Childe Willy’s Pilgrimage
The priest took Willy by the ear
And led him from the room.
“Wait here till class is done,” he said,
”I’ll have to take you home.”
“He’s strange,” the priest told Willy’s mom,
“Different. Peculiar. Odd.
Sunday school doesn’t work for him.
He keeps thinking about God.”
But being left home Sundays
Locked behind his bedroom door,
Didn’t solve our Willy’s problem.
He just thought about God more.
Willy knew the universe was huge
And he was ignorant and small,
And God, the Omniscient One,
By that definition knew it all.
So he made a nice mnemonic,
“Everything Man Does Not Know,”
As his own God-definition,
And he thought that he could show
If you made an acronym for God
Of “Everything Man Does Not Know,”
EMDNK would be a useful way
To think of God. Although...
You’d have to add an extra letter...
Imaginary... not writ in ink...
For pronunciation only:
He chose “i”... pronounced “EM-DiNK.”
And that solved Willy’s problem
For conceiving deity.
He just thought, “EMDNK, EMDNK.”
It made God easier to see.
And off to college Willy went
For a liberal education,
Earning CUM LAUDE honors
Bestowed at graduation.
And though God is seldom mentioned
In the “Arts”... as Willy found it,
When God came up, he easily
EMDNKed his way around it.
And he learned in all his course work
That the things mankind does know
Are more than he imagined
And continuing to grow.
It called for a second acronym
Which Willy styled EMDAK,
“Everything Mankind Does Actually Know,”
Rhyming, of course, with Big Mac.
Willy was impressed with EMDAK,
But he knew the proper scale...
EMDAK compared to EMDNK
Was a minnow to a whale.
One EMDAK thing he learned, however,
That most affected Willy...
Often learned in liberal studies...
Was that belief in God... was silly!
Yes, this fine progressive college
In a strange ironic twist
Had made God-fearing Willy
Into a Humanist.
And Willy’d seen it coming,
But it didn’t bother him a bit.
His acronyms were still intact...
Once you thought of it.
He’d defined his God as EMDNK,
“Everything Man Does Not Know,”
But if you drop the God part,
The acronym’s still good to go.
EMDNK was like the yummy center,
And God... if you lost belief in Him...
Was no more than the tasteless shell
Of a candy EM & EM.
The chocolate EMDNK goodness
Was unaffected by the news
The God half was no longer there.
This half he still could use.
And he knew EMDNK existed
Just as surely as he knew
Bits of EMDNK became EMDAK
As mankind’s wisdom grew.
So off marched Willy bravely
With his Humanist degree
To build EMDAK... using science
And perhaps philosophy.
But if you’re going to tackle EMDNK,
The problem... briefly stated...
Is, without the God-container,
Where’s EMDNK located?
Was it somewhere in the Universe
Out past Jupiter and Mars?
Willy brainstormed for EMDNK
Among the galaxies and stars.
Was dark matter hiding EMDNK,
Black holes, dark energy,
M-theory and those nasty strings?
Is that where it could be?
Searching the galaxies from tip to toe,
The Why, the What, the Where,
Willy found something missing.
The human factor wasn’t there.
Well, Duh! “M” ... in the mnemonic EMDNK...
Is “Mankind” when you speak it.
The one who “Does Not Know” is Man.
Could that be where to seek it?
Man is EMDNK’s essence.
It’s not the Universe that “Doesn’t Know.”
So where to locate EMDNK?
In Man! That’s where to go.
And, by definition, EMDNK can’t be
In any conscious mind.
So if EMDNK’s real locale is Man,
It’s really hard to find.
Willy Googled “How to make a Man,”
And found some pages he downloaded
That told about our DNA
Where Man’s blueprint is coded.
There were double helix ladders
Wadded up in every cell
With rungs of adenine and cytosine...
Guanine, thymine, as well.
Each helix had a million genes,
Each gene a separate action,
But the genes required to make a man
Were just a tiny fraction.
That left lengths of coded DNA
With no known explanation...
The storage place, perhaps, of all
That EMDNK information?
Did EMDNK become EMDAK
As Man slowly evolved
And genes switched on our consciousness?
Was EMDNK’s location solved?
