We all feel it, that gnawing sensation that we don’t belong, that something just isn’t right. We skip along through the day putting it to the backwaters of our mind, but little by little it creeps back. It’s like we were meant for the tropics but living in the arctic, exiles from our home, refugees in a foreign land.
I was reading the greatest exile story of all time where mankind was evicted from Eden. I hadn’t noticed before how forceful it was, they were driven out.
I used to own sheep, well I owned a horse first. I learned how to ride a horse the hard way by buying one and trying to figure it out. After a while, I got a little bored just ridding around. I thought, as you do, “I need to get some sheep”, it seemed obvious at the time, so I bought twenty ewes and a ram.
I had many frustrating days trying to round these things up but it was nothing like the movies I had seen. If sheep don’t want to move they won’t, most of the time they just stared at me with a worried look. I tried everything I could, watched endless reruns of the Man From Snowy River but they just stared at me, got bored and moved on.
After winter I noticed the sheep had changed and now appeared like fluffy white clouds past my window. A neighbour gave me the nudge that they may need shearing, this presented new problems. I could hardly ride a horse, had 20 sheep that I couldn’t round up and now they needed shearing. Not to be deterred I found a shearer who agreed to shear the sheep if he could keep the wool. As I had no idea what I would do with the wool is seemed a good deal.
“Mate, these are sheep not cows”
“Mate, these are sheep not cows”
The day arrived and the shearer came expecting to see 20 sheep in a pen waiting eagerly to be sheared. I could see his shoulders sag as he saw them munching happily way off in the top paddock. I tried to explain the situation pointing to my horse. He looked at me and said “Mate, these are sheep not cows” and promptly marched off to the top paddock. I swallowed my pride and followed close behind.
For the next hour I had a master class in how to move sheep, you need to drive them, always keep them moving. The shearer moved around the back of the herd taking note of the direction of the lead sheep. Zigzagging behind the flock he slowly but firmly started to move them. Moving his arms above his head and sometimes forcefully hitting the ground with a stick they began to move toward the pens. There was never a doubt where these sheep were heading. In less than an hour, we arrived back at the sheep pen where my horse gave me an “I told you so” look.
I imagine that same scene in Eden, I guess they didn’t want to go, they had to be driven.
We are all refugees, made for a land we no longer inhabit but desperately seek. If this wasn’t true it would not be burnt into the psyche of every culture on the planet. As a species we have written epics, retold myth, produced movies and dreamed the wildest fiction, just to retell the story of exile and longing for home.
The sociologists say this is a protection mechanism, enabling us to adventure out but always return home to safety. But there is a deeper more fundamental mechanism at play, one that is tinged with sadness and regret. We long for a land we were created for but we know we can not get there ourselves, the boats have been burnt and there is no way back. We were driven from home.
Still being cared for in some mystical way, history is driven now to some sort of conclusion.
There are two other innate sensations we have as a species along with exile. The first is that there is an overwhelming sense that there is a purpose and a plan to existence. The second is that the only way back from exile is Love.
I may not be good at rounding up sheep but I think I can join the dots of this master plan.