Friday, November 14, 2014

Humanity Discovered in Will Bishop's "Moses und Aron"

As Will Bishop contrasts the two biblical figures of Moses and Aaron in "Moses und Aron" I found myself more deeply understanding not just the struggles and failings of an ancient people.  In his modernized depiction of the israelites the universal nature of man in all times shines through.

And so it was that God gave us Aaron
for Moses was slow of speech
and didn't look right in a business suit,
for we yanked on his bulrush-bred beard
and mocked him,

Bishop begins the poem in this way, characterizing the prophet Moses in an extended explanation for Israel's preference for his spokesman Aaron.  From the first lines, the poet establishes a scene that causes use to envision the two men in a modern context, as Moses is awkwardly shoved into a boardroom attire and Aaron steals the spotlight of prophet's sermons.  While Moses is characterized as humble and soft-spoken in his desire that "we might see God", Aaron seeks to "trim that burning bush into topiary" as he wows the crowd with his sleek image and public speaking.  This inventive imagery not only makes the characterization of Moses and Aaron more interesting, but also succeeds in characterizing us as human beings to be fooled only too often by glittering eye-candy and crowd-pleasing rhetoric that fails to truly satisfy the soul.

Oddly enough the plot of "Moses und Aron" does not explicitly show God's disappointment with the people for their choice of Aaron and relative indifference toward Moses- He gives them the spokesman they desire.  The poem isn't direct in its message but it does suggest the central theme that God gives mankind the promised land that they deserve, that man is allowed to face the consequences of determining his own fate.  Although the poem is not outward or obviously mormon in conveying this theme, the characterization of Moses and Aaron could be applied to our view of Joseph Smith and his humble circumstances and appearance when compared with other more flashy and populist preachers that abound in our time as well as his.

From this poem I felt like I gained a lot of insight into the way God works in governing his people.  Although He will always provide a clear and accessible way to obtain spiritual truth through His ordained prophet, that does not necessarily mean that he will require the unwilling to seek Him through that route.  Maybe because God is so perfect in respecting our agency he is willing at times to give man just what they choose, even when it isn't what is best for them.


  1. I found the application of biblical figures to contemporary, relatable setting very interesting. I like how you interpreted the poem as illustrative of God's gift of agency and the ability of the people to choose either the truthfulness of the prophet or the pizazz of other leaders. It can sometimes be difficult to relate to the accounts of the Israelites in the Old Testament, but this post creates a strong connection between ancient and modern-day people.

  2. This is really an interesting analysis and poem. I really want to read it! I think us as a society get lost in topiaries rather than burning bushes and suits for beards as we are a society of image and status. That might have been for the ancient peoples but with words, as Aaron needed to be his spokesman. It makes me wonder at what value I am looking to things of this world and things of a better. Do I listen to the prophet for his messages or the way in which he delivers it?