This might be controversial: on literal understanding of the Bible

FullSizeRenderI left the church as a teenager, with an overwhelming feeling of not belonging. But I have always thought certain biblical quotes to be beautiful, inspiring, and true.

However (and I don’t claim any kind of expertise), knowing that the Bible was written in archaic Aramaic and Hebrew languages, which later were translated into Greek, and that these archaic languages have been extinct for a long time, I am puzzled whenever I hear people arguing that they know with certainty the meaning of everything in the Bible and there is no way any of it was meant as a metaphor.

Let’s imagine that we stopped using the English language. And then, by some random act of fate, all the reference books were wiped off the face of the planet. And we were just left with a few brilliant literary pieces. And some new humans found them two thousand years in the future, not in original but translated into another language. And some of it would make sense, I am sure, because it would be recognized as some universal wisdom. But then they would read things like “it was raining cats and dogs” or “he paid an arm and a leg for this deal” or “when pigs fly.” Would they believe that this literally happened and things were really bizarre back in the day?

All I am sayin’ is, it is hard to understand things when you have no context.

I think that the Christians who argue that, for example, the Book of Genesis is to be taken literally, are in fact diminishing God’s greatness. When I think about it, imagining a God who is just some “bearded guy upstairs,” who sat down and thought up a planet with x number of species and who gets mad when we misbehave and won’t let the naughty ones in heaven when it’s all said and done… that does not necessarily scream love and omnipotence.

But if you think of God as this loving force permeating all living things from the beginning of time, perpetually creating increasingly-complex organisms in a self-organizing and self-correcting manner (let’s hear it for evolution!), now this is… well… awesome.

And I don’t mean awesome like your new Apple watch or those biking socks you got last Christmas.

I mean actual AWE-inducing AWESOME.

On growing up in strawberry fields

FullSizeRender(1)Having grown up in the seventies and eighties in a country behind the Iron Curtain, I remember food rationing and shortages of basic things like shoes. Or toilet paper. I remember my mom queueing for hours to get luxuries such as coffee, or tea, or sugar.

And although we didn’t have much stuff, I don’t remember ever feeling poor. We never went hungry. Both sets of my grandparents had small family farms that we visited, always bringing home chunks of meat, sacks of potatoes, and crates of vegetables and fruit.

When I was very young, I had no idea that my parents were actually smuggling all this food, hidden under the seats and in the trunk of our orange Fiat 125p. They knew that, in case we were pulled over by the militia, the food would be confiscated and they would have to answer to the authorities (unless the officer could be persuaded with something like a duck or some sausage to not report us, which I think happened). These trips continued over the years.

When my brothers and I were old enough, we would usually spend parts of our summer vacations on our maternal grandparents’ farm.

I can recall a sense of embarrassment on my return to school with no exciting stories to tell. I was jealous to hear my friends reminiscing about their trips to the lake region, the sea side, or the mountains. A very few lucky ones got to go abroad to places like Yugoslavia or Czechoslovakia. The older I got, the more excruciating was the awareness of my uncoolness due to my spending the summers among livestock and hay.

Little did I know that a few decades into the future, every self-respecting hipster would love to have a glimpse of this polyculture organic farming that was my grandparents’ way of life. I also didn’t I know that, one day, I would cherish these memories and achingly wish that my own children could make such memories of their own…

I’d spend hours in fields and meadows, just listening to the buzzing of bugs, looking at clouds, examining different shapes and textures of leaves. I’d chew on sweet and tender clover stems and wear wild flower wreaths on my head. I’d watch hawks circling the air and swallows ceaselessly building their mud nests under roofs. I’d dig in the dirt under the canopy of grapevines by my grandparents’ house to find bullet casings and pieces of broken pottery from WWII.

I remember the food. Eating berries straight from the plants. Smelling home made bread. Picking mushrooms in the forest. Words like pasteurized, sterilized, disinfected didn’t exist in our vocabulary. We, kids, didn’t much care for washed, either. (Nobody ever got sick).

I remember loving the animals. Saying hi to the pigs and the horses, feeding the chickens and gathering eggs. Being fascinated by and scared of the cows, the marvelous giants with their menacing horns, wet noses, and beautiful, gentle eyes.

I remember grandma milking the cows every morning and evening, and talking to them like they were good friends. The cats congregating in the barn in anticipation of warm, fresh milk. I remember my grandpa scything the grass, and later loading the fragrant hay on the wagon so high, it could only just fit through the barn door. I remember those hayrides from the fields. We laughed and laughed whenever the horse sped up on the bumpy country road. I remember our suppers on the wooden table under a magnificent maple tree in the front yard. My grandpa tired after a day’s work, slowly rolling his cigarette.

There was nothing to do for us, really.

And we didn’t.

And time felt different.

I remember abundance. Of smells and flavors and textures and beauty.

And I remember just being.

And, even though nobody ever said it, I remember being loved.