Thursday, January 11, 2018

"the emperor is naked..."



"Four winds that blow
four thousand tongues,
with the word: survive

Four billion souls
striving today to stay alive

We say stand!
And sing out for a great "hooray!"
Why don't we be the ones to exclaim,
"The emperor is naked today..."


- Pete Seeger
 

I love Tracy Grammer and Dave Carter's recording of Pete Seeger's subtly-written protest song,"The Emperor is Naked Today." It is the perfect keynote for this post.

Some posts come quickly. They fall onto the screen like snow on the frozen earth -- and stick. Some are like acorns -- they fall and slowly burrow themselves deep into the soil, until one day they spring from the earth and begin to grow into a tall oak tree. For me, this is an oak post.

It started over twenty years ago. Our daughter was just a wee thing. She had a story book of classic children's fairytales. One of the stories was "The Emperor's New Clothes." She loved that story and the funny old illustrations. If you don't know the story, here is my cliff notes version: 


There was once an arrogant, self-absorbed emperor who always had to have the best of everything, to be the smartest, and most loved ruler in all the land.

One day, two con men came to the village pretending to be tailors. They convinced the emperor that they possessed fabric that was so fine and beautiful, that only the wisest, most discerning person could see or feel it. They told the emperor that if he hired them -- for a very generous sum of gold -- to make an outfit for him, he would be known as the wisest and most handsomely dressed monarch in the land.

He agreed, and for weeks they pretended to measure, and sew, and fit the emperor in his new clothes while they dined on sumptuous feasts and drank the emperor's wine. The emperor was too proud to admit that he couldn't see anything or feel anything. So, as they oohed and ahhed over his majesty's non-existent finery, he did the same. Turning and preening in front of the mirror.

When the garment was finally finished, the Emperor decided to hold a parade through the kingdom to show off his new clothes. Everyone in the village had heard of the garments  made from such fine material that only the wisest and most discerning eyes could see it. So, as the Emperor paraded through the streets, the villagers exclaimed about how amazing his new clothing was -- since none of them wanted to admit that they couldn't see them either -- an admission that would have revealed that they were not wise or discerning.

As the Emperor sashayed down the cobbled streets, the con artists felt they'd carried out the greatest con of all time. Their ruse had been successful and they would soon leave the kingdom wealthy and ready for the next gullible mark. That was, until a young boy -- not aware of the implications of saying he couldn't see the fine garments, shouted, "The Emperor is naked!"

The minute he said it, everyone realized what was going on and they all started pointing and laughing at the silly emperor. The Emperor looked down and realized that he was actually walking through the streets buck naked.  That not only could he not see the false finery, but neither could anyone else. He ran back to the castle clutching his hat, and the con artists were arrested and thrown into the dungeon.

Our daughter would point and laugh every time we read this story. The illustrations were silly. The Emperor was a chubby little guy with thin legs and a pot-belly. Besides his feathered hat, he was wearing nothing but a pair of bloomers - if that.



One night as we were preparing for bedtime, she asked for the "naked guy story" -- I wasn't feeling well at all. I just wanted to get her into her jammies, sing our prayers, and turn out the light so I could lie quietly next to her and continue to pray. But she was asking so sweetly that I couldn't deny her.

As I read the story, I had the feeling that there was something much deeper at work than a classic fairytale. We finished the story and I turned out the lamp next to her be. Rubbing her back in the dark, I was flooded with these words from Mary Baker Eddy's Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures:


" By universal consent,
mortal belief has constituted itself
a law to bind mortals
to sickness, sin, and death."
 

Lying there, it dawned on me that this was how the practice of Christian Science healing worked. I realized that mortal belief required universal consent. When even one child-like thought refuses to concede to the lie, we have deprived it of what it needs to even exist. We have exposed the con, that arrogantly says we are bound to suffer under the false laws of sin, disease, and death.  The spell is broken -- everyone is free.

Suddenly the statement:


"One with God,
is a majority."
 

made absolute sense to me. I didn't need to silently or audibly try to convince anyone of anything true. It is always right in front of our eyes. We cannot be conned into thinking that the truth is somehow silly, impractical, unwise, or delusional. God is All-in-all --  is all-powerful, all-knowing, ever-present, good. God is Love and this loving, omnipotent Sovereign has no opponent or opposition.

As I lay there, I could suddenly see that our job is not to rip the garment of sin, sickness and death off of the arrogant, puffed up, self-indulgent bully, but to confidently and joyfully exclaim - with childlike innocence - that:
"The emperor is naked." 

The puffed tyrant is reduced to a cowering scaredy-cat clutching his bloomers and running for cover, the con artist is arrested, thrown into the dungeon, and the keys are tossed in the moat.

We only need to refuse our consent, and mortal belief is deprived of what it needs -- universal consent. Like the boy in the crowd, we can confidently raise our voices and say, "the emperor is naked."

offered with Love,


Kate

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