August 30, 2016: The “A” Word

Word day for the second week in a row in the Tater Patch, folks, and although the term under consideration today isn’t particularly eastern Kentuckian, it goes back to the dawn of human culture itself: ANTHROPOMORPHISM. Call it the “A” word for short if you like, but thankfully, it’s a lot more easily defined than spelled: basically, when you think or speak of a thing or an animal as if it were human, you’ve anthropomorphized it. The Book of Job says that “the morning stars sang together” at the Creation (38:7), and even before Aesop wrote his fables, talking and human-reasoning animals were already the stock of children’s stories. If the “A” word isn’t an inborn psychological tendency in humans it’s certainly a time-honored practice in child-rearing: parents and educators try to teach kids basic life lessons from stories such as the Little Red Hen, the Ant and the Grasshopper, and the Three Little Pigs, and as the kids mature, hopefully they accept the fact that although the animal fables are just that, fables, the principles behind the tales are still sound and worth keeping.

I suspect, though, that the “A” word has finally reached its low point. At least I hope so. Over the centuries we’ve gone from oral tales to storybooks, books to animated cartoons, cartoons to computer-generated films, and just recently a brand-new creation of this type, “Sausage Party,” has been released to movie theaters. It’s a story about living, thinking groceries who conceive of humans as gods that buy them to care for them in the Great Beyond, but who find out the hard way that their real fate is to be cooked and eaten. Its violence and gore make the shootings and explosions of yesteryear’s cartoons appear tame by comparison, not even to mention its graphic sex and language, and although it’s billed as strictly R-rated adult fare, the kids of parents either too lazy or preoccupied to care for them properly will still watch it—if not in movie houses with these same lazy or preoccupied parents, then either on pay-per-view, cable, or DVD while the aforemention-ed lazy, preoccupied parents amuse themselves otherwise. At least my own Tater Tots are grown, so in any case I won’t have to do any explaining that, our status as Taters notwith-standing, peeling a potato is not the equivalent of flaying a human being alive, noodles aren’t really a soup can’s entrails, and baby carrots don’t actually shriek in terrified little-girl voices for their mommies when you pop them into your mouth. How long do you actually think it’ll be until we see “Sausage Party” collectible figurines and stuffed toys on the market, R-rating notwithstanding? I’m betting Christmas.

But “Sausage Party” isn’t the only way we’ve misused the “A” word—and strange as it may sound, its script writers aren’t even entirely wrong. In the story, the groceries think of humans as gods, and in reality, what do humans do? Mostly, we keep an A-word concept of our Maker that’s very little clearer or better than the childhood view from which we congratulate ourselves that we’ve matured. Not only is this the real reason terrorists crash airplanes into buildings in the name of God, but also why there are so many fights and so much gossip and bad blood in individual churches while everyone still claims to “love one another.” As humans, we imagine God as some super-HUMAN endowed with both our best and worst qualities, and then both preach His love and proclaim intolerance in His name because we’re too terrified of our own concept of Him to dare omit the practice of either. Could this split personality to which we’ve A-worded the Creator actually be the worst kind of blasphemy? In the words of Asaph in Psalm 50:21, quoted here from the Revised Standard Version for clarity rather than the King James, God accuses the wicked that “you thought that I was one like yourself.” So maybe it’s time that we actually took this to heart along with I Corinthians 13:11, that “when I was a child I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” Asaph the Psalmist and Paul the Apostle were more correct in these passages than even they knew—or than we do. We all need to grow up, accept that it’s better to have questions we can never answer than answers we can never question—and start acting like the adults we claim we are. The “A” word, like cartoons, is for kids.

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