhelming issues we face, such as climate change. For this would help explain our delay, as a sentient species, in taking deliberate action to significantly cut our greenhouse gas emissions.
But the reality is, the longer we wait – consciously or not – for someone else to rescue us from the perilous path we’re on, the less likely we’ll be able to save ourselves in time.
And I can safely say, from personal experience, we will have to.
So as not to end this article on a completely depressing note, here’s a thought by John O’Donohue, author of Anam Cara, a Book of Celtic Wisdom: “For too long we have believed that the divine is outside of us.”
In other words, what if we are the Saviour we are waiting for?
Food for thought
On a final note, I heard a man being interviewed on the radio the other day, in regards to the Alcoholics Anonymous program. Here’s what he said:
“Fantasy is what we use to avoid facing reality. Faith is what we use to give us the courage to face it.”
Now that’s an idea I can believe in…and more importantly, act on.
What Lies Beneath
Did you know roughly 7/8 of an iceberg is below the surface of the water? So what we see jutting out of the water is, literally, just the tip of the iceberg.
This didn’t end well for the Titanic and most of the people on board.
On my recent cruise to Alaska, our captain safely navigated our ship past dozens of icebergs so we could get within half a mile of the spectacular Hubbard glacier, North America’s largest tidewater glacier. Rising more than 300 feet above water and 200 feet below, Hubbard is 7 miles wide, 75 miles long and regularly calves off into the sea 450-year-old hunks of ice the size of small apartment buildings.
“So when you see the ice crashing into the ocean,” the naturalist on board explained, “you’re witnessing the end of a cycle that began hundreds of years ago.”
Hubbard Glacier is currently advancing, which is an anomaly in a warming climate, such as the one we are in (US National Park Service). In contrast, 95% of Alaskan glaciers are retreating, as are most glaciers worldwide.
On a lighter note, I didn’t throw my mother overboard due to bad behaviour. On the contrary, she was remarkably well behaved
As were the dolphins leaping alongside the ship and the whales gently cresting to the surface and then submerging again, their magnificent tails the last to disappear. So too were the spawning salmon, having left the sea to return to the streams where they were born. Now bright red, in starvation mode, they were focusing all their energies on either laying eggs or fertilizing them. And then they die.
The bald eagles, too, put on a show. In Hoonah, the small native village near Icy Point Strait, three of us were walking along the road when a store-owner waved us down from across the street.
She pointed to the tree. “Look up!”
We all looked up to see an eagle working away.
“He’s tearing off branches,” the woman across the street yelled, “and then transporting them to the nest.”
Sure enough, a minute later, the eagle flew off from the tree with a large leafy branch clutched in his talons. He circled back a moment a later and landed in a nearby tree, and promptly added the branch to the nest.
“He’s been doing that all day,” said the shop-owner.
Then she went inside and came out a moment later, holding what I assumed were her business cards. She crossed the street and passed the cards to us, through the fence. But they weren’t business cards; they were three small photos of a close-up of the same eagle we had just been watching.
“One for each of you,” she said, “to remind you of this day.”
Back on board the boat, however, not all homo sapiens were so well behaved.
One woman, bald as a billiard ball, sat down beside me. I asked her how she was doing.
“I have cancer,” she said, “and I just finished chemo.”
“Oh boy . . .”
“And radiation,” she continued. “Both were horrible. But I’m doing pretty good now.”
“Great!” I said. “And are you enjoying the cruise?”
She shook her head. “Actually, I’m really disappointed.”
“The ship isn’t big enough.”
I just about fell off the seat. Our cruise ship held eighteen hundred passengers and nearly as many crew members. It had two swimming pools, four hot tubs, two theatres, four restaurants, three huge lounges, a casino, multiple stores, an art gallery, a spa, and a fitness centre. It was a flippin’ floating resort.
“Pardon me?” I said.
“I went on a cruise before and it was a bigger ship. This one’s too small and I’m just really disappointed.”
And I thought to myself: You just don’t get it, do you? You didn’t learn the lesson.
And what might that lesson be, in my judgemental, not-so-humble, opinion?
Here this poor woman had been so sick and suffered through all the horrible cancer treatments (let’s call this her wake-up call) and yet had recovered enough to go on a cruise (her test, if you will) . . . but, for whatever reason, was unable to appreciate a vacation experience that the vast majority of people on the planet can’t even afford to dream of (she failed the exam).
