You are hereWelcome to Kona Jack's!
Welcome to Kona Jack's!
by Virgil Vaduva
Marc’s “Love Wins” tattoo on his wrist was very visible; one could say he was wearing it with pride, buy he never brought it up or talked about it until I pointed it out. I didn’t know Marc, but we agreed to meet at this place called Kona Jack’s Fish Market in Indianapolis to talk theology, faith and life.A few days earlier I stopped by this restaurant for lunch and I went back every day that week. They had great food, but an even better menu. It was so good that I brought one back with me. It’s sitting on my desk, reminding me about Jack’s story, written on the back of the paper Sushi Bar menu:
On a mountain road overlooking the Kona coast stands a fish market named Stan's. For over a decade, Daddy Jack drove his Jeep up the rugged trail to meet the fishermen bringing in their afternoon catch. The big haole would open a primo, listen to the stories of the day at sea, banter with Stan in his own version of Pidgin English, and fill the shop with his ebullient sense of wonder and joy at being a Hoosier on the big island of Hawaii.
Stan would be about his work, arranging the rainbow of fresh fish taken that day from the warm Kona waters: ahi, mahi-mahi, ono, pink and red snapper, fresh-water prawns. He'd place the fish carefully on a snowy bed of ice, taking them up one at a time to prepare them for his customers...
One day, Daddy Jack stayed later than usual and watched Stan at his art. Slicing and teasing the fillets from their delicate bones, handling each piece as it were a rare oriental sculpture. Beyond Stan, through an open-air window, Daddy Jack could see the sun-setting over Kealakekua Bay. Fiery orange melting into ocean blue. Stan looked up and followed Daddy Jack's gaze. "Watch for green flash," Stan whispered. "Green flash like night's first star. Make wish and it will come true."
Daddy Jack had heard this Hawaiian legend: Watch the sunset very closely under perfect conditions, and at the very moment between sunset and twilight, you may see a brilliant green flash – perhaps once or twice in a lifetime of watching. That very evening Daddy Jack saw his green flash. The little shop was flushed with the brilliant light. Daddy Jack raised his large square fists in the air and echoed the traditional cry of Hawaiian fishermen: "Hana Hou! Let's do it again!"
When I first read this story, it hit me: This should be the narrative of the Church, the story we should be telling a word longing for its green flash, for its wish.
From its very creation, humanity has been looking for a story which puts us in touch with the Creator. Adam and Eve were active involved in the story in which they were principals, and likewise, Christians have been trying since the first century to be part of the story, to be more than just casual observers.
This was the topic of my session at TruthVoice 2007; it was based largely on Mircea Eliade’s proposition of Eternal Return. Eliade, the master of history of religions and religious anthropology, observed that throughout human history, regardless of religion, culture and background, there has been a clear tendency for humans to reach out and attempt to return to the mythical age, the age of stories, gods and archetypes in an effort to become contemporary with the story and its events and make those events more real and relevant.
Throughout history, this has been the way in which humanity has been in a sense creating and defining reality. The overwhelming contrast of the sacred and the profane created a very important context in which the archetypal, ancient man lived, and what is interesting is that ordinary objects for example became real when they intersected the sacred. One biblical example is the example of Jacob’s stone. The stone became very real and relevant to him and those after him because the place where Joseph met God was called “the house of God” – before Joseph’s dream the stone was abandoned, lacking any purpose. After, the stone became the very marker for God’s presence, a very real manifestation of God’s presence and God’s sacred nature intersecting the ordinary. For hundreds of years, Jewish people continued the tradition of marking what they perceived to be sacred places with a stone in an effort to become contemporary with Jacob’s mythical story.
Australian Aborigines believe that before the dawn of the first day, the two brothers Bagadjimbiri came out of the earth as dingos, and grew into human giants who could touch the skies; but before the Bagadjimbiri came, nothing existed, and when they began to name things, the “plants and animals began to really exist.” To this day some Aborigines tribes continue to imitate this primordial creation of what is real by urinating in a certain position, eating a certain way and throwing a large wooden baton (boomerang) when hunting animals, just as the Bagadjimbiri brothers first did.
We see therefore prototypical objects being used as archetypal means of creating reality. In the Book of Wisdom, the prototypical temple was described only as a mere copy of the real one: “Thou gavest command to build a sanctuary in thy holy mountain, and an altar in the city of thy habitation, a copy of the holy tabernacle which thou preparedst aforehand from the beginning.” The same thing is being described in the Syriac Apocalypse of Baruch: “Dost thou think that this is that city of which I said: ‘On the palms of My hands have I graven thee?’ This building now built in your midst is not that which is revealed with Me, that which was prepared beforehand here from the time when I took counsel to make Paradise, and showed it to Adam before he sinned...”
