Let’s get back to Ichabod…somewhere in the sands of the Middle East…

But first, let me say that whenever my eyes feel dusty and in need of a good rinse, whenever my soul feels heavy and dark and needs a little lightening, i turn on the YouTube and look for Mr. Bean on his Holiday. A hop-skip-n-jump to Paris, where he awaits his train to Cannes. With time to kill and a hungry belly, Bean enters a restaurant and is whisked to a seat and assured – in words he does not understand – “YOU’LL LOVE THIS!” Though London and Paris are so very close on a map, French taste and English taste may as well be planets apart, but BEAN BEees NICE and gives us a laugh to cleanse body and soul. He tries to eat, and what he just can’t he GIVES to the lady at the next table. LOLOL!

It is awesome, because we have all been there, all heard those words, scary words, before. Even scarier the plate before us! And we have sometimes been nice – and tried. Other times we have thought, “Eat it? I can’t even look at it! No way!” Once, when i was still just a young English-American, very unfamiliar with the world’s cuisines, satisfied with toast and butter, i was invited to an Italian house – and i mean REAL ITALIAN – where dinner went from One P.M. to Nine P.M. NON-STOP!!! i played nicee nicee nice, the best that i could, hearing “Provalo, ti piacerà” (Try it, you’ll like it!) a hundred times. i know, i know, i know, they meant well, they were so caring, so kind! But i was so sick to my stomach, i wanted to die!

WHY AM i TELLING THIS STORY? Because a similar thing happened in recent years in the Middle East with a result that could not possibly be less comical, less funny, more tragic. Some foreigners came into Iraq, they swore they had good intentions (let me even presume here that they did – somewhat). Many many people greeted them with joy and gratitude. But then they offered a dish, no, a platter; no, a whole gigantic plan, including a new “way of life.” i can still see a rejoicing, boasting George W. Bush, and hear him say, “Everything’s gonna be great! They’re gonna LOVE freedom and democracy!!!”

Now LOOK AT MR. BEAN’s FACE and try not to laugh. That is the reaction-historic, but it is NOT FUNNY AT ALL! The catastrophic MESS that now exists in the Middle East can well be traced to misstep after mistake, misunderstanding after miscalculation, miscue after misread, misperception after misinterpretation.  All of these misses, small or grand, now spell MESS on an epic scale, of truly global proportions. You can’t expect millions of people to just love hotdogs – let alone to go nuts for American liberty – just because this treasure which is all you’ve ever known tastes so good to you.

As Peter Jackson must see the whole picture now, we have simply, sadly, shaken the meanest, nastiest dragon that the human race has ever faced. Except this one is not on a massive theater screen. This one’s FOR REAL! Terrible pain and destruction are absolutely inevitable. A millennial-old Beast that was born of the fiery Hatred between Christians and Muslims has been awakened from its sleep. The effects, beyond words, have already been felt around the world. And the remaining humans live in a mixture of grave fear and grave determination to fight to the death.

AND THEN THERE’S ICHABOD! Remember him? This is how i started this story, this incredibly true story days ago. This story resembles that great epic tale in more ways than the dragon. Dragons will always make big stars. But the whole point of Mr. Tolkien and his pal, C.S.Lewis, and their Epic Tales, which were inspired in the foxholes of real-live World Wars, is that the SUPERSTARS are the little guys, the LITTLEST GUYS, in fact, like Bilbo, Frodo, Sam, and Ichabod! (Doesn’t he just fit right in?) i often wonder whether Tolkien imagined St. Francis, whom he knew so well, when he sketched his very first barefoot hobbit? Could the little man from Assisi, who might well be called the “most fearless warrior in history,” when he kept his humble, peaceful Baggins beside those journeymen, always encouraging them to keep their heads and examine their hearts, asking, Why did this happen? What was it all about anyway? Gold? Power? Who really wants it anyway? Questions, questions, questions…which, if honestly confronted, could humble the worst Giant.

AND THERE IS ICHABOD, my old friend, my own trusted companion, fortified by the Love of God and directed by the humble wisdom of the first in his line of hobbits – i MEAN FRIARS!! Sorry about that! Somehow he has the courage to “engage the Beast directly,” one might say, the beast living, breathing inside these men he knows to be his “brothers.” He can engage, especially as he knows his intentions are right. He is not out to force anyone “to eat his food or follow his path or lead his lifestyle.” He is simply trying to understand everyone he meets and to point every child to the very best in their varied traditions, as both religions are religions of peace…at the core. Of course the dragon is frightful. He could rise up and just react to this man, not give him a chance, and devour him. Ichabod knows that, just as he knows that “the Great Dragon of the West,” just as scary, might fly over someday – and strike him along with everyone else.. It is a very scary existence, yes, but fear is far smaller than faith, or hope, or love. And that is the triple-edged sword that Ichabod carries with him.

Carry on, buddy. Peace.


Author: friardad

what's it like having a wife and six kids after having been a friar for many years and being still married to St. Francis' Lady Poverty?

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