Wednesday, August 3, 2011
Job & Oedipus
I started a new text piece. The passage is from the book of Job in the Old Testament of the Bible, chapters 38-41. This is officially known as God's answer to Job, and volumes have been written on it. I don't presume to shed any light on the passage, so if you're seeking clarity, you got the wrong blog. I'm just in sheer awe of it. I can't read it without getting all teary-eyed. No, I'm serious. There's not much in the Bible that makes my eyes leak. David could belt out a good Psalm, which can choke me up on a good day, and Solomon's Ecclesiastes are particularly wrenching after a couple of gin & tonics. But God's response to Job...jeez, I can't even think of it without my mascara sliding south (see above).
Here's the scoop: Job was an upright and pious man, filthy rich, the most successful 6th century BCE man on the planet. Then he lost everything. Family, wealth, land, health - all gone. He's a broken man, and seeks counsel. For 37 chapters, he's besieged by dipwads who tell him to repent of his sins. Thing is, he hasn't sinned. He's being tested by God. More precisely, he's being tested by Satan, and God is allowing it. Satan thinks that Job's going to curse God, but God knows that Job won't cave. He's right. Job doesn't budge. His faith in God never wavers. His pea-brained friends insist that Job is hiding some despicable sin, and ride his ass to get him to curse God and be done with it. Job refuses. Which brings us to chapter 38.
"Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?" He demands of Job's ignorant tormentors. Then He begins to ask a bunch of questions to Job, and one can imagine the latter in a heap, on his knees, convulsed in pain and confusion. Job has been through unimaginable hell, and has nothing left except his breath. But far worse is that he thinks he's been abandoned by God. Thus it must be a moment of relief to hear His voice emanating from the whirlwind, and to realize that God has never left Job. Kleenex, please. No no, pass me the whole box....thanks.
Here's a sampler of the questions that God poses to Job. Clearly they're rhetorical, which is what makes them so profound. We get a glimpse of God's power, His wisdom, His grace, His love.
Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea?
Have the gates of death been opened unto thee?
Out of whose womb came the ice?
Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion?
Who hast given understanding to the heart?
Who provideth for the raven his food?
Knowest thou the time when the wild goats of the rock bring forth?
Gavest thou the goodly wings unto the peacocks?
Hast thou given the horse strength?
Hast thou clothed his neck with thunder?
I'll stop here so you can blow your nose. You get the gist of it, right? The torment of Job speaks of the anguish that we humans go through. Who knows why, but when someone goes through such agony, it only points to the fact that they're human, and that they've possibly gotten too caught up in ego traps. Some theologians believe this to be the case with Job. But really, when someone gets the rug pulled out from under them, it's just Life. It happens to us all in one form or another. There's no one to blame, it's just....Life.
Okay okay, so here's the deal: to create these chapters from Job, I'm cutting the letters from Oedipus the King. Holy mackerel what a story...if that one doesn't move you then you better check your pulse, because it's one of the most tragic tragedies like ever. The only thing more tragic than Oedipus or Job is maybe a Danielle Steel novel, for the sheer waste of pulp. (Little known fact: Every time Danielle Steel pens a novel, trees go on strike worldwide).
So Oedipus and Job...O, I forgot to mention that in the middle of it, I'll include a long soliloquy from Oedipus, right after he discovers his true identity. Talk about dark night of the soul–he blinds himself by poking his eyes out (see above). Guilt, horror, retribution, predestination, sin, innocence, passion, redemption....just another day in the studio.