Tuesday 7 December 2010

Jonah - a poetic paraphrase


The word of the True Divine came powerfully to Jonah, Amittai’s son. The word shouted to him,
“Jonah, make haste, get up and go, stand before me, then move. Go to Nineveh, that bulging metropolis of sinful wickedness and indecent indulgence, that bolt hole of bilious bad thought. Go there and shout it down, shout out against it for the stink of their sin is too disgusting.”
Instead, Jonah got up and went, but not toward Nineveh, but Tarshish. He began his journey by fleeing from the True Divine’s presence.
Jonah went to Joppa and found a cargo ship heading for Tarshish. He bought a ticket and got on board, to go with the crew to Tarshish; away from the presence of the True Divine.
But the True Divine thrust down on to the waters of the sea a powerful wind, so powerful that the boat began to creak, as if to crack apart. The sailors were terrified and each of them prayed to their own ‘divine’ deity. Yet the storm continued and so their cargo they set to sea. Crates and boxes were thrown down into the waters, so as to make the ship lighter, and more likely not to break up.
Yet Jonah, had left the deck and headed deep, down into the boat, curled up in comfort and fallen into a deep, down sleep.
The captain of the boat found him and shouted out,
“What’s going on with you? How is it that you can get some shut eye in this chaos? Get up and call out to your own ‘divine’ deity. Maybe your ‘divine’ deity will actually hear us and do something to stop us being smashed upon the rocks! Perhaps your ‘divine’ deity will listen and we might live!”
And the sailors all got together in a panic, they shouted,
“Let’s play short straws to show us who’s to blame for this catastrophe.”
They drew straws and the shortest fell to Jonah.
The sailors urgently asked him,
“Tell us, here and now, who are you that this catastrophe has come to us? What is it that you do? Where do you come from? Which country? Where is home? What people are you from?”
Jonah replied, heart in mouth,
“I am a Hebrew, my God is the True Divine, that is who I fear. My God is the True Divine who made the land and the heavens and the deep, down sea.”
Terror go to work in the guts of the sailors and they snarled at Jonah,
“What is with you? What have you done?”
They were full of terror because they knew, from what Jonah had said, that he was running from God, the True Divine, no sham ‘divine’ deity, but the True Divine.
The True Divine.
The sailors turned in terror towards each other and then to Jonah,
“What should we do to you so that the sea would not totally tear us to tatters?”
The sea was growing ever more dangerous and ever more chaotic.
Jonah replied,
“Pick me up and throw me overboard, into the sea. If you do this the sea will soon settle and you will be safe. It’s my fault; it’s on my account that the sea has become this wild, foaming beast.”
But instead the sailors trusting in their own strength and experience began to row towards the land.
But they got nowhere fast, stuck stationary in the sea, battling with the winds and the waves. So the sailors shouted out to God, the True Divine,
“True Divine, no false ‘divine’ deity, don’t let us die for this! Not for Jonah’s life, and don’t make us guilty of spilling an innocent man’s blood! For you, the True Divine have done what you wanted to do.”
With that they picked Jonah up and heartily heaved and hurled him into the foaming face of the deep, down sea.
The sea calmed.
A new fear settled heavily on the sailors.
They offered a sacrifice to the True Divine and made many promises.
And the True Divine gave purpose to a giant fish to scoop Jonah into its mouth and to swallow him whole.
Jonah was in the deep, down belly of the great fish for three full days and three full nights.
Seventy-two hours in the fish, deep, down.

At this Jonah called out in prayer to the True Divine and shouted out,
“At my lowest ebb, in my deepest, deep, down distress I screamed out to the True Divine, and he did not ignore me, but brought an answer. Out of the very pitted, fetid stomach of the deep, down dead, I screamed, and you, you the True Divine above all false idols and ‘divine’ deities, you heard my pitiful, raw and terrorized cry. It was you who plunged me into the deep, down depths of the ocean, to its very core, amid the flood of your waters. Waves broke over me, ripples and currents were over my head.”
“And I called out, “I’ve been pushed away from your presence, from the centre of your focus, but I will, with my eyes, see your temple, in its magnificent glory.” The wild and unending oceans surrounded me on all sides, above and below, as if to push out all the air within me and to leave me dead. Weeds tangled themselves around my weak and weary head, way below the mountains, at the fractious rock roots of their foundations, I descended further to the place of no-dwelling, whose prison bars slammed shut above me, leaving me stuck in the deepest deep, down despair, for all eternity I was to be trapped.”
“But you reached down into the deepest deep, down depths, to the darkest pit, you reached down and pulled me up.”
“The True Divine, I remembered you, when every ounce of me was ready for death, when into a pale, weary and languid slumber my immortal soul was descending, slipping over, I remembered you and you heard my prayer, even in the glorious majesty of your temple my prayer was heard.”
“The people who give all their prime attention to the things of vanity and humanity, to the human-made shiny, tactile pleasures, lose sight of the true hope of never-ending, unconditional, all-surpassing, whole-life encompassing love of the True Divine.”
“But as for me, with a heart full of gratitude I will shout out loud in awesome praise and wonder to you, the True Divine. I will thank you with my words and what I say and with my sacrifices, what I offer to you and what I do.”
“What I have said I will do; I will do.”
“You are the True Divine, the True Divine of all and salvation is in your hands. You are salvation!”
And with that the True Divine whispered into the ear of the mighty fish and it retched and vomited Jonah up, so that he came to rest upon the land, laid out, on dry sand.

