Monday, December 07, 2009
A Mid-Michigan Advent, Day 8: Plumb
The other evening, while we were waiting for baby news, I found myself traversing down an Internet rabbit hole that began with an online article about organic vitaculture that led to a link about biodynamic wine that led to a discussion of German crackpot visionary Rudolf Steiner that led to a discussion of conversing with the faeries that live in your garden; one of those kinds of rabbit holes parodied by the Bing! commercials.
Anyway, there are people out there who truly believe that God's hierarchy of angels includes a minor division of spirits whose job it is to tend particular species of plants in human gardens -- think of the Talmudic line about every blade of grass having its angel that whispers, "Grow, grow" -- and that human beings can assist in this process by communing with the spirits of the garden. A tool that these folks use in contacting the spirits is an old-fashioned plumb line; you take it into your garden, or even hold it over a diagram of your garden, and ask the spirits "yes" or "no" questions about what to grow where or how to amend your soil; the spirits jiggle the line around in a meaningful way and you get your answer.
For reasons I don't quite understand, I have a very strong affinity for a pagan way of thinking about the world; I remember being a little child, reading a children's book of mythology and being moved to throw flowers into a farm stream in honor of Mother Nature; I read a couple of Cecily Barker's Flower Faeries books and wanted to leave food outside for them. That coexists in my psyche with a pronounced skeptical vein that causes me to struggle mightily with the basics of the historic Christian creeds, let alone faeries and trolls. (One of the articles on cooperating with my garden faeries advised that the faeries are not at all pleased with equivocation; which leads me to suspect that I would piss off the faeries in my garden, and my plumb line would probably keep swinging around and hitting me in the head.)
So when I read today's famous Old Testament text about God's plumb line, it made me a little sad. There are days when I'd like nothing better than a big divine plumb line hanging down in a decisive way over my life, indicating, Do This. Don't Do That. While researching St. Nicholas for a post on our church blog I kept running into Eastern Orthodox websites where "wonderworking" is a very real part of those people's lives and where I think the plumb lines always aim straight and true for them. Me, there's always a lot of wobble; I can't always tell where God's plumb is, in the same way that my stained glass projects always seem to be "off" to some critical degree. But this is me, it's who I am, where I am now. And I suspect that our perception of God's plumb line is never as true as any of us want it to be.