Willy thought on this about a day
And rejected it... because
Nucleic Acid would then be God,
And that gave Willy pause.
God was no more, of course, but Willy knew
The power God once enjoyed
And doubted guanine and thymine
Could really fill the void.
EMDNK’s location was a mystery
Whatever Willy read on,
So he chucked it all, deciding to
Examine EMDNK head on.
And though, by definition,
“Everything Man Does Not Know”
You’d think would be a mystery,
Willy found that even so...
The EMDNK-EMDAK separation
Contains a subtle link,
For at least we know what we don’t know
For large parts of EMDNK.
Willy made a list of things for which
We know we have no answer.
We can’t cure toenail fungus, AIDS,
Malaria, or cancer.
We can’t fix broken hearts,
Broken promises, or pottery.
We don’t know where our money goes
Or how to win the lottery.
Our enemies won’t see the light;
We’re in the dark just why they won’t.
We understand nothing they believe,
But at least we know we don’t.
We don’t know what our wives are thinking,
Or why our parents ever married,
Or how credit default swaps work,
Or where Jimmy Hoffa’s buried.
We don’t know Einstein’s theory...
The math of everything,
Or what the prairie grasses say,
Or when the bluebells ring.
Willy’s list of what he knew
He didn’t know kept growing.
What if he added all the things
He didn’t know he wasn’t knowing?
This about drove Willy nuts!
What was “knowing” all about?
His quest to locate EMDNK
Had only led to doubt.
EMDNK was bigger than the universe,
And now to Willy it was plain,
It was bigger than Man’s DNA
And bigger than Man’s brain.
Willy prepared to chuck his list
When one item caught his eye.
The last thing he knew he didn’t know
Was what happens when we die.
Wow, thought Willy, that’s a poser;
That one beats any other.
Of all the things we know we don’t know,
That one is the Mother!
Of all the inquiries of history,
Of all the strange ideas Men think,
Might not that answer, in itself,
Lead Mankind to EMDNK?
Willy searched the known religions,
But as hard as he might try,
He wasn’t drawn to any answer
For what happens when we die.
The atheists, of course, get NOTHING,
Nothing joyful, nothing blest.
OBLIVION, to Willy’s way of thinking,
Lacked a certain zest.
Jehovah, as regards His chosen,
Seemed just to use ‘em and abuse ‘em.
The Jews surely deserved much more
Than eternal “Abra’m’s Bosom.”
There were 70 virgins in Paradise
For Muslims martyred young,
But Willy’d dated virgins,
And they weren’t all that much fun.
Buddhist Nirvana sounded swell,
AWAKE and Ego-free,
But if you cling to any shred of Self,
You’re sent back as a flea.
And Scientology puts the blame on you;
In this “self-actualizing” cult,
If you can’t match Tom Cruise standards...
Well, it’s just your own damn fault.
Of all forms of Paradise,
Willy had a private measure
When it came to dreaming up
Eternities of pleasure.
In Willy’s own experience,
Was inversely ratioed
To its real time duration.
Any high emotion
From the moment you begin it,
Can’t be sustained for very long.
Some barely last a minute.
So by reductio ad absurdum,
There was really no ignoring
Eternities of any kind
Were ultimately boring.
Worse than boring actually,
Bad! Absurd! And lastly,
All Man’s visions of Hereafter
Were ultimately... ghastly!
All thought, philosophy, and wisdom,
All religion throughout history
Is blind to the Hereafter
Which still remains a Mystery.
Worse! When you pick one religion
And commit to it... then SNAP!
Your mind sees just one argument
And closes like a trap.
No more Freedom to explore,
No more imagination,
Conjecture, speculation, dream,
Fancy, or meditation.
For once you’ve picked your ending
And got it in your head,
The Spirit Path has run its course.
The Mystery is dead.
“Yes, Mystery!” thought Willy,
“And Mystery it should remain!
Mystery makes us humble,
And that is Mankind’s gain.
“Humility is good for us.
Mystery gives us pause
And slows the march of Ego,
One of Mankind’s greatest flaws.”
And deep within this Mystery
The bulk of EMDNK lay.
So Willy knew he’d have to find
A less ambitious way...