I speak from experience in the ingratitude department. Ten days before my husband, John, died in 2000, we were on vacation in Vegas and had been walking through the Venetian Hotel. Although I’d been impressed by all the beautiful paintings and architecture, I still nattered on about how the real Venice was so much better.
John had stopped dead in his tracks and turned to me. “Well you’re in Vegas now, Maryanne, and this is pretty damn cool in and of itself. So smarten up.”
Ten days later, he was dead (my wake-up call). One wretched year later, I found myself in New York City, three weeks after the world trade centre had been reduced to a pile of rubble. After walking around Ground Zero and paying tribute to the thousands of lives lost, I went to the opera.
Even though it was a stranger, instead of John, sitting beside me in the opera house, I had a powerful moment of realization that despite all the sadness in my life and so many other people’s lives, when beauty found its way to me again, I better damn well learn to appreciate it.
I would like to think I passed that test.
But back to the boat: on the Alaskan cruise, my mom and I were fortunate enough to be able to afford a stateroom with a balcony. Our room attendant, Edy, was from Indonesia and he was an absolute delight.
Whenever I walked down the hallway towards our room, I would hear him cheerfully call out from whatever room he was working in at the time, “Hello ma’am!”
Every evening my mom and I would return to our room to find a different towel animal waiting for us. One night, it was a sea turtle made out of intricately folded towels. Another time it was a monkey, wearing reading glasses, swinging from the ceiling. A swan, duck, and elephant also made their debut.
I asked Edy if he liked working on the cruise ship.
“Yes,” he said, smiling politely.
“How long have you been working here?”
“Five months, ma’am. I used to be a high school teacher in Indonesia.”
“Do you have a family?”
“Yes ma’am. Three children . . . eleven, nine, and seven.”
“You must miss them.”
He nodded. “Very much, ma’am.”
Back home in Sidney again, I was in the post office and mentioned to one of the women behind the counter that I’d been on a cruise to Alaska.
She grinned. “And you just can’t get tired of hearing ‘Yes, ma’am,’ can ya?! All those people waiting hand and foot on me . . . I loved it!”
I thought of Edy and how time spent making towel animals for my family was time away from his own.
“As for Alaska itself,” she went on to say, “the stops aren’t very interesting. You’ve seen one t-shirt shop, you’ve seen them all . . . you could be anywhere in the world, really.”
I turned to the other lady behind the counter, as she had gone on the same cruise as me two months earlier. “I walked past the t-shirt shops in Juneau,” I said, “and went on a hike in the woods that was absolutely amazing.”
“Oh,” she said, lowering her voice, “I would have loved to have done that!”
It takes all types to make the world go ‘round . . . but let’s hope there are more of the latter than the former.
There I go, judging others again. My brother Doug loves to remind me that whenever I’m pointing a finger at someone, three fingers are pointing back at me.
As such, I shall return to the matter of the retreating glaciers.
‘It’s completely beyond what any of our models had predicted.’ … ‘I never expected it to melt this fast.’ - Such were the comments among scientists at a recent symposium on the Arctic. There still may be debate in a few quarters about global warming, but not in Arctic Alaska: it’s here.
— Joe Upton, The Alaska Cruise Handbook
“The tidewater glaciers up and down the Alaska coast had been receding slowly for years even before global warming was a household word,” writes Upton, “but recent events in the Arctic and implications for the future, especially for species dependent on wide areas of sea ice like the polar bear, are sobering.”
From 1997-2000, the average area of ice in the Arctic was around 3 million square miles. In August of 2007, that number had shrunk by half, a truly staggering reduction.
— Joe Upton
The Arctic could be totally ice-free by 2030. But it may happen sooner, explains Upton, “For as the ice melts, the darker ocean absorbs much more heat than the white ice which reflects the sun’s rays, further increasing the melting.”
Just as the bulk of an iceberg lies below the surface of the water (and therefore we can’t see it), the part we do see above the surface is an indicator of what lies beneath. Likewise, what we are witnessing in some places on the planet, such as the Arctic, is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the effects of climate change.
However, rather like the sad souls on the deck of the Titanic, listening to the orchestra play as the ship sinks, the human race is rapidly running out of time to effectively address climate change. But instead of facing the facts and changing our behaviour — individually and collectively — we are choosing instead to simply entertain ourselves on the way down.
And that includes me.
I first learned about global warming and the negative impact that decreasing sea ice is having on polar bear populations in Canada’s Hudson Bay area more than a decade ago.
