Friday, March 22, 2013

The Words And The Messages

There are four great Master Teachers who have most extensively influenced religious thought in this world: chronologically, Moses, Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad.  In each case, I find it beyond “coincidence” that none of these four wrote down their own teachings.  Moses and Buddha were each raised in royal households; Jesus spent formal study with rabbinical teachers in the synagogue.  These three Teachers were clearly literate and their lack of writing is presumed to be by deliberate choice.  Muhammad was an uneducated trader, though his wife and family had benefit of literacy.  His non-writing was structural, not chosen.

The result is that, in all instances, their great teachings come to us as a recaptured oral history, written down by their followers as remembered details.  In some instances this occurred hundreds of years after the fact.  As important as their teaching mission for God was, why were these teachings left to such chance, such potential for ambiguity and therefore misunderstanding or misrepresentation?

Language is an imperfect art, and is anything but a definitive way of accurately communicating a thought between two people.  Communicating a thought accurately in written form, without benefit of inflection, body language, tone or immediate give-and-take feedback is even more difficult, creating even greater opportunities for mis-communication.  Virtually all of the written teachings from each of these four Masters came as notes from their public talks, not from meticulously thought out creations of the scholarly written word.  In public discourse, these Masters could rely on all the verbal nuances to accompany their teachings.  In such settings, they knew that their listeners would be focusing on the comprehensive purpose, finding the overall point, of their message, not analyzing and agonizing over each tiny word particle and its many potentially shaded meanings.

Which is just what we see happening today.  Academic scholars, religious school instructors, and clerical leaders spend untold hours debating word etymologies and arguing over “precise” meanings and their diverse interpretations.  It is as if one particular word or phrase – likely translated through multiple languages several times over – is thought to hold the key to ultimate spiritual meaning.  Meanwhile, the real point of simply “be kind to one another” gets lost in the analytical exercise.  These Master Teachers spoke of spiritual forests; people today often fight about religious trees.  Which is why those Teachers avoided the temptation of the written page, knowing that such exercises would be best left to their followers to come.

When we do reading meditation, we avoid such limited wordsmanship.  We return to, and hear anew, the original lessons these Teachers spoke to us.  We read slowly, deeply, and repetitively enough so that we give up the words.  Instead, we listen to the sentences, hear the paragraphs, and then finally understand the meanings that these Teachers gave to us.  Words are the gymnastics of the mind.  The paragraphs are the messages of God.  Listen for the real point.  Consider that point deeply.  Thereby, walk a step closer on the path to being as One with God.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Man + Woman

Have you ever wondered why God created man and woman as separate beings from each other?  Thousands of centuries have been spent with these two forms trying to understand and coexist well with each other.  So it might be understandably tempting to think that God could have come up with a less difficult arrangement for being one “human being” rather than two subdivisions.

The obvious difference in the genders is the sexual one, which provides a specific method for reproduction.  But in the Jewish-Christian heritage, animal life came before human creation, so it seems that human reproduction was simply patterned after our animal predecessors.  Besides, God is more than smart enough to have come up with a different form of reproduction without separation if so desired.  Especially given that reproduction and birth occupy such a small portion of our lifetimes.  Once birth occurs, “Mr. Mom” has repeatedly shown that child-raising can be adequately accomplished by either gender.  So one assumes that there has to be a larger reason than just reproduction for there being “man and woman” instead of one singular “human.”

When we think about all the things that make up Life and human existence, the range of component elements is beyond our comprehension.  What can be seen, felt, experienced, thought, understood and formed is endless.  Therefore what constitutes being human is an endless definition with few boundaries.  If our purpose in life is simply to fully experience and learn what all of Life truly is, to thereby be able to see and know as God sees and knows, then this vast breadth of “being” outstrips the capacity of most of us.  So God created “gender” to make the task of “experiencing human” a bit more manageable for us.

God made man and woman separately in order to define human beings more clearly.  So the human essence could be seen more clearly and thereby better explored.  The human is a complex being, with a makeup that is almost beyond the ability for an individual person to assimilate and manage.  It is potentially too overwhelming to people, particularly so in primitive human beings.

So specialization was in order.  The singular human was separated into the two more manageable parts of man and woman.  Two parts into which those many human aspects could be reduced into a more workable number so as to be lived out, explored, experienced, and perfected more fully.  And since many human aspects also have what appear to be their “opposite” aspect, these seeming contradictions could exist in the separate “man and woman” forms with reduced internal conflict.

Man and woman exemplify the seeming contradictions found in our separateness.  Yet all aspects exist in both man and woman.  By bringing these two beings into juxtaposition, they can provide the means by which we discover all human aspects within our own self.  As our collective humanity matures more and more – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually – the separation between genders becomes more blurred.  Each gender is able to understand the other’s aspects even more, in turn allowing each person to grow within him/herself.  It is a growing that continues until that ultimate time when separation is only in the physical; the spiritual separation is no longer needed.

The sexual act may be primarily about reproduction of the species.  But it is also the means by which humans can bridge their separation, understand the essence of each other, and merge those together even if only in the moment.  That physical union must suffice until one reaches the ultimate spiritual reunion of all human aspects within one’s own self.

It is in the union of our separateness, the union of that which we think of as “male” and as “female,” that humanness is formed.  The dichotomy of our separateness yields into a comfortable paradox that makes up part of our full humanness.  And it is in becoming fully Human that we also find God.