My previous post, intended as a brief demonstration of a phenomenological approach to reading the parables, left too much unsaid, and did not exhaust the possibilities of the parabolic elements. We can begin, again, but this time, go a bit further into the richness of phenomenality.
A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, “See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?” He replied, “Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig round it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.” ’ [Luke 13:6-9, NRSV]
13:6 ἔλεγεν δὲ ταύτην τὴν παραβολήν συκῆν εἶχέν τις πεφυτευμένην ἐν τῷ ἀμπελῶνι αὐτοῦ καὶ ἦλθεν ζητῶν καρπὸν ἐν αὐτῇ καὶ οὐχ εὗρεν
13:7 εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς τὸν ἀμπελουργόν ἰδοὺ τρία ἔτη ἀφ’ οὗ ἔρχομαι ζητῶν καρπὸν ἐν τῇ συκῇ ταύτῃ καὶ οὐχ εὑρίσκω ἔκκοψον οὖν αὐτήν ἱνατί καὶ τὴν γῆν καταργεῖ
13:8 ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς λέγει αὐτῷ κύριε ἄφες αὐτὴν καὶ τοῦτο τὸ ἔτος ἕως ὅτου σκάψω περὶ αὐτὴν καὶ βάλω
- 'Eumaeus, what a noble hound that is over yonder on the manure heap: his build is splendid; is he as fine a fellow as he looks, or is he only one of those dogs that come begging about a table, and are kept merely for show?'
The possibility of change is 'cut down' in the natural attitude displayed in the parable. Hope, future, faith root in the tilled earth of possibility. Threatened by its very otherness, as figs among grapes, possibility lurks within what is discoverable, visible to some, invisible to others. The man and the gardener are at once particular states of their very selves, or even a particular self in particular moments. The parable offers two ways of being in the world, neither is privileged, though if one were a fig tree, the gardener has the 'better part.' Like Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-42), the man and the gardener are the same self in different attitudes whose oscillations bear sweet fruit.