Saturday, May 1, 2010

I am apparently unable to talk about anything other than dirt.

So. I've been out a while. School and all that. But I'm still thinking about dirt, which I'm sure is exciting to a total of one person in this world. Namely me.

Dirt is life and death: death out of life, life out of death. When things die they hit ground. Bunches of little beasts eat them, die, and fall apart into dust. One of Danny Boyle’s movies told me that 80% of dust is human skin. Everything dies into dirt. Dirt is death. Every living thing pulls its life from the ground. Dead dogs are eaten by worms and flies and members of phylum Zygomycota. They die, and crumble into dust. A man comes, and dead pieces of him fall off in invisible flakes of skin while he cuts the dirt in two with an iron sword. The man drops in round balls that look dead. Water drops fall from clouds and shatter on the dirt. Seeds take nutrients from the dirt and live – they pull death from the soil and make it green life. Months later, this plant too will die, its hard labor ripped away and the stalk cut down. And the man’s wife will grind and knead and feed her family with bread, bread grown from death, life out of the dust.

We become dirt. Dirt looks better when we adorn it, like a beautiful woman wearing diamonds. It’s a mutually beneficial existence. Dirt in the wild is great, but not like earth that is cared for, tilled, and cultivated. It’s not the same. At the same time, the soil of overworked, overfarmed land is one of the saddest sights in the world. Drained of all life, it holds no promise, only sorrow. It’s true, though, that the untouched dirt of a national park is good like the Sabbath is good, that the pristine white sand of Pensacola is beautiful, but we need six times more earth to balance it out. Good earth. Dark earth. Black with minerals and nutrients and promise and growth and rot and hard work and death and life. We are becoming to dirt.

Dirt becomes us. A man is at home with his fingers in the dirt. Perhaps it’s my Southern roots, but I think there’s universal respect for a farmer, for a man who plunges his hands in the soil. Those who don’t like getting their hands dirty aren’t people I want to be around, speaking in the most general way possible. We need to be touching dirt. There’s a labor of Hercules in which he tries to defeat Antaeus, the giant who is immortal while touching earth, that should ring true for us (perhaps far truer than the Enlightenment would have us think – are we not just that way?). After all, “cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.” Why is it that the most disturbing shot in every Western the toes of the cowboy’s boots dangling three inches off the ground beneath the lynching tree? Why does it always work? Why do people in space begin to deteriorate from the inside out? We need dirt to survive. If we leave it for long it leaks out our bones and muscles and we die. There’s a reason being hanged is the most disgraceful possible death in almost every ancient culture. Go, says the judge, go be pulled away from what makes you human, what you are most like in the universe, and be held there until you can’t breathe anymore while everyone watches you. Dirt is becoming to us.

God became dirt. Infinite beauty and power and love was bound and wrapped and pressed into clay that walked around on the earth and was hungry and hurt and cried and grew angry. Matter has never been created or destroyed, the great lords of science tell us. But the apostles chuckle and say that they’re wrong. A few trillion molecules are missing from this universe. Because Christ rolled away the stone from His resting place in the earth, and stepped forth in a body of dirt made new. And it’s not here any more. And so I must believe that there is dirt missing from this earth. It’s remade, renewed, purified of all remnants and scars of death, and sits at the right hand of the Father.

Dirt becomes us. Dirt was what God took and breathed life into. Dirt is what makes up our skin, our bones, and that little thing next to your small intestine called appendix. Dirt is made up of molecules, and some of those molecules are sucked up by roots into most everything. Grass. Wheat. Grapes. Some of those molecules go into cows after being grass. Wheat molecules become flour, then bread, and the grape similarly becomes wine. All of our food, at some point, came from dirt, and so all that we physically are came, sooner or later, from dirt. Dirt makes us better – Christ healed the blind man with mud. He called Zacchaeus out of sin into life: out of a tree and onto the dirt.

