Friday, March 30, 2007

Living Between Earth and Sky

Much of the human strife that has existed from the beginning can be understood in terms of the struggle of individuals, groups and nations to obtain those things that are valued as scarce because we live in a world with physical limitations. There is never enough to go around it seems. Not enough money, food, land or natural resources and even if we subjectively feel we are doing very well, there is always a deep-in-the-gut sense that we are lacking something on both large and small-scale terms. Overarching all our needs is the knowledge that we have a limited life span that puts time limits in the pursuit of things. Religion and spiritual concepts in their purest forms are essentially unknowable in this context and one of the problems with the competing systems of belief is that each one claims to have the answers the others lack, which exerts pressure on each to dominate the other to a greater or lesser degree. In the Jewish tradition, one of the main tenets of the faith is the absolute holiness of God which allows no images of the Creator and from this idea comes the dictate to not worship other gods or idols, because to do so is to take the infinite and bottle it up within human thinking which leads to drawing doctrinal conclusions from faulty premises. Other traditions, however, see the One God manifested in different forms and is misunderstood by westerners as idolatry because it engenders a feeling of alienation in us when compared with the familiarity we have with our own. We are constantly reminded and immersed in physical reality. It plays at our emotions and dictates our drives, forcing us to look at it unquestioningly and to do its bidding in knee-jerk fashion. It hypnotizes us with its beauty, terrifies us in horror or just leaves us bewildered with a constant stream of stimuli, causing us to build up within ourselves a network of self-protection systems to help mediate the world for us, so that its bipolar nature is not impossible to bear. What we are accustomed to however, is not all we perceive, for there is another world that exists not outside the ability of us humans to know. It is the realm of the Spirit, which knows no earthly anchors and is not tied to the imperfect conceptual restraints of our minds and hearts. In our heads we somehow conceptualize that there is a missing piece to the puzzle of existence, that what we see is not all there is, as an astronomer knows that the universe we understand is not all there is due to the unchangeable laws of physics. There is yet an unknown quantity of matter which remains undiscovered, that even with all our science we have not been able unveil. No matter how deep we search into the infiniteness of the cosmos, or how small we examine matter and energy on the quantum level, there will probably always be unanswered questions that beckon us to move forward toward increased understanding.

Everything in the physical world is moving toward either creation or dissolution and though we may think that life here on earth has no strong relationship to the spiritual plane, it nevertheless does. In the molding together and breaking apart over and over again there is a constant understanding in all sentient beings that the destiny of the physical is the eternal. A tree grows from a sapling, puts out its branches and leaves and in its turning up and rising toward the sun it provides us a clue to the solution that humans have always been looking for. That tree reaches up toward the light, to the sun that seems to endlessly brighten up our world with its life-giving rays. The sun, our earthly parent, warms us sufficiently that life continues to thrive in the deep, dark, cold and vacuum-less ocean of space. God, in a similar way, as our Singular parent offers us a promise that if we seek the Divine with all the power and strength of our imagination and understanding we shall find that which does not fade or perish and although we may be still be subject to the rule of physical laws here, we are also walking through a veil that separates this plane from the next. We are learning to balance on a fence that separates the two since we need both realities to be able to exist here, but our longings and dreams reach out to the next level of spiritual evolution. As we see in 1John 2:15-18,

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.
17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

The Book of Ecclesiastes, chapter 1 also counsels us the nature of this existential plane in its proclamation that the activity of the world in which we live is 'vanity' and to be seeking that which will not ultimately satisfy is a exercise in futility:

1:2 "Vanity of vanities," says the Preacher; "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity."
1:3 What does man gain from all his labor in which he labors under the sun?
1:4 One generation goes, and another generation comes; but the earth remains forever
1:7 All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full. To the place where the rivers flow, there they flow again.
1:8 All things are full of weariness beyond uttering. The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.
1:14 I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and a chasing after wind.

So we ask ourselves why life 'sucks' and we have the answer clearly written down thousands of years ago. Other traditions with wisdom writings such as the Hindu Bhagavad-Gita also echo the same truths as do those from the Jewish tradition and though the story is told a bit differently, the lessons learned from it are equivalent to those of our own. Our journey from the mortal to the eternal state is one that starts in the world of chaotic dualism to that of a world of Oneness that is balanced in diversity. It is one in which we slowly let go of our stake in an imperfect system to that of the complete when we take our gaze off the temporal and see the eternal with the 'single eye,' a world with infinite possibilities. Although it may take a leap of faith at a time when we stand at a gaping precipice, there really is no way to avoid forward motion since there is no return path back to the safety of the familiar. All life is seeking redemption as it makes its way through the carnal plane to the spiritual and to be human is to be blessed with a sixth sense, the urge to seek knowledge about where we came from, why we are here and where we are headed in the great forward movement of creation. We all have an inclination to seek after God and inevitably we must all throw up our hands and submit to the Ineffable that created us. With the words of the Lord and the Holy Names ready on our tongues, we keep our connection to that reality, the One, in good working order and move ever closer to the next level of Being.

No comments: