The Ecstatic Truth
“The sound of God strolling in the garden in the evening breeze…” – Genesis 3:8
There is a wonderful moment in the director Werner Herzog’s documentary, “The White Diamond” in which a native of Caribbean Guyana stands in front of his country’s largest waterfall. The waterfall is four times the size of Niagara falls. The man points out a drop of dew hanging on a plant in front of him. He then shows that it is possible to view the entire falls through the prism of this dew-drop. The camera zooms in and the viewer sees millions and millions of gallons held in a single drop of water. Then the man says, “I believe the entire universe is held here.”
It is a jaw-dropping scene.
And Herzog scripted the entire thing.
He was attacked for it, accused of “distorting the facts.” He roared back. “Filming it in the way I did brought the film to a deeper level of truth. There are deeper strata of truth than the accountant’s truth. There is such a thing as ecstatic truth. It is mysterious and elusive and can be reached only through fabrication and imagination and stylization.”
I wouldn’t say that the story of God walking through the garden is “fabricated,” but it’s certainly imaginative and it is definitely stylized. We need more than facts. We need the truth that beats like a heartbeat beneath every fact, the truth that no proof can grasp, the ecstatic truth that cannot be reduced to whether or not it “happened.”
O God, thank you for giving us the beautiful truth that burns straight through the claim that in the cool of the evening you walked through the garden. Amen.
Matt Fitzgerald is the Senior Pastor of St. Pauls United Church of Christ, Chicago, IL.