Sunday, May 30, 2010

Midas and the tarry touch

When I center down at Meeting for Worship and try to quiet my thoughts so that I can hear the Still, Small Voice in my heart, more often than not a Gospel verse or story comes to mind.  This morning, however, while trying to detoxify my mind of concern over the oil spill catastrophe, I thought of a tale from Greek mythology, King Midas and the golden touch.

Maybe you remember it. Once upon a time there was a great king named Midas who (not content to be be filthy rich already from owning the biggest chain of automotive repair franchises in the Western world) lusted after gold and could never get enough. One morning, the king's soldiers brought him a satyr who, after a night of revelry, had passed out in the king's private garden, where no one was permitted to enter upon pain of death. Midas recognized the terrified satyr as one of the god Dionysus' followers and ordered the soldiers to let him go. In gratitude, the satyr offered to grant the king anything he wished. Figuring that he may as well start with the impossible and then work his way down,  Midas asked for the power to turn everything he touched into gold. Even with a hangover the satyr knew this wasn't a good idea. "Is His Majesty quite certain that is what he wants?" he asked. There was no doubt in the king's mind. "OK, but don't blame me for the consequences!" said the satyr, making a speedy escape.

 King Midas eagerly tried out his new powers by touching everything in the palace. Wooden tables and chairs, brass shields, steel broadswords, even heavy, braided curtains turned into the purest gold. His brain cells clicked away, calculating his financial assets. With his unparalleled wealth, he would be able to pay for thousands and thousands of the strongest, deadliest warriors and conquer territories one after the other until he became the greatest and most feared ruler on earth.

 He was just about to send for his minister of the Treasury when his little daughter burst out of her bed chamber and came running toward him. Instinctively he swept her up in his arms and caressed her hair...and suddenly his rosy-cheeked little girl was transformed into a massive, ponderous figure of gold. He no longer felt her heart beating against his chest. Her hair no longer flowed. Her once blue-green eyes stared blankly ahead. Setting his daughter-statue down on the ground, he looked at his hands, shook his head, and just wept.

Realizing that all the gold in the universe could not restore his precious daughter to him, the world's wealthiest king was now also the most bereaved.

And so too, we Americans, in our lust for black gold, are transforming the priceless biosphere -- flowing with pure water, lush with green plants, and constantly nourishing all life forms--  into a tarry, lifeless mass.

We can't buy our way out of this catastrophe. What are we willing to give up,  use less of, and work hard at so that our children can know an earth restored?

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