We become dirt. When we are done fighting with air, pulling it down and letting it out of ourselves, we are laid to rest. We sleep in the dirt, surrounded by the dust that we were. There we give up trying to hold the dirt we have. We give it back. And that’s the economy of the Gospel. Give up what you have. Give everything you have to others, and it will come back to you. Give up your pride to Christ and He will give you a real reason to be proud. Give up your strength to the dirt, from whence it came, give your bones back to the ground. And, one day – even so, come quickly Lord Jesus! – dirt will be raised up and pressed into a true body, one without decay or sin or death, and the breath of the Spirit will fill it with flame and purified, clean, unshatterably beautiful, you will stand made new in the World made new. An Earth made without sin, made with no thought of death, on dirt washed pure by the blood of Christ.


  1. This is an exposition on the Lion King crap. What lows you have stooped to, Kaleb! You don't post in forever, and then give us this. What are you going to do next? Life through high school musical eyes? You've gone this far...might as well commit fully.

    You loving friend,

  2. Dear Trey,

    Many thanks for your kind and thoughtful comments. I actually did not think about the Lion King at all when I wrote this. More like Lewis' essay on Miracles. Although you talk about committing oneself, you yourself fall short. If you're going to insult me, do it properly and whole-heartedly. And that means finding at least one grammatical or pseudo-grammatical error to quibble with to finish off the comment. I, for instance, could fault you for not properly joining a preposition and its object ("To what lows" man -- why do you think they call it a preposition?), your failure to capitalize high, school, or musical, and your misspelling of "your" in the last line. Besides, what did you expect for a comeback post, a youtube video?

    Your friend,

  3. In general I was merely replying in kind. A perfectly formed reply would be out of place here. And to clarify, I fully meant "What lows" and not "To what lows". The latter is too close to asking a question and there is no question in my mind, so I made a statement, which is the former and what I actually said.

    This is your blog. I come here to be entertained, enlightened, and uplifted. There is no need to criticize me. The customer is always right, right?

    And since you attacked my form instead of the ideas I put forth in my reply, I can only assume that you agree with me on this one.

    Yes, a video would have been nice :P

  4. Here is my custom:

    Wonderful stuff, Kaleb. The more I've thought of it, the more I've come to like the idea of environmentalism--as a means of glorifying our God, as stewardship of his workmanship. And the fact that we are part of that "circle of life" is no less important, and no more godless. We are worldly creatures, as well as spiritual, as Mr. Appel is so fond of reminding us. And that is good.

    I loved the point about Zaccheus, and how you compared that with the healing of the blind man.

  5. Well, for what's it's worth, I thought this was great. Beautiful even. You always ground (pun intended) your grand themes into particulars. I hadn't thought of hanging in that way before. And I loved the bit about the apostles chuckling. Every time I am reminded that Christ is still man and God at once, a real, from-dust body raised to glory, all my little subconscious Platonic tendencies start popping and shattering like window glass... and when I remember that he is the firstborn, waiting for the day when his miracle will be repeated and all his younger brothers and sisters and all creation are raised to join him, it gives me shivers. :) Thanks. Keep writing.

  6. Thanks guys, I appreciate it. It's one of those things where once you start looking at a certain pattern, you can't help but see it everywhere. So I went ahead and wrote more. Thanks for the encouragement.

    Trey, I should clarify for everyone that this is how our friendship works: give and give. You dish it out, and I dish it out right back. Nobody takes, so we just make things all messy and muddy. And dude, the moment you step on a blog you get criticized. That's like, what blogs are about. And customer? You think this is a capitalist society? This place is an autocratic dictatorship with me and Rob sharing power. Forgive me a cruel chuckle.

  7. Yes, to all those who may have the misfortune of misunderstanding, big K and I have been doing this for years. We are professionals and this should not be imitated or replicated at home, kids.

    Shared power dictatorship, huh? I'd be watching my back if I were you. Rob might be planning to "take you out of the picture." I recommend you plan your own scheme to take him out first. Seems only reasonable right? You could probably start by having your system stockpile your own nuclear weapons while having an agent or someone infiltrate Rob's system, become president in Rob's system, and get Rob to disarm in the name of world peace (cough, cough) why does this sound familiar? Hell, your agent might win a Nobel Prize in the process.

    Mask off, I think I'm more angry at your infrequent posting preventing us from bantering like this more often, lol.

  8. Oh no! I just missed (by one day) the anniversary of y'all posting anything new! Well, the day has come and gone. Perhaps some originality will issue forth from your fingertips yet.