September 22nd, 2012

Sacred Clowns. St Francis of Assisi and the Lakota Heyoka

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"If a man saw the world upside down,
with all the trees and towers hanging head downwards as in a pool, one
effect would be to emphasise the idea of dependence. There is a Latin
and literal connection; for the very word dependence only means hanging.
It would make vivid the Scriptural text which says that God has hung the
world upon nothing. If St. Francis had seen, in one of his strange
dreams, the town of Assisi upside down, it need not have differed in a
single detail from itself except in being entirely the other way round.
But the point is this: that whereas to the normal eye the large masonry
of its walls or the massive foundations of its watchtowers and its high
citadel would make it seem safer and more permanent, the moment it was
turned over the very same weight would make it seem more helpless and
more in peril. It is but a symbol; but it happens to fit the
psychological fact. St. Francis might love his little town as much as
before, or more than before; but the nature of the love would be altered
even in being increased. He might see and love every tile on the steep
roofs or every bird on the battlements; but he would see them all in a
new and divine light of eternal danger and dependence. Instead of being
merely proud of his strong city because it could not be moved, he would
be thankful to God Almighty that it had not been dropped; he would be
thankful to God for not dropping the whole cosmos like a vast crystal to
be shattered into falling stars. Perhaps St. Peter saw the world so,
when he was crucified head-downwards."  -- G. K. Chesterton, The Life of St. Francis pp, 74-75

The last shall be first, and the first, last.