The symbolism of the center is another important part in the return to the mythical age. Center-thinking is illustrated by the Jewish idea that God created the world starting with Zion: “The Holy One created the world like an embryo. As the embryo proceeds from the navel onwards, so God began to create the world from its navel onwards and from there it was spread out in different directions…The world has been created beginning from Zion.” Subsequently Adam was formed in Jerusalem or was created at the center of the earth; the same spot where Christ’s cross would later be setup.
Eschatology also plays an immense role in creating reality, in that modern, and what I call, linear eschatology has replaced the mythical eschatology of return, or what I call, cyclical eschatology. Jewish eschatology has generally limited the duration of the world to seven thousand years, after which a renewal of the world would take place in order to conquer death. Likewise Babylonian and Iranian literature limits existence to the same seven thousand year interval coming to a close with language familiar to Christian scholars: “When such and such things happen in heaven, then will the clear become dull, the pure dirty, the lands will fall into confusion, prayer will not be heard, the signs of the prophets will be unfavorable….on those days the sun will no longer rise, the moon will no longer appear…”
Christians like Lanctantius followed with similar thinking: “God created the world in six days and on the seventh he rested; hence the world will endure for six aeons, during which “evil will conquer and triumph” on earth. During the seventh millennium, the prince of demons will be chained and humanity will know a thousand years of rest and perfect justice after which it will be re-created.”
Over time, the mythical kind of eschatology, which focused on the renewing of all things, has been replaced however by a linear kind of eschatology which brings all things to an end. Unfortunately this is the case for Preterism, Dispensationalism and other modern schools of eschatology. In a typical linear narrative, there is a beginning, one or more bad things happening, some plot filling material and an end which brings the narrative to an eschatological climax. The question which needs to be asked of this linear narrative, is “What is the post-eschatological relevance of the story? What is left after the end?”
Linear narrative and eschatology
Interestingly enough however, is the success of the linear Dispensational eschatology. The reason for this seems to be that unlike Preterism, Dispensationalism places us inside the narrative, thus giving us the excitement of being a real part of the story being unfolded; without question this greatly appeals to believers longing to be part of the exciting biblical narrative. In contrast, the linear Preterist eschatology is presenting the same picture as Dispensationalism, except we have been airbrushed out. So then, “What is the post-eschatological relevance of this story?”
On the other hand, Eliade’s eternal return has prompted me to rethink eschatology into a cyclical narrative that is continuously relevant to us, in which we are actors actively involved in developing the plot. Christians have been using ritual as the means to actualize sacred ancient events, be it the flood through baptism, the washing of feet, marriage, or communion, they all are illustrative of the desire to renew the world, ourselves and our communities through both an eschatological climax, and a re-creation or a re-newing of who we are; in a sense, the metanoia used to describe a convert to Christianity is both an eschatological fulfillment and a rebirth of oneself in a very personal but also very real way.
The cyclical narrative and eschatology
For example, baptism is the equivalent to the ritual death of the old man, followed by a new birth. On the cosmic level, it is equivalent to the deluge…to the flood: abolition of form and shape, and a return to the raw and formless, a recreation into the new. Also in India, during a wedding, the husband says to the bride “I am Heaven…you are Earth.” Each new marriage in essence is a re-creation of the universe, a return to the one moment when the universe comes into being.
It seems therefore that reality can be acquired through repetition or participation, and that everything that lacks an exemplary archetype or model is in fact “meaningless” or lacks reality. So if the Sabbath rest represents the primordial gesture of the Lord, thus celebrating the Sabbath, reactualizes the rest after the Creation. Likewise the yearly rituals of Christmas, Easter, with all the drama and mystical implications implies for us Christians not only a personal, but a cosmic regeneration, through the reactualization of the birth, suffering, death and resurrection of Christ; the cycle of the ritual actualizes those events and help us move from being outside of the story, to being active participants in the story. The story never ends, which is why the story always remains relevant!
In the early 1900s, a French anthropologist discovered a very interesting mythical story in a Romanian Village; a tragedy of love and death. The story said that a young suitor in a mountain village was bewitched by a jealous mountain fairy, who driven by jealousy threw him off a cliff. The next day, shepherds found his body, and carried it back to the village, where his fiancée came to meet him. When she saw him, she poured out a funeral lament, full of mythological and liturgical meaning, and rustic beauty.
Upon further research, the anthropologist tried to discover when this story took place, and he was told it was “long long ago.” Yet with little effort, he was able to find out that the very fiancée of the young man was still alive, and most of the people in the village were in fact contemporaries of the story! In a very real sense, the ritual re-telling of the story, allowed the villagers to re-tell the story in such a way that the story was stripped of historical authenticity yet if was very real because it has become ritualized. The young man, the fairy, the cry of the broken hearted fiancée, all replaced a simple accident in which a young man died and gained mythical proportions which kept the story alive for all future generations. In fact, it was the myth that told the truth; the real story was already a falsification if you will. Besides this, was the myth not in fact more true by the fact that it made the real story yield a deeper and richer meaning, revealing a tragic destiny?
