Why Stand Ye Gazing?

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(Posted from Easter Island)

The Moai stare inland. The huge stone heads don’t look expectantly out to sea, they stare toward their villages; playing an unknown role in the Rapa Nui culture of ancestral respect/worship.

Ever since I read “Kon Tiki” in the 60’s I’ve been intrigued to visit this island and to stare back at these stone figures, these Moai (vowels as in, “tow-high”). None of them had been left standing. The ones the island wars hadn’t tumbled, the tsunamis did. Although archaeologists have re-erected some of the 800, most of them still lay like Dagon, face down in the thistles and gravel.

It’s almost comical, the lack of attention given in American culture to the subject of death. As though death were a surprising interloper at our pleasant dinner party, an unfortunate interruption of the normal course of affairs, rather than the routine and expected end of all mankind.

Earlier cultures seemed to have grasped this better, although it may be that it only appears they did because their death-monuments are what have survived. I mean, look at the principal sights Yvonne and I chose to see on this trip: the pyramids of Giza, Westminster Abbey, the Taj Mahal, the Ming tombs, the great wall, New Zealand and Easter Island. Except for the great wall and New Zealand, they are all monumental burial sites.

Most thoughtful peoples have realized they’ll be dead longer than they’ll be alive and that it would behoove one to give some attention to the afterlife. While our faith in Christ doesn’t belittle the current life, it certainly elevates the expectation of a delightful future.

Unlike my pyramid idea, I’m not going to erect a stone Moai to myself in front of our Baltimore row house. Rather, I’m impressed that the Moai stare inland, not seaward. They do not scan the horizon for an outrigger from the Marquesas Islands. They look back to their simple village, the crops of taro and manioc.

I want to live scanning the horizon for Jesus’ return, for that parting of the clouds, for that bugle call. It’s not only that I want to die that way, I want to live that way. Not as though we only “go around once.” I want to live recognizing that we go around twice. And the second go-around, goes-around for ever. Makes these 80-100 years blush in an embarrassment of youth.

On the other hand, the two angels asked, “Why do you stand here looking into the sky?” (Acts 1:11), He’ll “come back in the same way you have seen him go…” Kind of a warning to not turn into sky-gawkers, but to get about our business.

So, we’re not useless sky-watchers but neither are we overcome by the quotidian, the mundane routines which obfuscate our noble nature and eternal design. Maybe we’re to live on the bias, one eye toward the village, one eye toward eternity.
David Roller

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