Grief and grievance

The tyranny of the dead
"Before I became enlightened, mountains were mountains and trees were trees.” So begins a well-known Zen Buddhist proverb that continues: “As I approached enlightenment, mountains appeared to be more than mountains and trees more than trees. Now I am enlightened; mountains are mountains and trees are trees.”

Leaving aside the question of whether I have grown more or less enlightened over time, I seem to have progressed along a similar path in my reading of the Gospels. My current understanding of a given passage can be uncannily like that of my first encounter with it.

As an example, consider that episode where a man asks to bury his father prior to accepting Jesus’ call to discipleship. “Let the dead bury their own dead,” Jesus tells him. “But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”


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