A Spirit Path to semi-Truth
Beyond religion’s fraud,
By quietly just observing the Creation...
If he could.
So he abandoned Logic
And pure reason’s overreaching,
To see what might be garnered by
A quiet life of teaching.
He bought a cottage in a woodland
Near a creek and pool
And started teaching Natural Science
At the local middle school.
And he spent his days observing
The fauna, plants, and trees,
The taxonomy of seasons,
Feeding birds and keeping bees.
All Nature was his textbook.
His classroom was the woods
As he recorded Nature’s cycles
And her alternating moods.
He taught the Wisdom of the flowers,
How they rested through the night,
And when the new Dawn broke upon them,
How they tended toward the Light.
And he found in Nature’s pattern
Of Male and Female blended,
A balanced being of Head and Heart...
The creature God intended.
Willy saw how individuals
Endured a brief existence,
But idea, form, and pattern
A Mysterious persistence.
And how in random systems
Lurks a very strange deception,
Where accidental pattern
Is the rule, not the exception.
But accidental pattern...
“Coincidence” to some...
Was a total oxymoron!
It just struck Willy dumb.
For wasn’t pattern Order?
Wasn’t Order deity?
Out of random chaos Order
Through God’s creativity?
But the Creation wasn’t Ordered.
Nature showed a chthonic Heart
And a random, accidental,
Uncertain, and disordered part.
Willy studied Einstein, who loved
Math and hated dice...
(Which were a perfect random system
Of accidental pattern!) Nice.
Highly predictable, but not exact,
With a sliver that’s uncertain,
Dice are Nature and math isn’t.
Poor Einstein was hurtin’!
And that small uncertain sliver
Made Nature what it ought to be:
Original at every moment,
Unpredictable... and FREE.
On the other hand, if all was chance...
Though impossible... it meant
That the ancient God of Order must have
Planned an accident!
But if all was just a swirling gyre
Of random flux and flow,
It was a fancy random flux, at least,
As random fluxes go.
And If god was EMDNK, but His existence
Was part of EMDNK... the suggestion
Was a kind of Moebius loop,
An infinite regression.
Nature was the source of Wisdom,
The single thing to think about,
But was it evidence of God,
Or evidence for Doubt.
The ancients weren’t so trusting
Of the Truths in math and science;
They sought their Truth from poets,
A healthier reliance.
Poems comforted our Willy too,
As the Tennyson verse, which reads,
“There is more faith in honest Doubt
Than all the world’s creeds.”
Willy knew he’d made no headway
From the time he’d been that child
Who thought on God in Sunday School
And got the priest so riled.
And I’m still a child... he realized,
And he was glad to be...
A being of infinite surmise
Our Willy never married.
Nature and his students far above
Were sufficient for suppliance
Of his human need for Love.
Willy taught into his 80s,
Then retired to spend his days
By his creek and pond and woodland
Still observing Nature’s ways.
And he never spoke to God at all,
But in his meditations he
Often spoke and jested
With his friend, the Mystery.
“Sir,” he said, “if there is some EMDNK
Book of Knowledge... sitting on some god’s shelf,
Tell Him for me to honor YOU...
And keep it to Himself!
When Willy died, they found his cottage
Neatly ordered as if planned,
And on his writing desk this poem
Writ in Willy’s hand:
A creek runs by my willow tree
And disappears, but God knows where,
And two large rocks in the creek bed rest,
And by the tree I set my chair.
Between the rocks the water courses,
And as it passes gently swirls,
And just below the rocks it rises
And in an eddy backward curls.
The eddy spins, and from its lip
It sings a tiny song for me,
A song unheard if any breezes
Rustle in the willow tree.
But on a day as hush as time is,
When neither bird nor breezes stir,
The little eddy tells its secret
In happy meters soft and sure.
Then can I sit transfixed, transported,
And watch the waters gently turn
And hearken to the simple music
With an open heart... and learn.
The waters through the eddy passing
Away upon the stream are borne;
The eddy stays to tell its secret,
“My song and I are naught but form.
But here by rock and chair and willow
For you I stay, though winds may blow
And overwhelm at times the secret.
And even you may come and go.”