Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Pinocchio - A Metaphor of Something Much Bigger

The story of Pinocchio was first written by Carlo Collodi in the 19th century as a children’s book to encourage conduct that would ensure Italian unity. Pinocchio, like many epic heroes, descends into hell and is revived by metamorphosis.  In the story’s original version, Pinocchio suffers a tragic death in which his enemies, a fox and a cat, hang him by a noose and a tempestuous wind comes and repeatedly knocks him against various structures until the life is knocked out of him.

Since its genesis, the story of Pinocchio has gone through many metamorphoses.  Some have tragic endings.  Some have happy endings.  Logically speaking, I suppose the ending is simply a function of the one telling the tale.  Interestingly enough, the story teller has the free will to end the story any way he likes.  I’m most familiar with the Disney version, but I presume that all versions have certain elements in common… a marionette capable of exercising free will and in the process, displaying character flaws which get him into all sorts of difficulties.  I posit that it is as good a metaphor as any to attempt to explain the relationship between God and man.

According to the Disney version, Pinocchio was a marionette skillfully carved by the hands of an elderly craftsman by the name of Gepetto.   I ask, rhetorically, what is it that characterizes marionettes?  Marionettes are lifeless, pieces of wood having some semblance, in appearance, of the conceptualizations of their creator.  Their movements are orchestrated and completely under the control of the puppeteer who pulls their strings.

Such was Pinocchio, a lifeless puppet who hung in a closet until Gepetto saw fit to take him out, dust him off and pull his strings.  But Gepetto longed for a real boy… a boy whom he could raise and call “son” and teach and talk to and with whom he could share the world.  And so a fairy comes, and with the help of special magic converts a lifeless pile of wood into a living being capable of thought, speech and self-animation. 

Gepetto loves Pinocchio, but the new, living Pinocchio has other ideas.  Rather than living in loving repose with his creator, he disdains the warm, fatherly Gepetto and chooses to explore the world on his own.   Collodi’s as well as Disney’s version of the story reveal a loveable puppet with, nevertheless, serious character flaws.  Pinocchio yields to all sorts of temptations and finds himself in the midst of myriads of misadventures which place his very survival in peril.  Having made a plethora of wrong choices he finds himself in predicaments that tempt him to lie in order to extricate himself.   Obligingly, he does lie and with each lie, his nose grows longer.

I don’t recall the entire Disney rendition of this tale, but if I remember correctly, unlike the Collodi account, in true Disney fashion, our hero winds up back in the loving arms of Gepetto and the two live happily ever after.

I write this essay because a question was presented to me on twitter... in so many words, “How can you say that a loving God created man with original sin?”  My response is “God did not create man with original sin. He created man with free will”.  Like Gepetto, creating Pinocchio out of a block of wood, God created man out of dust.  Like the fairy, through magic, giving life to that block of wood, God, through His “magic” as it were, took about 50 cents worth of apparently random chemicals (most of which is simply good ole' fashioned water) and gave them life. 

This life possessing creature that we call “man” is amazing.  He’s able to explore the intricacies of the ribosomes and mitochondria and glycoproteins and all the other intricacies that comprise amazing mechanisms within each cell that make up living organisms but he still can’t get to the essence of the source of this animation.  All of those structures could just as likely be intact but remain lifeless. Like Pinocchio man has sought to exercise his free will and, rather than enjoy the loving relationship available to him with his creator, venture out on his own in search of pleasures that he assumes will fulfill his desires.  Like Pinocchio, man’s spiritual nose grows long as he accumulates over the course of his life the lies and deceptions in which he indulges himself as he, in pursuit of happiness, spurns the love of the God who both, fashioned him and gave him life. 

Like Gepetto, God chose to free this puppet that we call “man” from his strings so that the man could willfully and independently make the choice to love his creator.  After all, how loving is it to demand of someone “love me”?  The first inclination is for that someone to pursue the opposite of the desired result.  Hence, the “strings” of man were removed.  He was given the free will to choose to love God and make the right choices. 

History has shown us that man has, with little exception, made wrong choices.  He chooses to love himself, or his creations or achievements or his desires more than his creator.  And so, we live in a world permeated by hate, distrust, self-indulgence, self-centeredness and confusion.  Even the motives of a man’s altruistic tendencies are suspect.

But God made a “puppet” that was unique.  This puppet had the very same will and desires that God had.  This “puppet” exercised His free will to wholeheartedly love the one from whom he’d come.  This puppets nose never grew because he never had to hide secrets.  This puppet served as an example to show how all the other “puppets” ought to be and this “puppet” died so as to draw all of the other “puppets” back into the loving arms of their creator.

The creator gives you the free will to read my story.  He gives you the free will to consider my words.  He gives you the free will to accept or reject my words.  He gives you the free will to love your creator, but above all, he gives you free will to choose.  The choice is entirely yours.

In the words of the guardian of the holy grail in an Indiana Jones movie (hopefully you're familiar with it) "choose wisely".

I wish you the best my friend.