With the sermon in which a saying of a desert father figured still in my head, I pulled a card about the saying that was used. These sayings are very strange, this one too, but interesting. Here it comes:
“Once a woman came to Anthony (a famous desert father) and claimed she had memorized the Bible, adding that she had practiced long fasts. So Anthony decided to test the woman’s knowledge: “For you, is being despised the same as being honored?” “No,” she answered. He then went on: “Is loss the same as gain?” Are strangers the same as your parents? Is poverty the same as wealth?” Each time she answered, “No.” His judgment was curt: “You have neither fasted nor learned the Old and New Testaments. You have deceived yourself.””
What Anthony means here is that knowledge of the words is not necessary; it should be lived knowledge. To be honest, if I had to answer the questions the woman had to answer, knowing now the answer would have to be a “no”, I probable could make up the answers, applying a value that I believe Anthony finds important, but it would not be honest. For example, to the question if strangers are the same as my parents I would answer: “God is the ultimate father, therefore strangers are the same as my parents.” This way, I would trick Anthony into being more pious than I am in reality, because I do not really believe this. But maybe he would read my face and not believe my answers anyway.
I thought to pull a card about it. I wonder, why should the answers to all these questions be “no”? Why is being despised the same as being honored, poverty the same as wealth (ect.). What is the common ground here?
I’ve used the Tarot of Jane Austen, and received the Wheel of Fortune as an answer. In most decks a Wheel is depicted on this card, showing the ups and downs of life. Here the Wheel is symbolized by people dancing, holding hands as forming the hub of the Wheel.
In this version of the Wheel of Fortune one the accents is on the wobbly nature of luck, the fact that things are not as they appear, or do not turn out as they seem. For example, none of the pairs dancing on the card end up with each other. Applied to the example of parents: parents can be parents in name, but not act the way like parents ought to do, and then they are not real (true) parents (having a father in heaven then is at least something, better than nothing).
I think the common ground in the answer ‘no’ is that there is a non-changing-power, a trustworthy God to rely on, against the everchanging nature of life. It could be a Buddhist answer: “What we perceive as ups and downs is illusion…go to the ever existing centre behind it, then you will find rest.”