On Fishing

The Who?Complete readings here.

Lk 5:10
“Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid;
from now on you will be catching men.'”

(Both of my readers will, by now, be familiar with the crisis-of-faith theme that has marked my last few Sermon Sundays. To them I apologize; this Sermon Sunday is no different.)

Are we to imitate Christ? Or are we to follow him?

Like much of the rest of my homeland, I tuned in to the Super Bowl today and watched the Saints triumph over the Colts. And, like much of the rest of my homeland, I watch it as much for the cultural zeitgeist as for the high-stakes athleticism.

This year the “cultural zeitgeist” came in the form of a halftime show by The Who. Like The Rolling Stones before them, The Who’s performance will be either quickly forgotten, or remembered uneasily as a disappointing footnote to the Rock n’ Roll lifestyle.

Then he sat down and taught
the crowds from the boat.”

Jesus Christ is really the ultimate rock star. Overturning tables in the temple, middle-fingering the Roman elite, proudly declaring Possibility in the face of Pessimism: these are the acts of an anti-establishment outlaw. And whether it’s the Romantic idealization of the “troubled genius,” the posthumous canonization of cranks like Nietzsche and Blake, or the burn-out splendor of the “27 Club,” we in the West like our revolutionaries crazy, dead, or both.

When they had done this,
they caught a great number of fish
and their nets were tearing.”

There is nothing so suspicious in the modern age as the prolific writer, the stable celebrity or the rock star who settles down with a wife and kids. We suspect them of missing something, of not believing fully in their own message. Whereas those who die young (or at least alone) must have some pipeline into Truth. Otherwise what kept them going?

The image is reinforced again and again in our culture, and is ultimately inseparable from Judeo-Christian mythology. Because while Jesus helped some of the monotheists to move past the Desperately Seeking Savior phase, the promise of his return leaves the whole Judeo-Christian establishment in basically the same boat: waiting for The Next Big Thing.

Put out into deep water
and lower your nets for a catch.”

Roger Daltrey looks old. So does Pete Townshend. Mick Jagger’s gyrations a few years ago were somewhat like watching your grandfather have a stroke, and Keith Richards didn’t even appear to be playing. What does it mean that we put these old men on our largest cultural stage, surround them with an incredibly expensive light show and force them to play medleys of their hit songs?

Who are the fishermen? Who are the fish?

When they brought their boats to the shore,
they left everything and followed him.”

We want more than anything for Meaning to beat the hell out of Death. We want our rock stars (and our Messiahs) to burn out, not fade away. To validate the purpose of their lives is to acknowledge the possibility of purpose in our own. As a self-proclaimed writer/blogger/wiseacre extraordinaire, I’m all too familiar with the impulse. I want to transcend my time on Earth by procreating through words. I want desperately to be a fisher of men.

But is this right? Does Christ want us to imitate him? Are we all to aspire to Cobain status? Which takes greater courage: to commit fully to the impulsive emotionality of your mid-20s, or to take the stage again in your 70s?

Please share your thoughts below.

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