Lesa: Man Takes the Place of God

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Humans, Moving into New Identities, Touch God.

Humans living in the contemporary age struggle to recover a fabled oneness with God and the universe. Cultural rituals and institutions are meant to help in this regard. As people attempt to recover the primal union, they undergo ritual changes in their lives. During these reshaping periods, they are adapting new identities, casting off their old identities. While involved in this transitional period, they are marginalized, shifted to the periphery. The movement to new identity is characterized by chaos and order.

(Lamba/Zambia) A lion and a cow give birth to children, Lion-child and Cow-child. As the two children grow to manhood, they set things right in three environments—in the animal world, they overcome a lion who has killed a cow; in the human world, they defeat three old men who hold a community hostage; and in the world of God, they insist that God respond to the petitions of humans. In this movement from the animal to the human to the celestial realms, the two are gaining insights into their world, in the process rejecting the might is right dictum, and so purging themselves of any such antisocial ideals. They steadily move through the worlds, leaving the animalistic concept of the strong overwhelming the weak behind, and so they slowly move along a trajectory that leads them to godliness. To make this point even more dramatically, the storyteller has Cow-child, now having achieved his majority, take over the role of God in the end. At one point, a part of Cow-child's recollection of his mother is destroyed, suggesting that he has left that part of his world behind. Similarly, Lion-child, eschewing the idea that might is right, gives life to Cow-child rather than destroy him as his mother destroyed the cow. Order and humaneness are thus established by Lion-child and Cow-child. In the process, the links with the past must necessarily be cut, so that the initiate can move into his new state of full humanity. Change has occurred, as the creatures, Lion-child and Cow-child, move from the animal world into the human world and to the world of God. Even as these two central characters move through each of these worlds, taming the villains and making the three worlds more humane, they are at the same time purifying themselves, eliminating, through their humane acts, the animal parts of themselves, shedding their pasts, sloughing off their primal forms, moving from animal to human, from one state into a new state, and simultaneously moving the world from a world in which beings destroy one another like animals, or where humans exploit one another, or where God is a being with destructive attitudes towards humans, into a more enlightened dispensation.

Subjects: Religion.

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