Ecclesiasticus – The Mad Preacher

At this time of year I return to the mad preacher, Einstein-hair floating around his head, his shinny- from-wear tunic, loose and flaring as he gestures–wild eyes, going on about all things wrought under the sun being the same and grievous and vain and vexatious. Getting all pissy about his laboured-over-fortune going to, who knows, maybe fools even. Crazy old man.

But then–like he’s caught a slip of horizon during all his spastic postulating–you see him lift his carked old head, sputter like he’s been under water, and like a low pressure system moving off shore his brain, he calms himself and begins to wax effulgent. "Look," he says. "See?" There’s sweetness in wine, and joy in food, and delight in work–and beauty in the seasons with time enough for all things, and all things in their time.

He hath made every [thing] beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.

And at that moment, with that knowledge, he plops down like a child in a warm bath with toys. Thinks better about wanting to be God, or know God-stuff, which he also now realizes is about the same thing. And he receives his inscrutable beginning and end.

And that’s the mad preacher. He’s a beast when he’s on you, but a bonny breeze when walking with you.

The good thing about reading him once a year is that you’re forced to let up on the gas pedal. Maybe even roll down the window and let some self-forgiveness wash through and nourish that inner-darling of yours.

You say, this year, I’m not going to take myself so seriously; so that maybe, I can take love and compassion and beauty more seriously. And perhaps you write something down–so you can go back to it–like: All my crazy shooing and flapping at all those ducks, trying to get them in the same old row, well, I’m just going to let them go free range. And you spy the health in that.

And now, when those sage contemporary prophets, Steely Dan, ask the fishbone-in-throat question: Are you reelin’ in the years, stowin’ away the time? –you laugh, because you’re seeing clearly enough, thanks to the preacher, to stop reelin’ and stowin’, and let what’s left of the magic float up.

Because now you see that we’re under the slippery illusion that there’s no slow magic left–which is so easy to do in our methamphetamine culture–burned out, as we are, by just keeping up to the headlines. Burned out by food that comes from too far away, and by fast medicine, and fast solutions, and exhaust, and lack of things green and growing. Burned out by believing that everything has already been explained, and anything unexplained will be explained tomorrow by the rules we set in place yesterday–which leaves us so starved for mystery that crop circles seem worthy of our singular devotion.

The preacher seems to have it about right. There is an inexorable Spirit moving below the crust, breaking up our categories and controls, working with us when we choose love and working around us—and leaving us to our isolations—when we choose envy and indifference.

Me, I’m going to do my best to hang in with the preacher. Sure, he’ll wake me in the night and scare the guano out of me with his vex’s. But when the sun comes up, like it does, he’ll be like, "Hey, sleepy boy, look, see? here’s your nectar necklace."

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