I looked out across
The river today
Saw a city in the fog
And an old church tower
Where the seagulls play
Saw the sad shire horses
Walking home in the sodium light
two priests on the ferry
October geese on a cold winter's night
In a world well before the one that I know, people of power and status had before them wise counsel, strong leaders and reassuring voices. Reasurance that the course of action the king was on was "right", wise counsel to softly direct the king, and strong leaders to carry out his vision. They also had within their midst the one who would phrase wisdom as foolishness,
The role of the Joker, despite what Disney would have you believe was not one to juggle, or do illusions. They did not come up with punch lines to jokes unfinished nor would they entertain at a party.
They were there to make the unnacceptable, acceptable. The only voice allowed to critisize the king was the joker. In his foolishness he could bring to light what would otherwise go unsaid. If the comment was ill recieved - well he was just a joker. If the advice was heeded, the king could take claim to the idea as if it were his own, spare the kingdom, get the girl - whatever he pleased.
He is in many ways the prophetic riddler - trying to discern amongst the voice of the yes-men the difficult path to take. The art of delivering truth died in a large manner, I believe with the Joker. In the tyranny of the literal, we have done away with the creative challenge to truth. "Look upon my words, ye Mighty and despair" has resulted in a silencing of the Jokers, the artists, and most importantly, the prophets.
"What is they want from the man that they didn't get from the work? What do the expect? What is there left when he's done with his work, what's any artist but the dregs of his work, the human shambles that follows it around"
How do we go about engaging a culture, with a medium (arguably voice and text) that no longer engages a culture. We just don't "get" prophesy anymore. So when an 80 year old man can sit in the living room of the wife of a roofer and comfortably prophesy over the room of 29 adults and children- I consider myself to be witnessing a Joker in true form. He has no pretenses - infact puts out the disclaimer that if his words do not resonate with you - drive over the tape with your car on the way out. And it shouldn't be any different. God's language is not of ours - and yet he has used our voices to speak it. Through this, I was able to see the divine lark of God's relationship with his creation.
None of the minor prophets
knew that he was minor, of course. Habakkuk, I imagine,
thought that his visions earned him
standing as Ezekiel's peer, if not indeed Elijah's.
Then there was Obadiah,
who could be forgiven if he thought he might be a Moses.
How they would be remembered
Providence concealed from them all, though they could see the future.
Maybe it doesn't matter.
If you're on a mission from God, sent to rebuke a city
or to redeem a nation,
where by canon-makers you're ranked may be inconsequential.
Nor is the voice within you
any less authentic for not having a distant echo.
Seers of the world, be heartened.
Even minor prophets can have genuine revelations.
from Parallel Lives, by Michael Lind
Heard November 9 2007 on Garrison Keillor's "The Writer's Almanac"