Theodicy is not, as you might guess, a mash-up of theology and idiocy, though some might argue otherwise. Rather it’s a defense of the goodness of the almighty in view of the existence of evil. The persistence of evil, I might add, though good Buddhists would lower their eyelids and keep on meditating on non-duality.
From this side of enlightenment, I will nonetheless keep on my campaign of inducing the benevolence of the rain gods . As some of you know, it worked awfully well last week and though cynics might chime in, “only a half inch”, it was a half inch in September with snow on the purple mountain majesties. I took a few days off and now when I peek at the forecast for the chances of precipitation all I see in the near future is 0%. It’s clear that the gods, without persistent gentle prodding, have a tendency to nap, which for a mortal is understandable. What is more divine than a nap?
I never expected it to be easy, but I’m only now starting to realize how next to negotiating peace in the Middle East it may be the most difficult human enterprise of all, requiring vast reservoirs of diplomacy and stubbornness that aren’t in my nature. Or in most people’s. There are age-old strategies to overcome these deficiencies, as you might imagine. Icons. That word used to stand for something, though nowadays everything is called iconic, from the doggie at Doggie Diner to Donald Trump’s dye-job. Devotional images serve as conduits to the supernatural. William Dalrymple in his book Nine Lives, in Search of the Sacred in Modern India, profiles an idol carver, and there I found out that idols lose their juice over time, a short time, actually by earthy standards, unless they somehow are refreshed. In India a bath of cow’s milk often does the trick.
I’ve come to the conclusion that I need an icon, or idol, if you will. But that brings up a dilemma: which of all the rain gods, from what culture? I’ve given it some thought and made a decision: I will focus my devotion on the Egyptian rain goddess, Tefnut, for the obvious reasons. This is Faro’s Garden. Tefnut sounds like tough nut, and goddesses for the most part like to be seen as such. Riot grrrls. So Tefnut it is.
The problem arises, where will I get a sacred icon of Tefnut? I will have to do the next best thing, engage an iconic proxy, a different goddess but surely a cousin, given their mutual Middle Eastern roots. I happen to have one in my garden. From where I sit I can glimpse her, with her arms open wide looking, it’s easy to imagine, as if she’s showering the earth with rain. She has been hidden in a thicket of ferns for a decade so I may have to do some serious refreshing. I don’t know what my chances are.
This spiritual path augments, but doesn’t replace, the effusion of sweet words, so here are today’s from a short story by William Trevor called, “After Rain.” In the story Harriet, who’s traveling alone in Italy after a love-affair has ended, visits the church of Santa Fabiola and its painting of the Annunciation. She “records the details: the green fold of the angel’s dress, the red beneath it, the mark in the sky that is a dove…” Later, after a rain shower: “While she stands alone among the dripping vines she cannot make a connection that she know is there. There is a blankness in her thoughts, a density that feels like muddle also, until she realizes: the Annunciation was painted after rain. Its distant landscape, glimpsed through arches, has the temporary look that she is seeing now. It was after rain that the angel came; those first cool moments were a chosen time.”