If, like me, you were around during the sixties and seventies, and participated in activities and behaviors typical of that period you would prefer not be itemized, that list would probably include listening to the late Frank Zappa. For the uninitiated, Frank Zappa, as leader of the band The Mothers of Invention, and later by himself, produced a giant body of music that, I guess, would best be described as avante-garde. Zappa, father of four children of noteworthy names- Moon Unit, Dweezil, Ahmet Emuukha Rodan, and Diva Thin Muffin Pigeen- was often described as a genius. Certainly he was prolific. He definitley was creatively different. But genius? He was often profane, and vulgar and his schtick included flirting with the limits of offensiveness. I always suspected that among his fan base, there was a certain degree of Emperor's New Clothes syndrome going on-only the smartest people “got it”, and of course everyone wanted to be counted among the smartest. I didn't get it. I owned only one Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention recording, 1971's ''Fillmore East'' (on 8 track!), that was good for shocking the unfamiliar with it's vulgarity. But like jazz ''geniuses'' Ornette Coleman, Charles Mingus, and John Coltrane, free verse poets like Allen Ginsberg, and expressionist painters like Jackson Pollock, Frank Zappa's art is over my head. Is it possible Pollock and Zappa privately laughed at people who “got it”? Were they, perhaps, secretly amazed anybody took them seriously? Maybe not.
But my intention here is not to critique Frank Zappa's work, it's to draw an analogy from one of his album covers, pictured at top left. Look at it a second or two. What is it? Most observers would conclude, if only aware it was a Frank Zappa record, that it is a Z and an A, part of a larger, unseen spelling of Zappa. The title of the album is “Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch.'' Now what is the picture? (I must confess, I removed the word ''ZAPPA'' from the top, and the title from the bottom.)
So, what's the analogy? We often draw conclusions based on, to borrow a photographic term, our limited ''Angle of View''. I've been wrestling with some theological questions of late, questions that have been asked repeatedly for thousands of years and by millions of people. Questions about suffering, and free will versus predeterminism. While satisfactory resolution has remained, thus far, elusive, I take a certain blanket comfort in these issues by admitting that I only see part of a Z and the tip on a A, and conclude it's a ship and a hat. The infinite Creator, with His infinite ''Angle of View'' sees so much more-infinitely more- than I, and it's presumptuous on my part to question His love and wisdom. I am unable, when the placid surface of the water is disturbed by what I perceive to be a tragedy or horror, to see the effect of the ripples that flow across the lake surface. The perfect example, of course, is the horrors poured on Christ Himself. Then and there, His followers' limited ''Angle of View'' caused them to weep and mourn, but the ripples that flowed out from that event are still circling the globe, carrying hope and redemption to all the world. So, when we can't see why things happen the way they happen, and no explanation seems adequate, and we question the very nature and sovereignty of our God, we must remind ourselves there is a much, much bigger picture.