Fellow Passengers: This week’s Prophetic Passage* (Isaiah 32:9-20) transports me to the fall of 2011, to the living room of Samuel and Isis Rodriguez, who live in the countryside outside the city of Matanzas, Cuba. Samuel is the Administrator of the Kairos Center, where I led workshops during the month of October. I stayed in Sammy and Isis’ home a couple of times, and on this particular Sunday afternoon, he turned the tv on and we watched a documentary being re-played with sub-titles on Cubavision from the History Channel. It was called Life After People, and scientists from various fields speculated on what would happen to the earth over time were humans to disappear. They don’t go into the reasons for humanity’s absence; the show simply demonstrates from a scientific and engineering perspective what the impact would be, how long it would take for the dogs and cats to go feral, how long for bridges to collapse and buildings to crumble. They used computer generated imaging to show what all this would look like, and I found it really fascinating to see how New York City would eventually, over millennia, revert back to the jungle of converging rivers that it was before humans developed it. Eventually, every trace of humanity’s time on earth would be erased. The last to go, say the scientists, will be Mount Rushmore. One of the scientists imagined what the next humans who evolve onto the scene will think when their explorations take them to Rushmore, and wonder if some space aliens had been here and constructed the monument.
Isaiah had less access to American cable tv than the Cubans do, but he seems to have been familiar with the concept of this History Channel documentary. Unlike Life After People, though, he does give a brief description of what the cause of the catastrophic downfall of humanity will be: a life of ease and complacency. Like the prophet Amos, he targets the women for this particular diatribe against the complacent lifestyle focusing on creature comforts, but the men get their fair share of blame in other passages. The point here is the consequence of such a life. The palaces will be forsaken, the populous cities and surrounding hills deserted, until the earth becomes the den of feral animals, the joy of wild asses, pastureland for flocks. Isaiah doesn’t go into the scientific speculation about how long this will take, or how long the absence of humanity will last, but he does imagine the return of the human community. He says that there will be a re-birth, when the Spirit is poured out from on high and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field. Then, he says, in place of the complacent life of material ease, there will be a kingdom of peace and justice, with secure dwellings and a joyful work in the agrarian fields. The born again world will see the farmer who sows by the stream happy again, as will be the free range animals.
My friend Paco Rodés, the President of the Kairos Center in Matanzas, spent the night with us last night. We had an early morning walk, and he was impressed that we live out here in the middle of the silvestre, (the wild), the selva (jungle). When Kim and I moved here we made a decision, since we don’t have neighbors who would mind, to let our land, as much as possible, grow wild. We have a little plot of garden where my great-grandparents cleared enough land to bring a little daylight down, and other than that our only footprint is our house. We don’t mow, and we have planted very few flowers. It has been gratifying to benefit from all the work the birds do to plant wildflowers all around our house. I have photographed over a hundred varieties of flowers within walking distance. I can’t claim to always withstand the temptation to get caught up in this life of ease that our creature comfort culture bombards us with. After all, I post these musings every day using the ease of technology. But I hope that my daily walks through these wild woods, and my sowing a garden by the stream, will keep me in touch with the Spirit that pours down and brings life and rebirth to the earth every year.
How about you? Where does this Prophetic Passage take you on your journey of faith? Feel free to comment.