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Parable Of The Rift-Sawn Wood

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Parable of the Rift-Sawn Wood



Once upon a time, there was a judge who lived in a small community. Although the judge had no particular claim to either humble kingship or wise judgeship (his training having been in other disciplines altogether), no error of word or grammar or logic or math could escape his perfect eye. Flaws in the words of others shone forth as brightly to him as the sun in the noonday sky, and so, over time, he became a protector of sorts, demonstrating to his little flock the dangers of ill-proved words. He took pride in his calling as upholder of the One True Truth.

One day, during a harsh drought, he decided to build a wooden courthouse at the top of the hill so his humility, stability, and permanence could be draw others into the fold of the One True Truth. This, he was certain, would help them cope during their travails.

“I will build a courthouse to rival the halls of Solomon,” he said with unwavering dedication. “Those who enter will find only justice. But,” he continued, “the courthouse must mirror to everyone the perfection and permanence of my judgments, so every piece of wood you bring to me must be sawn so the blade runs perpendicular to the rings of springwood and summerwood. These planks are the purest and strongest. No others will do for our courthouse. Discard all the rest.”

Each piece of wood was brought to the judge for his inspection. He turned each plank this way and that, peering at the rings from all directions, seeking only those boards that mirrored the timeless alternating pattern of springwood and summerwood, springwood and summerwood. He chose each piece with exceeding care.

As the floor and pillars of the courthouse slowly grew, so too did the piles of discards at the base of the hill. In one pile lay the boards that showed small knots, for the judge found evidence of branching deeply troubling and not at all reflective of humility. In a second pile lay the boards and burls that showed curved lines or cupped profiles or uneven grains, for the judge found irregular patterns toxic to his quest for stability. In a third pile, which was by far the largest, lay heaps of tangled roots and rugged, timeworn chunks of bark, for the judge found these ugly and unusable in a courthouse constructed to honour the teachings of the One True Truth.

At last all the trees in a wide radius had been cut down and the courthouse was complete. The judge nodded in satisfaction at his unobstructed view. The building was perfect, right down to the bold name Justice chiselled throughout. But it needed one final touch. This he accomplished himself. In the very centre of the structure, he placed a raised swivel chair upon which he could turn in every direction to see approaching newcomers. Each word they spoke, each point of logic they raised, came easily to his eyes, and made him shake his head in sadness when he saw the knots and burls and roots they carried. According to his duty, he took all newcomers on a tour of his courthouse, patiently showed them the perfection of his planks, and, though it pained him to do so, eventually sent each one away in tears to seek unblemished pieces of the One True Truth.

One autumn day, after a particularly cold, wet spring, and an even colder, wetter summer that had ended the drought, one of the judge’s followers came rushing in. “Sire,” said the follower (for his followers admired him and thought his mastery over words and logic made him wiser than Solomon), “sire, the rains have caused a terrible mudslide. The rain has poured down the hill and taken all the soil with it. A dangerous river, filled with rampaging branches and roots, has suddenly materialized. The town has been swept away. The roads are destroyed. The fall crops are gone. There is nothing to eat. You and I are the last survivors.”

The judge nodded sadly but wisely. “It was meant to be, my faithful friend. There's nothing we could have done to prevent this tragedy.”

“What will we do?” said the follower. “How will we survive?”

The judge thought long and hard for several minutes. The answer came to him in a flash of brilliant light, the same flash he always saw when he studied the impoverished words of others. “We’ll take the wood from the courthouse and build ourselves a raft. We’ll travel. We’ll teach. We’ll save. You and I have been blessed with survival because we alone understand the meaning of the One True Truth, which is pure permanence from pure impermanence, pure freedom from pure determinism, pure justice from pure logic.”

The follower happily obeyed, and soon pillars and lintels had been torn down and refashioned into a raft. In many places, the word Justice peered up at them from the perfectly sawn planks.

“What shall we call our raft now that it’s finished?” said the follower. “Shall we call it Justice?”

“I think not,” said the judge. “You and I have transcended the simple justice of this courthouse. From this moment on, we will name our craft after the greatest law of universal determinism. We will call it . . . Mercy.”




from Jesus and Jen

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Hello, Burl. The parable came from my practice as a cataphatic mystic. Those who have known me for a long time on TCPC know that I do this kind of thing from time to time. My conversations with Jesus just sometimes come out this way. He still likes parables -- what can I say? When he shares a new parable with me, there`s always something important in it for me and hopefully for some others. No need to read them if you`re uncomfortable with them.


God bless,


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Hi Jen


This is interesting!

The flood seems a harsh solution. Do you ever provide explanations for the parables?




Hi Annie,


Thanks for joining the discussion! You're wondering if I ever provide explanations for the parables I write with Jesus. What's interesting about parables is that their purpose is to help readers ask new questions. Because the purpose is to open up discussions, help people think about common patterns in ways they may not have thought about the patterns before, and help add some extra puzzle pieces to the process of internal insight, there's really no right or wrong way to interpret them.


Parables and revelation both use words spoken in a particular "timeless" style to talk about important topics, but the goals are completely opposite to each other.


A parable seeks to expand the discussion and keep open the doorways of thought. Parables are much harder to misuse and take out of context than simple wisdom sayings (as in Proverbs) because someone who wants to misuse the teachings has to first understand the parable, and this isn't always easy for a person who's trying to subvert and control other people's thoughts. As you know, Jesus used parables in his mission of healing and teaching.


On the other hand, the words of a revelation (as in John's writings) use authority and control to tell readers what is right and what is wrong. Revelations try to shrink the discussion and close off the doorways to questioning, doubt, and uncertainty. In a revelation, only the author of the revelation is given the authority to be "right."


So while a parable always talks about a major pattern of human behaviour, it's up to each reader to do the hard work of figuring out what the pattern is and how the pattern may (or may not) be relevant to his or her own journey.


Sorry for the loooooong reply. I hope I answered your question in a way that makes sense!


God bless,


Edited by Realspiritik
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