Fairy tales tend to be parables. They teach us to look beneath the surface (Beauty and the Beast), to exercise patience and to work to overcome obstacles (Sleeping Beauty), to avoid easy gratification and hold out for the real prizes in life (Pinocchio). In the fairy-tale films of the great Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, the meanings are often layered.
“. . . he was carried up, and a cloud took him.” Acts 1:9
Gravity, they say, is all about mass. Big attracts Big sucks big pulls big, like death, won’t let go. Still, We worship those who try: “Lucky Lindy,” St. Michael Jordan. Leonardo, bless him, forever plotting how To fly, or assuage the general jowliness of time.
Jesus was taken up, and Mary. St. Teresa of Ávila Had to cling to the rail during prayer to keep from Floating skyward—the Assumption being that things Sometimes fall up. But, come on, which way is Up? That is to say, which way isn’t? If Teresa was
A person of such faith, why didn’t she just let go? Like The man I knew who, after being told he had “maybe Six months,” immediately signed up for swimming Lessons. “Well,” he said, “I just felt that if I could learn How to float, I could learn how to die.”
And the graves were opened; and many bodies . . .     which slept arose, And came out of the graves after     his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and     appeared unto many. Matthew 27:52-53
When asked, “Just what is night anyway?”     Coyote closed his eyes,     Placed his burden basket over his head     And began making the sounds of hoot owl.         “The Burden Basket,” Elderberry Flute             Song, Peter Blue Cloud
What do you think of the little rumblings, the discontents, the warpings of fault lines and fissures? What seems to be said takes some thinking. He led captivity captive.¹ Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower part of the earth.² What could it have been to descend into the earth: the magma and lava the dark heat nearly sweat lodged there? Was it where he wandered with his ash bucket, his firepans and shovel after Calvary, after the graves were opened? What did the dead do the three days he was in hell preaching on last chance to the unchanced? Did they look at one another and didn’t quite know what to do? Maybe some saw their families on the street and weren’t recognized. How had they changed that they didn’t know them? It would have been too much anyway for the families to know their dead were only waiting on Jesus and had three days to kill and would have to leave again for a second parting while the families were still grieving from the first. Still others hid out, pulling their tunics and cloaks and head cloths about them, holding their little angers, the mistreatments, the rapes, the robberies, and waited on the edge of town for him to return from hell and take them in the air.
My good neighbor of long standing said to me, You know, I think that old nursery rhyme, Row, Row, Row Your Boat, is the golden key To a successful life. Remember how it goes?
Oh yes, I said, but what about all those folks Whose boat is leaking, and their oars have Battered blades and split handles that pinch Their palms and splinter their fingers at every stroke, And as far as they can see downstream, There is crashing white water, great boulders And perhaps a fatal waterfall ahead?
Ah yes, he sighed. I pray for them every day. I pray earnestly that they can swim—that they Know how to swim, he said, pouting his lips Thoughtfully and nodding his white head. Yes, they must know how to swim.
Religion is often on display in professional athletics, with the exception of the National Hockey League. The few hockey players who are open about their faith buck a tradition of reticence or downright distrustfulness toward religion. Unlike professional football or basketball, many NHL players come from Canada or Europe, where the culture is much more secular and religious faith is closely guarded. There is also the suspicion in hockey that a person of faith might be too soft a player. Some hockey clubs make chapel services available, but far fewer than in professional basketball (Boston Globe, April 5).