dimecres, d’agost 23, 2006

Gwenole and the Druid

I first read the story of "Saint Gwenole and the Druid" in Jean Markale's La femme celte. I love Jean Markale, the crazy Breton academic renegade that he tends to be. He's a character and a half, tallish, thin as rail with wild bushy white hair, and when I saw him in person some years ago now, his eyebrows were still thick and black.

The story goes like this:

The then Abbot Gwenole left his religious compound in Landevennec to have a perambulation. Just on the edge of the woods, he encountered an aging Druid resting against an old oak. The Druid looked ragged and bedraggled, and being a Christian man, Gwenole offered him succor in his compound. There he would find rest and nourishment. The Druid declined, telling Gwenole that he preferred to stick to his woodland paths. The Druid knew full well that the sureptitiously friendly Gwenole really just wanted to convert him.

Gwenole was of course scandalized by the Druid's reluctance to follow him into the compound and rightly concluded that it was due to conflicts in religious beliefs. You see, it was only the 6th century, and there were still plenty of Druids running around the hills and dales of Brittany. Gwenole pushed the issue with the Druid, and a huge theological debate erupted on the edge of the great forest. It went on for hours. Finally the Druid said he had some holly to gather and made for the seclusion of the trees. However, just before he vanished into the darkness, he turned and looked at Gwenole, who was red-faced and extremely consternated, and he smiled coyly.

"You know," he said with a flourish of his hand toward the sky," when we cross that final threshold, we may both learn that we were wrong!"


I always love a Celtic story about religion. Old Celtic war stories are lovely too. You know the sort of thing, we were 30 and our enemies numbered 3,000, but we still bathed our spear tips in their blood. But I digress. The story of Gwenole and the Druid has a great universal lesson, that of grace and humility before the ineffable. The Christian in this story had it all wrong, even if his version of the universe were real. His insistence on his righteousness made him out to be both a bad Christian and unexamined human being. The Druid, far older than Gwenole in the story, was more self aware, and thus he realized that the pretty box with the bow and sprig of holly into which his forest filled universe fit might be nothing more than bullocks, AND, what is more important, he was willing to accept it.

Religious mythologies are wonderful paradigms to shape a vision of the world, but that's where they end. No religion, and this is a salient fact and one case in which I will say, while one may disagree with me, one would be totally wrong, no religion has the literal truth. None of these paradigms express the spiritual reality of the human condition, never mind the possible spiritual reality of the cosmos we are only beginning to understand. They are reflections of human thoughts and musing over many millennia married with real world observations of what appears to happen. They do offer us wisdom and guidance, and if they are open ended traditions, they can offer us real growth and comfort.

I suspect that there is something going on with this cosmos. It's not just an accident (of course whatever else it is there are many "accidents" ar hyd ei le. I suspect that there is some purpose in our being here, more than the accidental (and I'm relatively sure it was mostly accidental) collision of the right chemicals and some primordial soup to get it all going. My hands have touched the possible face of God enough times in my life to make me keep an open mind. One thing I'm sure is that the game doesn't play out like the Big 3 Revealed Religions like to make out. Whatever is going on here, I bet it's quixotically far more complex than they purport and far simpler than it would appear.

But who knows, when I cross that final threshold, I may well find out I was wrong, if I find anything at all...

4 comentaris:

Anònim ha dit...

Falle, fyddan ni i gyd yn gael syndod mawr tu ol i'r llen!

ptownnyc

Gwyddno Schenectady ha dit...

'Na wir, Ptownnyc, a dyna beth rhyfedd, oherwydd 'nest ti ddweud "ti ôl i'r llen." Ond ydy'r Gymraeg yn iaith fwy ysbrydol na'r Saesneg? Ac hyd at hyn, y llen, mae hwn yn meddwl llawer iawn o bethau yn y Gymraeg, ond ydy? Y llen, h.y. y wal rhwng y byd hwn a'r byd(au) arall (eraill), neu y llen, y ddarn o stwff sy'n tywyllu ffenest, neu ddarn o babur, lle mae pethau yn cael eu sgwennu (fel tudalennau mewn llyfr o ysbrydoliaeth...) hyd at hyn, mae'r Gymraeg yn gyfoethach nag unrhyw iaith arall 'mod i'n ei 'nabod, yn wir i ti, tad.

A swn i'n dweud, y byddan ni i GYD yn cael SIOC tu ôl i'r llen, 'na beth rwy'n ei gredu. Fel dywedodd Oran-Sant wrth Collum-Sant, 'fry yn yr hen Ynys Iona 'na yn yr Alban: "Mae popeth eich bod chi'n ei gredu am y nefol fan a'r ddaear yn anghywir!"

Ta waith, sut mae pethau yn y ddinas fawr erbyn hyn? Sut mae'r bois bach yn dy drin? ;)

Anònim ha dit...

Mae pethau yn mynd yn dda yn y ddinas fawr - mae diwedd yr haf yn dod, ac mae'r haul yn gwanhau bob dydd. Dw i'n barod am y newid, a dweud y gwir.

ptownny

Gwyddno Schenectady ha dit...

Fi hefyd, rwyf yn edrych ymlaen at yr Hydref!