The legend of Johnny Appleseed, thanks in part to Walt Disney, has come to children of all ages and it has planted more than apple seeds. I love the songs that made the movie come alive with lessons easy to learn. One of the songs has been teasing me lately. It’s the one that starts, “Get on the wagon going West, out to the great Unknown...Get on the wagon going West, or you’ll be left alone.”
Even the sun appears to go West and I’m thinking that the famous Christmas star led the “Wise Men from the East” westward in their search for the Messiah. So, would that mean progress leads westward literally?
Without getting too tangled up in geography, let’s assume that the progress of mankind is symbolized by the West. In our time it would seem that progress has led to greater freedom. But tying in to the story of the prodigal son in the Bible, could it also mean that the freedom to go west, even into a “far country,” can teach us through trial and error the true definition of freedom? Western society with its broad offerings of right and wrong often presents a wide path to destruction. It shows that happiness is lost in “riotous living,” licentiousness behavior, lawlessness and wickedness. Yet that very extremity can prove to be God’s opportunity.
The grand awakening to a kingdom of heaven within is something we can learn and live by. We often chafe at the restrictions of law, but experience shows us the freedom that obedience to divine law, while seemingly restrictive at first, opens onto a highway above the dangers of selfishness, ignorance, hate and the ills of error. It bridges over the catastrophes we cannot avoid with a willingness to awake to divine answers.
The saying, “Go West, young man!” is controversial in origin, and no doubt the literal implications of betterment can be argued, but I’m going to see what I can glean from the idea of a westward way. What does it mean to “Go West?” Are we following the Star of Bethlehem, the promise of a birth of our own divinity, preceded by that of the prophets of old and Christ Jesus, or the lure of the fool’s gold of our own selfish desires?
When I weary of how the world seems to be going according to today’s media, I can only try to figure it all out with the help of the wise men and women of all ages. It’s good to believe that the kingdom of Heaven is within us as Christ Jesus declared. In the lives of most of the survivors of old age I’d like to know we can rise above any circumstance with that promise and “get on the wagon,” West, East? Or within?
So, when that old demon calling itself death stalks me with questions like when, where and how it may get the best of me, I say, “I have no time for you! I’m going West! You can just stay in the ditch!”
Of course, like Johnny Appleseed, I’ve got to see what good I have to plant along the way. Seeds of Love? Truth? Compassion? And I need to watch out for weed seeds like ...well, you know what I mean. Let's just leave them behind in last night’s ashes of our bonfire.