I began to write this commentary during a visit to the Temenos Retreat Centre in McGreggor from Monday, 15 August to 17 August 2016. I stayed in the Beni Abbes cottage. I am very grateful for Billy Kennedy for inviting me to stay at his retreat centre during this period. About sixteen years ago I made my first visit to Temenos when it was still in its early stages of development. My life was in transition then as it is now.
We all are constantly building bridges across transitions. It is my sincere hope that this book will become such a bridge to both you my reader as well as me, the author. I come from a fairly strict Protestant Calvinist home and family. From this background I grew towards something that is not easy to define in words or add a label too. All I can confess (in the sense of acknowledgement of my own experience) it to be is a spacious inclusiveness. As a child and teen the Bible and with that the Gospels were a constant companion both at home and church. It began with biblical stories from both the Old and New Testament read by my mother just before bed-time and continued during the weekly Sunday Services and catechism classes at the local Dutch Reformed Church in Oudtshoorn. I guess this close and constant encounters with the stories of significant Biblical characters and metaphors never left me, even now that I have reached the age of fifty.
It is important to note though that been a farmer’s son, the stories from the Bible always mingled in my experience with the vastness, beauty and veracity of nature and the land. In my youth, these two worlds, lived side by side and to me they always felt at odds with each other. The Bible stories came from the context of the closeness of family life and home. My farm experience, though, was that of the open sky, green pastures, fire flames under the stars and the humour of a people who lived far more intimately with the soil than my family actually did. The farm was free and out of town. The church in town was regulated and stiff, but friendly. Now at fifty I value both experiences highly even though as I said they were at odds with each other. In this commentary I hope to build a bridge between these two worlds.
As you probably already guessed, this is not an academic work even though I would like to think of it as not entirely divorced from academia. It is not a rational-analytical academics that you will find in this commentary. It is what I call an organic academics. It is part study, part commentary, part autobiography, part story and part mythology. As a whole it is more poetry than prose. It weaves together the many strands of my life of which the Gospels have been an intimate part while at the same time reflecting on the nature of the Gospels and nature in the Gospels. It is not an apology. It is a confession in that it reveals my inner thoughts. It is not a confession of wrongdoing as the word is often used in religious circles. It is rather a confession of the innermost thoughts and feelings that move me deeply as a person.
It is said that a confession often benefits the confessor and for that I do not offer any apology. However, I hope that what I write here will also be to your benefit as a reader. I hope that my writing and your reading together will bring a shift, a transition and a transformation for both of us. My hope is that this book with come to you as a new revelation as the words of many writers have come to you in the past and revealed something new and profound.
One such writer is to me is Walter Brueggeman, whose books continued to speak to me well after I have wandered well beyond the traditional interpretations of the Christian story. In fact, the title of this book is inspired by his book called “Finally Comes The Poet”. He awakened in me an enduring interest in the process of transition and transformation.
Lastly, my intentions with this book is to build a bridge between the religious tradition that radically changed the faces and the ways of people who originally inhabited the African continent and the religious traditions they found here when they arrived. The Christian tradition came to Africa in the wake of the economic needs of the European nations. Unfortunately, for all the good that it brought, it carried with it an equal if not bigger amount of destruction of the fabric of the societies that was here before the European invasion. It denigrated the local diviner poets and medicine men and women that took care of the spirit of their people at the time.
This commentary dares to proclaim a different perspective and to tell a different story. It dares to bridge the gap between Jesus and the local shaman or medicine man. We cannot completely heal the past. However we can work towards a great balance in perspective and in practice today. I do not claim that his commentary achieved what it sets out to do, but I sincerely hope that it make a real start. I also do not claim authorship for all that I wrote in this commentary because I have to be honest that often after I returned to the text after a long while I often returned with question: “did I write that?”. Some of the writing in this text come from the soul. The place the heart knows of but reason is blind too.
I am fully aware that many a prosaic criticism will be levelled against what I confess to in this commentary. My reaction to those criticisms will be a simple one. I claim the freedom of the poet to weave a new story and create and define a different myth. We are the myth-makers and at the same time we can also be the myth-breakers. I also remind those who read this text to not make a new doctrine out of it, but to read it lightly so that it can stir the soul profoundly. Once done leave it at that and find the thing your hand and heart needs you to do. The continent of Africa can only become awake and enlightened when we all wake from the dominant dream we all are dreaming at present. It is in Africa that this awakening needs to start and spread. Unfortunately Africa like all cultures have a tendency to turn things into mere ritual, money and ideology. Let the one who therefore read with true understanding be wise and internally continuously turn away from these tendencies.
With that I invite you to journey with me through the Gospel of Mark and revisit its sixteen chapters. Enter into this journey as though you enter into the performance of a great drama based on an old and familiar text. It is important though to expect the familiar characters to be played by new and sometimes unfamiliar actors. I hope that when you have turned the last page you will experience that uncanny feeling we all do when we walk out of a drama performance that touched levels of our being we ourselves never touched before. These levels already exist. The drama only bring them into the light of our consciousness from the deep recesses of the unconscious where they wait to be rediscovered. Let’s start the journey.