Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Man Who Was Used Up

While my sister was visiting, we stumbled upon my library’s monthly used book sale. For $1.00, I was able to pick up a 753-page hardcover, library edition of “Sixty-Seven Tales” by Edgar Allan Poe. Then I put it on my bookshelf and forgot all about it.

My legs were tired and I needed something to read while I took a short break yesterday. Remembering the volume of short stories, I removed it from its resting place. Reading the description of one as a “brilliant story of humor and satire” and finding that it was only 7 pages in length, I put my feet up for a short interlude and enjoyed this story. (You can read it here.)

“The Man That Was Used Up: A Tale of the Late Bugaboo and Kickapoo Campaign” opens up with a detailed description of the fascinating and handsome Brevet Brigadier General John A.B.C. Smith. The narrator is intrigued by some mysterious quality of his new acquaintance and seeks to find out more about him. His social spies repeat generalities about the courageous and remarkable man, his fight with the Bugaboo and Kickapoo Indians, and what a wonderful age of invention we are living in! Not to be put off any further, he ends up at Smith’s house while he is still dressing. He finds that the General has to be put together, from his legs to his palate, and every single physical attribute about him is artificial. Mystery solved: he was “the man that was used up”.

A good story will resonate within a good reader’s mind for some time and bring out all kinds of new thoughts. Most of these are unintended by the writer. He just wanted to tell a good story.

I have always wondered about the increasing artificiality of many people as they get older. When I attend a social function, sometimes the most sing-songy hello-how-are-you’s ring as the most non-genuine and leave me with a sour taste. I wonder:

How many us have left a good portion of ourselves behind as we lose ourselves in the messy details of life?

How many of us hide behind a veneer as a protective mechanism so long that we forget who was there?

How many of us can’t remember who we were before we got married and had children?

How many of us, by middle age, are women who are all used up?

God turns Pharaoh’s heart to stone to enable him to repeatedly refuse the Hebrews their independence. But through the prophet Ezekiel he offers something different for his people…

“A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26

In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, by C.S. Lewis (from The Chronicles of Narnia series; the movie is in pre-production for May 2010 ), Eustace turns into a dragon and can only be saved by Aslan. The Great Lion gives him a bath that one-by-one removes each layer of scales. Painfully they come off, and Eustace is relieved and born again when he finds himself naked, in his boy skin.

At our conception we were given a soul, and noone can kill that soul – not even ourselves. We can try to bury it under layers of protective mechanisms, but God can strip away these veneers.

1 comment:

Loren Christie said...

My problem used to be that I could not figure out how to cover my soul, now I view that dilemma as a strength. I like this post!