Monday, November 13, 2006
Nosing Out the Path
I believe there is a place
where people live in perfect peace
Where there is food on every plate
Where work is rewarded and rest is sweet
Where the color of your skin
won't get you in or keep you out
Where justice reigns and truth finally wins
its hard-fought war against fear and doubt
Rich Mullins is an optimist. He has scented the water in the middle of the desert.
And everyone I know wants to go there too
But when I ask them how to do it they seem so confused
Do I turn to the left
Do I turn to the right
When I turn to the world they gave me this advice
Well, actually, I guess lots of people at least say they're looking for it. Seems to me it really shouldn't be that hard to find.
They said boy you just follow your heart
but my heart just lead me into my chest
They said follow your nose
but the direction changed every time I went and turned my head
They said boy you just follow your dreams
but my dreams were only misty notions
But the Father of hearts and the Maker of noses
and the giver of dreams He's the one I have chosen
And I will follow him
"Follow your nose" is a fine old midwestern expression. I was told that a lot. I've used the phrase since then to describe how I've lived my life because it implies that just sitting still won't get you any closer. If you don't know which way to go, just start walking. Follow your nose.
But perhaps it's deeper than that. Perhaps I've gotten wind of God, scenting him on some vagrant breeze, a few tantalizing molecules amid the hideous human-made desert of what was once a magnificent place. Maybe we all start with the right sense of smell and I was just too stupid or too simple or too enamored to ignore it as was suggested by most of the people I knew. "Be practical. The world doesn't work the way you want it to." My thought was "If this place really works the way you say it does I'd rather not be here."
Somebody has to follow dreams or there'd be no light bulbs and no electricity to run them. There'd be no keyboards, no kindnesses done for friends. There'd be no music. Yeow, what a desert that would be. There would be no stories, no fantasies, no filigree around the edges of our lives.
At the same time there needs to be some kind of grounding. Light bulbs grew from hundreds of years of painstaking research, gradually disseminated in an increasingly scientific world in ways that weren't possible until printing became common. Knowledge of electricity grew the same way and led to motors and microchips and middle-aged men at midnight keyboards. Now we have better ways to communicate our stories but they've been preempted by empty dreams and promises with no more substance than fog in a Namibian dawn. We're told to believe in the dream, have faith in faith to see us through. Edison wouldn't have gotten anywhere with that idea. He got his hands dirty, tried, failed, tried again. He was following his nose, his instincts, against those prevailing in the workaday world around him. Real dreamers test their dreams and end up illuminating the world.
The only route more direct than music to a human heart is smell. Maybe what has drawn me on all these years is nothing more complicated that a certain hint of a wondrous fragrance. They say I got my nose from my grandfather. I think God knows better.
Eventually my nose found its Maker. This isn't due to any great skill on my part. God left his carefully designed scent trail for me to follow. I was blind to deeper truth and still miss most of it, but of all senses the nose is least likely to lie. Corruption stinks and no amount of attar of roses will ever hide it. Does the presence of corruption mean there is no rose? No nose truly knows; believe in the Rose of Sharon and you will be saved. Your nose isn't just leading you on.
Excerpt from "The Maker of Noses," by Rich Mullins