86 of 234: On Avoidance

Louvre MND 1404 ; Ma 3503

Long before I had this blog I enjoyed the Jonah story and its diverse ancient iconography. I like how Jonah under the vine echoes both Endymion and Adriane. Jonah awaits his God. He thinks he is sulking but he has done his work even if it didn’t go quite as he wanted. But the artist rendering with its allusions to other ancient narratives lets us see that it is in this moment he is closest to the divine. He does not know but we know and can anticipate the eminent approach of the divine.

Louvre ED 1712 ; S 2053

We are more used to focusing on Jonah in the “whale” as a prefiguration of Christ in the tomb in most contemporary retellings. Of course it is no whale, just a beast of the deep and he only ends up in that strange limbo because he tries to avoid his necessary task. He is a reluctant prophet. When told to go to East, he tries to head West. He imagines how badly the task will go and wants no part of the future he anticipates.

He needs a monstrous conveyance just to bring him back to face the unfinished task. The beast is a second chance not some torture or trial in itself. Jonah must go to Nineveh in spite of his own self sabotage and best laid plans to avoid it. The job must be done, even if he chooses to do it the hardest way possible after great delay and rigmarole.

And then, Lo!, when he finally delivers his message. It works. The people of Nineveh, contrary to his expectations, correct what needs correcting and get on with their own work immediately. Jonah is resentful and sullen. How could it all be so anticlimactic? How could they just face the matter and get on with their lives, while he Jonah, who had the moral high ground to begin with, had to go through so much self induced suffering just to deliver the message? Where are the fireworks and drama?

So Jonah gets a nap and a bit of shade. He put himself through hell for that nap. Let him sleep and let’s hope he might do a little better next time.

Today I started my work day by asked myself what was I avoiding. I don’t procrastinate as much as avoid. Usually things involving human interaction and asking others to do something. It is the anticipation of an unknown negative outcome that is the worst part of the process, and yes delaying only makes it all worse. I’ve dealt with one of the tasks on my things I’m avoiding list. On to the others.

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