About this blog

This Blog is named after an ancient gnoseological riddle which hints hidden, disseminated, omnipresent wisdom.
I invite you to search, listen and observe with me for "the word of tree, whisper of stone, and humming together of the abyss and stars."


Moronic plutocrats

In the Gospel of Thomas (Logion 63) Jesus tells this morality story:
    “There was a rich person who had many possessions. He said, ‘I will use my possessions so that I might sow, reap, plant (and) fill my storehouses with fruit, so that I will not lack anything.’ This is what he was thinking in his heart. And that night he died. Whoever has ears should hear.”

Most likely, this is the original form of this story. It has a straightforward, simple storyline and no fancy elaborations. The story clearly criticizes the egotism of the wealthy, but it is predominantly just a direct, urgent reminder “Memento mori!” - Remember your mortality! As brutal as it might sound, such stern reminders have always been an important part of the religious moral teaching.
    But then this story reached the evangelist Luke (or perhaps his community of faith). They developed it a little and elaborated the story slightly with this result (Luke 12. 16-20):
    Then Jesus told them this story: “Once, there was a plutocrat who owned large tracts of fertile land. He talked to himself: ‘What should I do, I am running out of space for all my crops?’ Than he said: ‘I know what to do. I will take down old storehouses and build bigger ones. Thus I will have enough space to store all my stuff and all my goods! Then I will say to myself: ‘Oh my dear self, now you have all that you have always wanted! You can take it easy, feast and drink and have a good time!’” But God said to him: “You moron!” “This very night they will come and take your life! And all that stuff which you have hogged, who will get it?”

It is clearly the same story like the one from Gospel of Thomas, only slightly expanded. Yet this expansion is not any arbitrary decoration but it certainly makes this story livelier - just imagine God calling the rich in plain street lingo! This version also highlights social inequality and deep social tensions (including robbers or rebels taking the rich man’s life). But especially, it adds the two level soliloquy, surprisingly, this parody feature unlocks some originally hidden possibilities. This story is not any longer that stern threat of "Memento mori" now it contains a positive message and a gentle nudge towards a joyful turn of life. We will try to tease it out and experience it this Sunday. Come to celebrate!

I spent some time attempting to achieve the most accurate translation.
This story is traditionally presented as a folksy story of a farmer who got lucky in an unusually productive year. But, that is not what Luke is talking about.
     First of all, the man in the story is never called a farmer. He is characterized as “rich” but such translation is imprecise. The Greek word used to describe him is PLOUSIOS, which means so rich that the person did not need to work for living; he was an aristocrat, or we might say he was wickedly, disgustingly rich.
        This is further confirmed by his land ownership. The story does not speak about any field or even fields (that would be AGROS in Greek) he was receiving proceeds from the entire countryside (CHORA) and he wanted to store not only his crop, but also all his goods.
     The unjust distribution of wealth always leads to social tension which can boil up into violence. This reality is being hinted at in the threat to the aristocrat’s life. This threat is not coming from God; that is a common and unfortunate misunderstanding. His life is threatened not by God, but by some unnamed “them” - third person plural. Most likely these “they” were some kind of outlaws (insurgents or social or political rebels/revolutionaries).
       The two levels of soliloquy (he is saying himself what he is going to say to himself) have a  clear parody dimension. Even a planned thanksgiving prayer of an egotist cannot transcend above his own bloated ego. That could be a sad statement of reality, but also can serve as an starting point for correction and a new perspective.
       This wake up call is supported by another shocking and/or humorous device - God is said to be using vulgar language. Greek AFRON was certainly stronger than just “you fool” (as it is traditionally translated). “You moron” or “you bonehead” provide more appropriate emphasis for this important wake-up call.

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