(urth) Slow Children at Play

JBarach at aol.com JBarach at aol.com
Wed Sep 12 09:54:45 PDT 2007

Urthers --
Have we discussed "Slow Children at Play" on this list?  I looked in  the 
archives and couldn't find anything, but perhaps I missed it.  There  are 
SPOILERS in what follows.
It seems to me that Mark may be an angel ("I c-came from the sky ...  Yes! 
F-from the sky!  I f-fell, oh, f-fell so many, many.  I h-had  wings").  As that 
quotation indicates, he would be a fallen angel, though  he doesn't appear to 
be evil here.  
But if Mark is an angel and Gene is a man, what exactly is Joe (Mark  says "I 
c-came from the sky ... J-Joe out of the ground").  Is he in some  sense an 
The light turns out to be a fire with a man standing in front of it ("in  
it," Gene says, the way we speak of "the  Man in the Moon").  But when  the man 
turns, he reveals, "not his back, but an entire new being: a live  griffin, 
eagle-clawed and many-winged."  Furthermore, "that figure was  horned like a 
Viking or a devil; and as I looked, it roared like a lion."
The description sounds terrifying.  But what is a griffin?  A  griffin is a 
GOOD creature in mythology, and as Borges points out, was seen as a  symbol of 
Jesus Christ because it had two natures.  It was both a lion and  an eagle.  
This particular griffin isn't just a griffin, though.  It  also has the face of 
a man and horns like a Viking or a devil ... or an OX  (and of course an ox 
is where a Viking got his horns).
What has characteristics of an ox, a lion, an eagle, and a man?  A  cherub.  
In the Bible, cherubim (the plural of "cherub") aren't chubby  babies.  They 
are the creatures that were fashioned on top of the ark of  the covenant, which 
is God's footstool.  God is described as enthroned  above the cherubim.
And when Ezekiel sees God, the creatures he is enthroned above are  cherubim. 
 Each of them have four faces: "As for the likeness of their  faces, each had 
the face of a man; each of the four had the face of a lion on  the right 
side; each of the four had the face of an ox on the left side; and  each of the 
four had the face of an eagle" (Ezek. 1:10).
It seems to me, then, that the creature Gene sees is a cherub.  (He's  also 
remarkably like a sphinx in some ways, but then sphinxes seem to me to  combine 
the same sorts of animals that cherubim do.)  Now factor in that  the cherub 
"still stood like a sentry before its fire, which appeared to revolve  
majestically now, grown even larger and more brilliant."
Isn't this pretty much straight from Genesis 3:24, where God drives Adam  and 
Eve from the Garden, "and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of  
Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree  
of life"?  Here, as in "Slow Children at Play," we have cherubim standing  
guard and we have a flame that "turned every way" ("revolved" is a possible  
translation of the Hebrew).
Joe later tells Gene that Mark plays and that he plays and that last night  
Gene played with them.  I don't know exactly what that means, but I wonder  
about any connection between it and Eden.  

The cherubim tells the three that he will bring them again to the sun, but  
that it will not be for Gene's sake and certainly not for Mark's (and he looks  
disdainfully at Mark, which again suggests to me that he may be a fallen  
angel), and not even for Joe's (and he speaks to Joe "more kindly," which again  
suggests to me that Joe isn't human or angelic and may therefore be  ... an 
animal?).    It appears to me that Joe and Mark  get to enter the Garden and 
play, but Gene, seeing the cherubim's other faces,  flees.  He is not (yet) 
allowed to enter into the Garden.  You  have to become like a little child in order 
to enter the kingdom, Jesus  says.
And what's the significance of the poem at the end?  What's the  source, too? 
 It appears to indicate that we are to read the story, not as  a horror story 
(though that's how Gene, the narrator, tells it, because for him  it is 
horrific and he thinks he's had a psychotic episode), but as something  good and 
peaceful.  The play of the "slow children" is part of the cosmic  dance and is a 
good thing.
One more comment: What's particularly fascinating about this story is the  
link between it and "The Arimaspian Legacy."  The house in which Gene, Joe,  and 
Mark live seems at first to be in our world, but it's a city in which  
everything to the south is in ruins AND it's the same house in which David  
Arimaspian stepped through a window to his death, as Gene tells us.
There's a load of stuff hidden in the next line: "And so I remained where I  
was, studying, or rather, pretending to study, G. T. Griffith's _Mercenaries 
of  the Hellenistic World_; though when I thought of David, the nominal 'best  
friend' of my childhood, the author's name became anathema to me and I covered 
 it (for it appeared at the top of the page) with one hand."
Thinking about David makes the name of G. T. Griffith anathema to  Gene.  
Why?  Perhaps because Griffith had something to do with David's  death?  Is it 
possible that "G. T. Griffith" actually is Gene himself, and  that he had 
something to do with the death of his "nominal" (N.B.!) "best  friend"?  Or what?
Anyway, I throw this out for your consideration.  Nutria, if you're  still on 
the list, I could use your insights, in particular.
John Barach   (541) 531-2906
Pastor, Reformation Covenant Church (CREC)
706 Beekman Avenue
Medford, OR   97501
_http://barach.us_ (http://barach.us) 
_http://rccso.com_ (http://rccso.com) 

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