As I have struggled to deal with the modern implications of the Biblical narrative, and with what I perceive to be a failure of Christianity to tell the story, I have come to understand that the problem is perhaps not with the story itself, rather with the fact that we have replaced the beautiful and very personal Biblical narrative of eternal return with intellectual professions of doctrine. What I find even more troubling is that a seafood restaurant menu manages to tell a silly story about fishing better than us Christians can tell the story of God login and pursuing us.
A friend of mine Larry Charles, has a black belt in American Kenpo and while speaking with him about martial arts, he told me an interesting story about the white and black belts. For a very long time, in martial arts a student progressed from a white to a black belt over time; there were no gradual colors to indicate progress like we see today. One could tell based on the worn out and dirty white belt you would use the level of skill you have in the martial art. The more sweat and grime and dirt accumulated on the white belt, the more skilled you would be, until you would be honored by your master with a black belt. But the black belt is not the end of the journey! As you continue to learn the martial art and continue to wear the black belt, the belt slowly starts turning white as a result of sweat and use. The black belt is the beginning of a new journey back to apprenticeship.
I believe that God is teaching us to reaffirm the sacredness of the Biblical narrative through the retelling of a story that can be relevant to all cultures, all people of all backgrounds. The story is not a doctrinal one; it is a personal one. It is a story of creation, falleness, restoration, fulfillment and renewal, both personal and universal; it is also the story of Israel, a story of creation, falleness, restoration, fulfillment and renewal. Through the work of Christ and the centrality of his Gospel, the cosmogony of mankind has become the very fulfillment of the personal and cyclical kind eschatology we should participate in as Christians. This is the eschatology which allows us to be partners with God in the renewing of the world into “new heavens and a new earth.” So then, “what is the power of us being a part of the narrative?”
In a very real sense, we become creators and shapers of the world and its values, so much so that in the book of Revelation, we are being pictured as the leaves of the Tree of Life, being used “for the healing of the nations.” Our eschatology is not about a different place in the skies where we play harp music for each other; it is very much about now, today, tomorrow, and here; the place and time in which we are equity partners with God.
Ultimately Eliade observed the intellectual snobbism of the modern religions towards traditional ritual practices. He wrote: “In certain highly evolved societies, the intellectual élites progressively detach themselves from the patterns of traditional religion. The periodical resanctification of cosmic time then proves useless and without meaning….” Returning to and reliving the Biblical narrative seems to have little to do with modern Christianity; instead we have intellectualized the story to a level nearly impossible to understand by most people and cultures. So then, can that sort story be relevant at all?
At Kona Jack’s, Marc told me the story about his girlfriend who is now in China, and his thoughts, expectations and future plans he had. He told me how they met, and how he fell in love with her. He told me that she had some health problems, but he still loved her and was longing for the day when he would again be with her. And then it occurred to me that Marc’s story was my story as well, and Adam and Eve’s story, and the story of God and us. It was so much easier to relate to Marc once I realized I was part of his story, and he was part of mine.
As I was preparing for speaking in April, I asked my 5 year old daughter Jade (who loves drawing) to draw for me “an expression of love.” I did not try to influence her, or tell her what to draw. I simply told her to “draw love.” Later that day she came back to me with her project: a simple drawing of Jade and I holding hands, surrounded by little red hearts.
I long after the day when we can better connect our story with the world around us, a world that is hurting and longing for God. I know it needs to be done; but I may not know best how to go about doing it. Could we learn from a child, who saw real and ultimate love as simply being in her father’s presence? Could we learn from Kona Jack’s story on the back of a sushi menu, about the famous Hawaiian green flash? Or from a stranger sharing his story of love with us?
However we tell the story or our birth, life, love, eschatology and sacred renewing, we need to keep doing it, so the world can come back in wonder and ask for more, “Hana Hou! Let's do it again!”
 Mircea Eliade, Myths Dreams and Mysteries, p. 191
 Mircea Eliade, Myths Dreams and Mysteries, p. 191
 Wisdom of Solomon 9:8
 Syriac Apocalypse of Baruch II 4:2-7
 Texts cited by Wensinck, pp. 19. 16; cf. also W. H. Roscher, “Neue Omphalosstudien,” Abhandlungen der Koniglich Sachsischen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaft (Leipzig)
 Wensick, p. 14
 Syrian Book of the Cave of Treasures
 Ivan Engnell, Studies in Divine Kingship in the Ancient Near East, pp. 43. 44, 68
 Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane, p. 107