A King Beetle on a Coconut Estate, some of the best Theology I have ever heard

21 Oct

As the moon rose and the hour grew late The day-help on the coconut estate Raked up the dried leaves that fell dead from the trees Which they burned in a pile by the lake

The beetle king summoned his men And from the top of the rhododendron stem, “Calling all volunteers who can carry back here The Great Mystery has been lit once again”

One beetle emerged from the crowd In a fashionable abdomen shroud Said, “I’m a professor, you see, that’s no mystery to me I’ll be back soon, successful and proud”

But when the beetle professor returned, He crawled on all six, as his wings had been burned And described to the finest detail all he’d learned There was neither a light, nor a heat, in his words

The deeply dissatisfied king Climbed the same stem to announce the same thing But in his second appeal sought to sweeten the deal With a silver padparadscha ring

The lieutenant stepped out from the line As he lassoed his thorax with twine Thinking, “I’m stronger and braver and I’ll earn the king’s favor One day all he has will be mine”

But for all the lieutenant’s conceit He too returned singed and admitting defeat “I had no choice, please believe, but retreat It was bright as the sun, but with ten times the heat

And it cracked like the thunder and bloodshot my eyes Though smothered with sticks, it advanced undeterred Carelessly cast an ash cloud to the sky, my lord Like a flock of dark vanishing birds”

The beetle king slammed down his fist “Your flowery description’s no better than his! We sent for the great light and you bring us this?
We didn’t ask what it seems like, we asked what it is!”

His majesty’s hour at last is drawn nigh The elegant queen took her leave from his side Without understanding, but without asking why
She gathered their kids to come bid their goodbyes

And the father explained, “You’ve been somewhat deceived You’ve all called me your dad, but your true Dad’s not me
I lay next to your mom and your forms were conceived Your Father’s the light within all that you see

He fills up the ponds as He empties the clouds Holds without hands and He speaks without sounds He provides us with the cow’s waste and coconuts to eat Giving one that nice salt taste, and the other its sweet

Sends the black carriage the day death shows its face Thinning our numbers with kindness and grace And just as a flower and its fragrance are one So must each of you and your Father become

Now distribute my scepter, my crown, and my throne And all we’ve known as wealth to the poor and alone” Without further hesitation, without looking back home The king flew headlong into the blazing unknown

And as the smoke ring hurled higher and higher The troops flying loops around the telephone wires They said, “Our beloved’s not dead, but his highness instead Has been utterly changed into fire”

Why not be utterly changed into fire? Why not be utterly changed into fire? Why not be utterly changed into fire? Why not be utterly changed into fire?

There is something that those of you who are not familiar with mewithoutYou need to know (besides that they are one of the best bands ever), Aaron Weiss is a freaking lyrical genius.  He and his brother, the guitarist for the band, were raised Sufi by their parents, and they have become Christians, but their Sufi roots definitely show forth in their writing.

The song opens with some hired hands creating a fire from coconut leaves that have fallen on the ground.  The beetles, not aware (in any sense of the word) of fire, are curious, especially the King Beetle.  He wants to know what the fire is, and so he calls the people together to find someone brave enough to go find out and report back to him.  He is on a search for the meaning of this fire, and low and behold, an educated beetle steps forward, claiming that he can bring him the information he desires.

But the beetle professor fails in his mission to aid in the king’s search.  He comes back telling the king what he learned…but leaves out key details, that the thing brings heat and light with it.  Not really telling him what he wants to know, the professor has shown that when it comes to the “fire” education can only get us so far.  Education, while good, and while very useful, is not able to understand what the fire really is, something that brings with it heat, comfort, warmth and light that brings everything around it out of darkness and into the all revealing light (an interesting note:  the fire’s heat is also something that obviously burns things:  the beetle professor lost his wings in his search…something that will come into play later in the song).

The disappointed king calls the people back in order to find someone else to bring him the information he so desperately desires.  A lieutenant beetle steps forward, looking for wealth and power, he says that he will go and bring back the information that the king is looking for.  Thinking he can go and confront the fire, get the facts, and bring it back will get him the power he is seeking, he foolishly gets to far…only to be burned himself.  Being a soldier, he sees things quite differently (don’t we all?) than the professor beetle sees them.  He sees the fire as a violent force moving without stopping, without ceasing, and without mercy.  He felt assaulted by the smoke and the flames, and reports this back to the king.

Both the lieutenant and the professor both miss the point:  and the king knows this.  Angered, the king tells them both that they are not bringing him anything of use, only what the fire seems like.  Instead, he wants to actually know the fire, in a more intimate sense.

And so the king decides to do something rash, something radical.  He plans to abandon his post as king and go investigate the fire himself.  His wife, knowing that her husband will soon be departing from this life to investigate and learn about the fire, brings their children to him.  He begins by telling them that he is not really their father, but the one who is is much greater than he could ever be.  He recognizes that he only has limited power over people, but this Father that he is speaking of has power over everything, life, death, providing food for them, everything.

He then turns to his people and demands that they divide up his kingdom among themselves, making provisions for the poor and those who are unable to provide for themselves.   I think that this part, where he is describing the Father and what to do with his kingdom, is the most beautiful description of God I have seen outside of the Bible, plain and simple.

He tells the people that they need to become like the Father, which is what he is going to do.  He then flies off into the fire, being consumed, not like the professor or the lieutenant, who only lost a small part of themselves and fled in fear.  The king is wholly consumed by the fire, losing himself to the flames, becoming part of the fire itself.  This is a major part of Sufism, the aim is not simply to know God from the point of view of others, but to search for God, to seek Him out with such drive and determination that when you do find Him, the only thing you can do is abandon everything that you have or have known to lose yourself in Him, to become a part of Him, to find your identity alone in Him.

This, I think, is amazing.  The song illustrates beautifully the aim of Sufism, and what should be our aim in life:  to forget everything else and to lose ourselves in God.  To find ourselves identifying only with the Divine.  We should never take our knowledge of God from someone else, the information will be shallow and nothing like what it is really like to experience it on our own.  To find God for ourselves with the empirical knowledge of His very presence…we can only ask ‘why not be utter changed into fire?’

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