“In Western Hudson Bay,” explains Dr. Ian Stirling, Senior Research Scientist with the Canadian Wildlife Service, “the ice breakup is now about 3 weeks earlier on average than it was only 30 years ago. As a result, in this region the polar bears are able to feed less at the most important time of year (late spring – early summer) when freshly weaned seal pups are most abundant.”
According to the World Wildlife Fund, by 2050, polar bears are likely to be extinct in Canada’s southern Hudson Bay region.
The possibility of a planet without polar bears was my environmental wake-up call. I knew we needed to face this future, if there was to be any hope for changing it.
But despite my good intentions of launching an environmental campaign, entitled Face the Future, that raises awareness about simple ways we can reduce our individual environmental footprint, I still rolled over and went back to sleep.
If you read my article, Throw (My) Momma from the Train Ship, you may recall it ended with my mom phoning to tell me she’d heard on the news that a cougar had been sighted in Sidney. The cougar was shot later that day because the conservation officer deemed the situation too dangerous to tranquilize him.
From the perspective of public safety, I understand this. But it is a powerful example of yet another voice from the wilderness being silenced. The polar bears — through loss of habitat — are soon to follow and although I’ve slept through my personal alarm, I hope I haven’t missed the boat in terms of doing my small part to bring about change.
On a final note, just as the ice calving off the Hubbard glacier represents the end of a natural cycle that began 450 years ago, a glance back at that time period in human history takes us to the birth of Galileo (1564). Galileo challenged the church on the widely held belief that the earth was the centre of the universe and the sun and other planets revolve around it — an idea we now consider ridiculous.
Instead, Galileo supported Copernicus’ theory that the sun was the center of the universe. Galileo was put on trial for heresay and eventually died under house arrest . . . for believing what we now know to be fact.
I suspect we, too, have now come to the end of an era where we believe we can continue with business as usual in the ravenous pursuit of growth at all costs, while seriously altering the earth’s systems — forests, oceans, atmosphere, etc — without significant long-term consequences.
Or put another way, despite the human confidence in the Titanic’s inability to sink, reality proved otherwise. We may wish to remember this the next time we hear someone claim climate change is a myth. For contrary to popular belief, we are sinkable . . . and we’re sinking fast.
Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening and the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions Inc. Maryanne’s current environmental projects include a screenplay, God’s Country, about the Alberta oil sands, as well as the Face the Future campaign about reducing our environmental footprint. Please visit www.pinkgazelle.com for details, including how to get our anti-idling vehicle decal, Our Driving Habits Destroy Habitats.
God’s Country; the Nell Shipman Story and C’s Trial Screenplays Nearing Completion
Over the past four years, Maryanne Pope of Pink Gazelle Productions Inc has been writing the screenplay for the future feature film, God’s Country; the Nell Shipman Story and the screenplay for a related short film, entitled C’s Trial.
The Nell Shipman screenplay is based on Shipman’s autobiography, The Silent Screen and my Talking Heart. Nell Shipman was a Canadian-born silent screen star, writer, director and producer. She had her own production company and was an early animal rights activist and environmentalist who advocated, through her films, the importance of people working in harmony with nature versus exploiting it.
In 1919, Nell starred in one of Canada’s highest ever grossing films entitled Back to God’s Country, which was shot in Northern Alberta.
Inspired by Andrew Nikiforuk’s book, Tar Sands; Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent, the C’s Trial film will be a satire about the massive oil sands development in Northern Alberta. Here’s the synopsis: when a local woman with a passion for polar bears and a penchant for Kafka orchestrates the arrest of a government representative, oil executive and public relations expert and puts them on trial in a mock courtroom, the truth comes out as quick as…tar.
Maryanne has been working in close collaboration with Nell Shipman’s granddaughter, Nina Bremer, regarding rights, permissions, content, vision, structure and the link to C’s Trial – which sets Nell Shipman’s valuable story within a contemporary context.
The underlying question driving both films pertains to both local and global environmental concerns: what are we doing to God’s Country?
Both scripts are now nearing completion and the pre-production phase of securing funding and creative talent will begin in the fall of 2010.
“Being in a sense so alone with the animals…serving them and maintaining the soft-spoken image which arrived punctually with their food made communication between us a natural and easy thing. And with this treasured silent monologue, I was also acquiring a closer spoken relationship with my fellow humans.” – Nell Shipman, The Silent Screen and My Talking Heart