John Blase is a prolific writer and poet. A former pastor, John currently serves as an editor for David C. Cook. He lives with his wife and three children in Colorado.
“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” This quote is attributed to Pablo Picasso. There’s an eerily similar quote attributed to the Dali Lama – “Know the rules well, so you can break them effectively.” I’m not sure who said it first, Pablo or Dali, and I don’t really care anyway as chances are good that someone said an equally eerily similar thing before either of them. Bottom line is I agree with the quote.
It seems that Picasso and Lama and company are in agreement that rules are indeed meant to be broken. Cool, huh? Yeah, our culture loves that. But what these quotable characters are encouraging is breaking them with style, so to speak, something that can only be accomplished by first possessing a working knowledge of the rules. Our culture hates that. To be fair you can break the rules without knowing the rules, but you’ll break them bad, like a punk.
Consider the Joker and Batman (a.k.a, Heath Ledger and Christian Bale. Sorry Ben Affleck). Batman learned the rules of Wayne under Alfred’s tutelage and then learned the mercenary rules ala Ra’s al Ghul and the League of Shadows. He had a working knowledge of both sides which allowed him to do what had to be done and be the hero Gotham deserved. By contrast the Joker knew nothing and cared nothing for rules, he just liked to watch the world burn. In other words, he was a punk.
Or consider Jesus and the Pharisees (sorry, yes, the latter are low hanging fruit, but they earned it). Jesus knew the letter of the Law, jots, tittles, everything, but he also had the spirit thing down too. He truly knew the rules. That working knowledge of both sides allowed him to heal gobs on folks on the Sabbath, enjoy Sunday brunch with tax officers, and rescue women from stoney scenarios full of hard-hearted men. It freed him up to be the hero to define the word. By contrast the Pharisees knew and cared for nothing but rules, they loved to preen and strut in the reflection of temple windows while overlooking weightier matters of justice right and left. They were punks too.
This poem breaks the rules, not only of poetry (in the opinion of some) but also of Scripture (in the opinion of some). It draws inspiration from the likes of Pablo and Dali and Batman, but goes one further reaching out to try and touch just the hem of Him, that rule-breaking anti-punk who so loved this world, the hero we’d be forever lost without. Hopefully it has style. Hopefully it breaks good.
Instead of struggling to not be conformed to this
world, why not practice further prying open the
breastbone of our fragile existence, reaching deeper
into creation’s core to seize more and more of the pulsing fist of life?
Instead of straining to stay unspotted from this
world, why not say I do to flesh and blood, and
commit yourself to a people and a place, and vow to
love and be loved in return?
It’s a hard business being human.
It’s much easier to hover above your days as some
wispy holier-than-the-rest-of-us. But even if your job
performance is mediocre, the consolation for trying is
you’ll end up with memories instead of regrets.
Leave cleverness to the angels. Set your mind on things below.
~ from The Jubilee: Poems