Lincoln, Nebraska poet Jan Peregrine dedicated her 1999 EDEN IN LIMBO: A THREE ACT PLAY IN SPIRIT to "all the marginal people of society, the ones not accepted without prejudice by the majority of society." She added: "I hope to inspire reflection and compassion through these words."
A large number of presumably marginal people within driving distance of a beautiful meadow surrounded by oak trees receive an email/Internet invitation to meet there with a God. This rare face-to-face Divine-human meeting is the idea of First God, the Creator, a female who would never meet one on one with any creature. This she delegates to her spokesman, Third God or Third Emanation of God or the Word of God or the Holy Spirit, who calls First God "Boss." From the Prologue we learn that Boss intends the meeting with humans to be brief, "just long enough to answer questions." Why must there be such a meeting? Why does Boss have Third God take on human form to communicate with people? Boss sounds desperate, willing to try anything. Says Third God: "Nothing else seems to be working, anyway. So few people inhabit the spirit and the soul of God."
So they come -- marginalized, automobile-owning, Internet-savvy men and women. They appear to be mainly North Americans either practicing or having fallen away in disappointment from one or more Christian sects. By inference the Eden-like meadow is in North America, perhaps Nebraska or within driving distance of Felicia, a tall, pony-tailed Sioux woman raised on a reservation surrounded by Jesuit priests who had demanded gratitude from the Indians while destroying their culture and ancestral religion. With the exception of an East Indian couple of Hindu persuasion, the other eight or nine persons singled out for attention by the Holy Spirit are apparently North Americans: two old Christian women, a homosexual male couple and others. But among the humans it is Felicia who interacts most with Third God.
Boss intervenes almost obsessively with Third to make sure that he gets her message right. Who is God? Who is Jesus? Why are the three Divine emanations not persons but spirits? How are angels different from ghosts or spirits.? Humans are spirits exploring their bodies as wild unknown territory. Humans must learn to live in the spirit and in soul. In this way they will be in contact with the Gods and with all other created spirits as well. Humans must learn to live for themselves according to their own lights. There is no sin, hence no need for a Redeemer from sin. Humans do not need the Gods as a crutch. The business of Third God is to work himself out of a job, to convince humans to stay in touch with the Divine but not to waste time trying to please God.
On and on the dialog goes. One interpretation of EDEN IN LIMBO that occurs to me is that author Jan Peregrine, filled with compassion for the marginalized, is looking for a world-view that
-- (1) will make dominant, politically correct "majorities" warm up to "minorities" whom they have relegated to the sidelines,
-- will convince the despised and hurting that (2) much of what they have learned about God being on their side, for them, their protector, is either false or irrelevant,
-- and (3) that will go a long way to making the marginalized feel better about themselves.
In the world view presented as accurate within EDEN IN LIMBO, historical, organized, supply side religion is inadequate to men's needs. Indeed, what with notions like obedience and sin, organized religions, notably traditional Christianity, tamp down what is best in Mankind while giving rein to destructive impulses. Better for hurting, marginalized persons is a chatty, wise-cracking George Burns sort of God or Gods, more concerned with making people feel better than with declaring dogma or enforcing commandments -- that sort of Divinity or religiosity.
EDEN IN LIMBO was clearly not ghost written by either Reverend Billy Graham or Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen.
On the other hand, EDEN IN LIMBO resonates with views of respectable truth seekers like Professor Joseph Campbell, the cradle Catholic who later immersed himself in the myths of the world and told BIll Moyer that he no longer believed in a personal God. Campbell's world view comes across as much broader and formally learned than Jan Peregrine's.
But Jan Peregrine has a way with words and her way of putting things has its appeal. Peregrine's mythologizing is anti-dogmatically Trinitarian, post-Christian. It does not draw much on Judaism, takes nothing at all from Islam and gives only a bit of a nod to Buddhism and Hinduism. Sioux Indian Felicia, by contrast, makes a strong case for her Lakota legends and beliefs, especially for her grandmother's Buffalo God. Felicia decides that her next phase in life will be to write poetry and articles for her tribal newspaper and perhaps letters to Third God as well.
The last quarter of EDEN IN LIMBO, Appendix, contains 25 limpidly clear short poems by Jan Peregrine which can be construed as either fleshing out materials in the Three Act narrative or providing fresh slants into less explored dimensions of love and inter-human empathy.
Curiously, I finished my first reading of EDEN IN LIMBO on the day that the Vatican announced the coming canonization of Mohawk-Algonquian North American (New York-Quebec) Indian Kateri Tekakwitha (1656 - 1680). She was orphaned at age four, defaced by smallpox and left with extremely poor eyesight. Baptized at age 20 by one of those (French) Jesuits that EDEN IN LIMBO's Siouxan Felicia snorts against, Kateri became thoroughly marginalized within her uncle's Turtle Clan.
I feel drawn to ask Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, "Lily of the Mohawks," to invite God's blessing on the striving, seeking spirit vibrantly alive in EDEN IN LIMBO and on the passionate, caring poet who wrote this thought-provoking THREE ACT PLAY IN SPIRIT.
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