© 2020 Drew T. Noll

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Art of Rome and the Hijacking of God



When in Rome, do it your own way. I know; it is supposed to be ‘do like the Romans’ but, let me take a second to explain. It all goes back a few thousand years when Jacob was encouraged by his mother, Rebecca (who was given certain information by God in a dream), to dress up like Esau and step into his slightly older brothers long red hairdo in order to receive the proper blessing. Now, I say the proper blessing, because, in the end, he did receive the proper blessing. Jacob’s was the spiritual, intellectual blessing. Esau received, in the end, the proper blessing as well. He received the blessing for wealth and for power in the world. It was Isaac that seemed to be confused and wanted to reward cunning, prowess, and just general manliness, with the wrong blessing. Rebecca knew, as do pretty much all females (sorry guys...), the right thing to do in this situation. Esau went on to become Edom, then became Rome through Antipater (King Herod’s dad) and King Herod himself, who invited the Romans in, which eventually caused the calamitous destruction of the Second Temple and the disaster of the expulsion of the Jews from Jerusalem 2,000 years ago to slavery in Rome and eventually the Diaspora of Jews around the planet. Pheew... Jewish History 101 in two sentences doesn’t seem to give it enough credit, considering the massive impact it has had on our planet; but, I digress...

The reason I am dwelling on this idea now is because I just got back from Florence and Rome on a whirlwind trip of art, world history, and inner philosophical prodding (as well as a romantic getaway with my wife of 25 years!) and while touring around the sites, I came to the conclusion that God, within our tiny conceptual understanding of the world, seems to have been hijacked... What do I mean? Well, we have to continue with our history lesson to try and understand this one. Rome, in the year 312 CE, became Christian through the Roman Emperor Constantine. I know, there is a difference between Christian and Catholic, but that is not really the point. I have good friends that are Catholic, I have close family that consider themselves ‘First Christians,’ and I work for a Mennonite ‘like’ institution here in Israel.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am a Jew and I have spent a good amount of time trying to figure out what that is for the last few years and have found that in doing so, I needed to figure out who my oldest nemesis was. This is none other than Esau, my spiritual ancestor Jacob’s brother, and based on history as we know it, he has spread out into the western world on the coattails of Christianity; first into Europe, then to the Americas and beyond. I am talking about the energetic element of Esau, the power in the world, not the specific ideas or religious and spiritual concepts (although, there is some connection there as well, but for another time).

So, now that we understand that Esau is the wealth/power energy in the world and that Jacob is the spiritual/intellectual energy in the world, we can get a better idea of why God has been hijacked. I think we can all agree that God is everything, everyplace, all the time, essentially the Infinite. Each one of us, on the other hand, are essentially finite souls (bound by time) that have been encased in a finite shell or physical body that operates within time and space. This being the case, when I saw the Arch of Tito, which depicts the fiendish, despicable, and the catastrophic to the known universe, event of the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, I just wanted to cry. Now we have God sitting on a cloud with a long beard squishing people like ants when he feels like it. Esau hijacked God and made him a man that lives in the physical, finite world, bound by time and by space. That is power in the world...

How does this affect us today? Well, now we have Atheists, Agnostics, and Egoists that have every right to purport their belief systems or lack thereof. The whole point of life as we know it is to develop a relationship with the Creator, growing ourselves and reaching out to each other and to God. This idea has been almost completely lost to us. Each and every one of us has a unique relationship with the Creator, just like with each other, and we all ‘now’ have the option of choosing not to relate at all. This week’s parsha, Vayikra (Leviticus 1-5) is all about learning from the humility of Moses and making the ‘sacrifices’ that we should be making in order to connect to the creator. The problem is that, now in our world, it is almost impossible for anything attached to the real truth to ‘feel’ real anymore. We hoist famous people up onto pedestals and revere them as demigods, we gossip about each other to try to tear down our world instead of growing ourselves up to meet it, and we undervalue the real, inner truth of the world because it has been cheapened into a trinket of a bygone day, utterly unimportant for our modern, technologically sophisticated, sense of ourselves. We now have the choice to yank down the world in order to meet our needs, be it comfort or cake...

Seeing Rome, I came back home to feel both enlightened and depressed. Maybe it is just that familiar to everyone feeling of coming down off of a vacation and back into the so-called real world, but I think it goes a little deeper than that.

Thanks for listening. I think I am going to go paint some art now. Maybe that will pick up my spirits...

Oh yeah, Shabbat Shalom!