Saturday, April 03, 2010

Good Friday meditation

I saw this bit of biblical verse at Elisson's blog:

The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.

Obviously resonant for Jews and Christians alike: the verse is quoted in Acts 4:11 with a Christian supersessionist spin:

This Jesus is “the stone that was rejected by you, the builders; it has become the cornerstone.”

The notion of the lowly being exalted-- or otherwise special in some way-- is prevalent in many religions. If we stretch our associative faculties a bit, we can see uselessness as a type or subset of lowliness. After all, generally speaking, to be called useless isn't to receive praise, or to be thought of highly. This from the Chuang Tzu:

Hui Tzu said to Chuang Tzu, "I have a big tree named ailanthus [sometimes translated "stink-tree"]. Its trunk is too gnarled and bumpy to apply a measuring line to, its branches too bent and twisty to match up to a compass or square. You could stand it by the road and no carpenter would look at it twice. Your words, too, are big and useless, and so everyone alike spurns them!"

Chuang Tzu said, "Maybe you've never seen a wildcat or a weasel. It crouches down and hides, watching for something to come along. It leaps and races east and west, not hesitating to go high or low-until it falls into the trap and dies in the net. Then again there's the yak, big as a cloud covering the sky. It certainly knows how to be big, though it doesn't know how to catch rats. Now you have this big tree and you're distressed because it's useless. Why don't you plant it in Not-Even-Anything Village, or the field of Broad-and-Boundless, relax and do nothing by its side, or lie down for a free and easy sleep under it? Axes will never shorten its life, nothing can ever harm it. If there's no use for it, how can it come to grief or pain?"



Elisson said...

I feel compelled to observe that the verse applies to Richard Nixon at least as well as it does to Jesus.

Kevin Kim said...

Interesting point! But I suppose that's true of all scripture: scripture is, after all, just a tool. It can be used for a whole range of purposes, and thus acquires a whole range of meanings.