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Open Your Eyes Before You Die

By Nathan Wilson
October 01, 2002

The sun didn't reach the earth behind the barn until after lunch. The ground was always wet because the barn trapped the run-off from the hill behind it. When the boy played there in the mornings he grew cold. But when the sun was high, the earth was warm and he did not mind the moisture seeping through his shirt to his chest as it was now.

He was on his belly and he was watching something he had never seen. In his six years he had seen and done many things. He had seen a rattlesnake. He had held rabbits, frozen spiders, drunk rain, swum the length of the pond in one breath, fallen from the willow tree. He had never seen this.

His chin was in the warm earth directly between his hands. He was staring at a creamy slick thing. It was not long. It was very short. It writhed. At one end, the end he had decided was the front end, he could see little holes, or dents that went all the way around in a circle. That whole end, but especially the circle, was stretched tight.

He had been in the barn collecting what he called owl pellets without knowing what anyone else called them. There was a miniature dresser on top of his dresser in his room. The top drawer held very small rocks that he liked, the bottom two held mouse skulls with long yellow teeth, but only one rat skull with only one tooth. These were the bounty of owl pellets. His father knew about his dresser. He didn't know if his mother did.

The owl pellets had never been explained to him, but he had played with enough that he knew all about them. The owls swallowed mice whole. They couldn't digest the bones and fur, so their stomachs would wrap the bones in the fur using some owlish glue to make a pellet. They then threw the pellets up for him to find. He preferred that they throw them up.

He always looked for rat's skulls. His dresser was full, and he could only make room for rats. This morning had been passed in the barn, and there had been many pellets. No rats, but his pockets were full of new mice that he would sow in the field on his way home.

After he had cracked open his fill of owl treasure he threw open the door of the loft and sat kicking his feet in the sun, leaning back on his hands watching the pigeons above. Dust crawled slowly through the new sunlight, visible where it had just been hiding. Some moved slowly out of the loft and into daylight and new invisibility. Some moved back into the darkness of the loft and old invisibility. The rest danced methodically in the borderland. The boy's eyes were not long on the pigeons, but refocused on the closer action, the slow swirl of the dust world.

When the dust began to make him feel small he sat up. The sun had climbed, and the shadow of the elevator was no longer beneath him. The ground looked up at him, and he jumped.

His feet sank, but not deep, and he fell forward onto his hands. Between them, he found something. He lowered his chin into the softness, and began his watching.

The creamy thing had stopped its squirming. The front end was still tight, but not stretching.

The boy jumped. The front end had blown off. His face reapproached and stared, waiting for what would emerge. First came a bag. It drooped and sagged, full of what the boy immediately identified as goop. Behind the bag came the head and body of a fly. The head was split wide open where the bag attached.

The fly fought its way out and stood in the mud beneath the boy's nose. It stood still for a while. The boy watched for a while. Then it puffed its abdomen, sucked in the bag, shut its face, and flew away. The boy stayed. He thought about putting the maggot skin in his pocket with the mice, but decided against it. Instead he looked around for others. He found two more still full, and one empty, but he did not get to watch the magic again. The birth of one fly was all creation was willing to reveal for the day.

After his search he ran home to eat, scattering mouse bones as he went. He told his mother about the fly and she made him wash his hands and face before he could touch his peanut butter and jelly.

When dinner found him he was not on his belly, but his back. He had spent a good deal of time on a bucket watching his favorite anthill, helpfully handing them sticks and straw. But then he had felt coming what every other creature felt as well. He had run out into the fallow pasture grass to watch the storm approach.

The air in the world was compressed around him. Black walls from the West were pressing it in. He watched while the sun was swallowed by the clouds. He watched lightening flicker while the sky was yet blue. Still the world was tight and crowded. And then the skin broke. With thunder the lid popped off. The world's head split open and the tightness went away.

He watched the rest of the storm soaked, wrapped in a blanket in his living room. He watched as a new world crawled out of old skin, and prepared to fly.

Eyes of Wisdom
To gain wisdom is to have eyes that are open and always opening. The wise man sees the world as it is, with the awestruck eyes of a child. The world for him is full of magic that has not been dulled by chalkboards and soulless lectures. What we so often call education can simply be the road to a numb blindness. Instead of reveling in the wonder of it all like children watching their first anthill, we cover glory with truncated names so as to hide from what is being preached. We are man, and so we are to name. We are of Adam's race and so we are to take dominion over the earth. But we are not to pull the naming of things over our eyes so that we can no longer see them.

It is no surprise that pagans hide from God, and from the wonder they might have in His creation, through giving lifeless names to life. It is no wonder that pagan schools are experts at knowledge-inflicted blindness. They must not see the glory of God and His creation, and so they name a thing photosynthesis, and make charts, and charge money to show those charts to others who also must be blinded. If there are charts to look at, then they can focus on them and not on the fact that in God's world, sunlight makes plants, trees, and eventually us, out of thin air. To them, there is no surprise, no glory. Nothing is made from thin air. But many things are made from the carbon in carbon dioxide. It should not surprise us that pagans do this. But Christians? Why do Christians run from God?

Christians are to be children. We are to be children in how we trust God, in how we see Him, in how we see His world. We are to be in a state of constant amazement. We must never delude ourselves into thinking that we know something because we've seen a chart or heard a lecture. We must be in pursuit of a fuller knowledge of God. We must glorify and enjoy Him forever. When we study we should not be closing our eyes with an illusion of knowledge. We should be grasping after God through looking at His world, knowing that we are giving nicknames to creation, the nicknames of children who must not think that they are grown.

We ought to study. We ought to educate and be educated. But that education should not be simple hiding and blinding. We ought not blind ourselves to God with theology. We ought not run from Him with science. Instead we should use our studies by faith, to pry our lids wider and wider, forever feeling smaller.

If we have studied, if we have been educated, and we think that we know something, then we are playing at grown-ups and are almost certainly in ignorance. Fools and blind, blind to the dance of creation. We are of Christ. We must be children; our eyes must be wide.


Topics: Church, The, Culture , Dominion, Fiction

Nathan Wilson

Nathan Wilson is the managing editor of Credenda/Agenda magazine and author of Right Behind: A Parody of Last Days Goofiness. He and his wife, Heather, have one son, Rory D. He can be contacted at [email protected].

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