The True Divine again spoke to Jonah and said,
“Jonah, get up and go, go to Nineveh, that vast and bulging metropolis, full to the brim of people. Go there and shout out aloud the words I give you to speak.”
So Jonah got up. He got up and made his way to Nineveh, just as the True Divine had told him to. Nineveh was a bustling metropolis, grand in size and population. To take it all in would take days.
As Jonah entered the city he didn’t stop on the periphery of the city, but walked for a full day, into the heart of the city. Once there he, with shout out loud a voice proclaimed,
“Forty days from now and this mighty metropolis, Nineveh, will be brought to downfall.”
When the people of Nineveh heard this prophetic word, they listened and believed the True Divine. The crowds dressed themselves in the sack cloth of repentance and shouted out to all to fast. From the lowest of the low to the mighty and powerful, they all did these things.
The king of Nineveh heard about what was happening in the city and stepped down from his throne, took off his majestic royal robe and dressed himself in sackcloth. He went and sat in a pile of ashes.
While sat in sackcloth and ashes the king spoke a word to be obeyed. His words were spread throughout Nineveh; the message read,
“This law is from the king and his nobles. No human, no animal, no sheep, no bird; is to taste a thing. None are to eat and none are to drink water. But instead all of you, humans and animals, must be dressed up in sackcloth, from head to foot. And all are to shout out aloud to the True Divine.”
“All people are to do a one-eighty degree turn, from evil to good, from the violent intentions in your hands.”
“There is a chance, that the True Divine might show mercy, turn away from his angry show of power so that we all might yet live.”
The True Divine saw the people of Nineveh and their longing for forgiveness, their utter one-eighty degree reverse of behaviour, belief and thoughts. The True Divine saw and showed mercy to the people of Nineveh. The True Divine did not bring the city and its people down.

When Jonah saw this he was furious and frustrated. He turned to the True Divine and prayed out,
“The True Divine, above, beyond, below and behind, isn’t this what I said would happen, back before the fish and the boat, when I was in my own land?”
“That’s why I tried to run away to Tarshish.”
“Because every instinct in my guts told me that you are the True Divine, full to the brim, of grace and mercy. That you, the True Divine don’t get angry quickly and are full to the bursting brim, of ever-present L-O-V-E.”
“That you, the True Divine, won’t lay out disasters. And now, at this point, in this place, I find myself in this position and I ask you to remove my life from my feeble frame. Take it from me. It’s much better that I fall down dirty dead than to live on!”
The True Divine responded,
“And Jonah, how is that anger working out for you?”
Jonah walked away.
He walked for a full day and left the city, that vast sprawling and bustling metropolis of Nineveh.
Beyond the edge of the city, to the east, Jonah sat down and made for himself a place to shelter in and just be.
He sat under it, in shade and gazed back at the bustling metropolis Nineveh. He watched to see what would happen to that vast mass of people and animals and buildings.
The True Divine gave purpose to a plant to grow up and over Jonah’s head to bring shade and to release him from the hot glare of the sun. So Jonah basked gratefully in the dull shade of the plant’s bountiful foliage.
The next morning, at dawn, the True Divine gave purpose to a worm to eat at the plant so that it withered.
As the sun rose high in the sky, the True Divine gave purpose to a molten east wind. The wind blew and the sun shone fiercely onto Jonah’s head so that he felt weak and close to unconsciousness.
And Jonah called out a request for death,
“I’d rather die than live!”
But the True Divine responded to Jonah,
“And Jonah, how is that anger about the plant working out for you?”
Jonah shouted back,
“My anger is working out well enough to be consumed by death!”
And the True Divine spoke to Jonah,
“You have so much consideration, mercy and commiseration for a plant that you did not plant, or cultivate, or nurture, or water. A plant which sprung up one night while you slept. And then died one night while you slept.”
“And with that in your head, why should I, the True Divine, not show mercy to that vast, bulging metropolis, Nineveh?”
“Nineveh, where one-hundred-and-twenty-thousand live among many cattle, rich in possessions, but living without a clue, not knowing right from left and up from down?”

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