A Hard-Shell Faith

The harder the road, the slower I go. The heavier the burden, the more my turtle sensibility surfaces.  The more I age, the younger my sense of story, so, these are the days of Dr. Seuss.


On the far-away island of Sala-ma-Sond,
Yertle the Turtle was king of the pond.
A nice little pond. It was clean. It was neat.
The water was warm. There was plenty to eat.
The turtles had everything turtles might need.
And they were all happy. Quite happy indeed.

They were… until Yertle, the king of them all,
Decided the kingdom he ruled was too small…


Since North America was first known as Turtle Island, it’s important to explore this tale about tyranny. What? Why? When? What causes a lust for power? Why do some, perhaps most of us, enable it? When is enough enough?


My throne shall be higher!” his royal voice thundered,
“So pile up more turtles! I want ’bout two hundred!”

“Turtles! More turtles!” he bellowed and brayed.
And the turtles ‘way down in the pond were afraid.
They trembled. They shook. But they came. They obeyed…


If the political is personal, a far from childish challenge confronts me in every line. How many turtles am I willing to turn into bricks for a privileged view? And since the personal is also political, what will move me to get out from under unjust economic and social burdens.


“Hooray!” shouted Yertle. “I’m the king of the trees!
I’m king of the birds! And I’m king of the bees!
I’m king of the butterflies! King of the air!
Ah, me! What a throne! What a wonderful chair!
I’m Yertle the Turtle! Oh, marvelous me!
For I am the ruler of all that I see!”

Then again, from below, in the great heavy stack,
Came a groan from that plain little turtle named Mack.
“Your Majesty, please… I don’t like to complain,
But down here below, we are feeling great pain.
I know, up on top you are seeing great sights,
But down here at the bottom we, too, should have rights.
We turtles can’t stand it. Our shells will all crack!
Besides, we need food. We are starving!” groaned Mack.

Yertle, the Turtle by Dr. Seuss

So, is this the world we live in, turtles all the way down? In the Ojibway story of the beginning the turtle is the earth-diver. The supreme being sends the turtle into the primal waters to find bits of mud with which to build the earth. Creation emerges from the watery deep beings and potential forms linger asleep or suspended in the primordial realm. The earth-diver is among the first of them to awaken and lay the necessary groundwork where the coming creation will be able to live.

Can we use a sanctified imagination to deepen our understanding? Might we risk diving deep and surfacing with a new sense of creation? One where creature/human/animal are names for the holy, holy, holy by virtue of the Creation and, still more, of the Incarnation.

Is Christ not our earth-diver, the first to awaken, the first born of creation? Did the Holy Human One not dive into the waters of chaos to lay the groundwork for the new heaven and the renewed earth. This is my hard-shell affirmation of faith: Earth-diving Emmanuel. God is with us, even here on Turtle Island.