Monday, February 15, 2010

parades and make-believe

(this pic looks a little like the street of our apartment in Taiwan)

Wow, first blog of 2010. I've been busy and internet-less.

I've got to sleep soon, but quickly-- Taiwan memory that I had forgotten about.

I remember our Taipei apartment best, on the fifth floor with an unpredictable elevator (we would escort our guests down to the front door just in case it would get stuck). We had a tiny balcony with a few hardy plants that the monsoon season didn't drown. It overlooked a narrow street, and all was concrete and dark gray. But if you leaned out the balcony and look right, you could see lush mountains overrun with rainforest... on a clear day.

There my baby sister took her first steps, there my brother broke his leg, there we played elaborate make-believes and transformed our living room into houses and tepees and islands interspersed with lava. We had an amazing stash of make-believe clothes, from furry vests to bright scarves, and I would wrap Micala into a shawl and protect her from imminent lava-induced death, and Aaron would turn into a jaguar. And we would face-paint everyone and everything... my Mom woke up from a nap once to find black fingertips all over everything, and my friend and I marveling at our beautiful new black baby--none other than a COMPLETELY black Micala.

BUT what I wanted to write about was the view from the apartment looking down at the street. We'd see the garbage truck come along--hear it, actually. It was my childhood's version of the ice-cream man; the garbage truck had a cheerful, repetitive tune and would slowly thread its way through the streets, stopping as each tai tai (married woman) hurried out with her bags of garbage. It was a cool view--hundreds of multicolored bags, a strong metal lever flattening everything as need, and more being piled on as people would toss up their garbage to a man sitting on top of the tall heap.

And we'd see people walking...I would always try to see them without them seeing me, like a cat, because I loathed the extra attention caused by my ethnicity.

Every so often we'd hear distinctive bells jingling and loud opera music, and peered out to see a funeral procession passing by. Lots of bright yellow and orange flowers--chrysanthemums, I think--framing large pictures. This memory is blurred with another procession--what I was reminded of today--so I'm sure this isn't entirely accurate. Part of me wishes I had lived there when I was a bit older, so I could better articulate the many things that have affected me, but that I have forgotten.

Around ghost month (and maybe Chinese New Year or if something bad happened? maybe?), loud trucks with a massive dragon head and brightly uniformed men holding the body of the dragon, making it dance, would trail through the streets. The music was loud, and it sounded strident and scary to me, because I knew what they were doing. People had hired them to march down this particular street to appease a certain god. They were parading their gods down the street.

At theWall today we talked a little about how political Jesus' kingdom is--how it encompasses the political as well as everything else, and how so much of Paul's language had massive, dangerous political implications--'Jesus is Lord', 'gospel'--and that to the Roman world, the word 'evangelize'... its Greek equivalent... signified processions celebrating their gods/Caesar, parading them in the streets. (and this is my memory of the conversation... blame me if I am butchering the cultural context).

It still happens... in the West, there are lots of parades, and I guess you could say that they are parading their gods, such as Santa Claus. My Mom has a long and detailed vendetta against Santa Claus, mainly because everywhere in Taiwan people thought that he was the god Christians worshiped around Christmastime.
BUT that could be stretching it. I don't know. I do think that in the West it is incredibly easy to forget that we all are worshiping something.

We don't have the incense, the idol shelves, the food sacrificed to idols, the children prayed over and blessed by/dedicated to gods.

But we parade ourselves. And oh, so many other things.

ANYHOW here's the verse that we ended with this morning--it's awesome...and how amazing it is that it was culturally relevant in Paul's day and today:

But thanks be to God who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and who makes known through us the fragrance that consists of the knowledge of him in every place. (2 Corinthians 2:14 NET)

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