Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Get real!

"Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

"And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love."
1 Corinthians 13:12-13

These, in my view, are perhaps the greatest verses in the entire Bible. The whole section on love ("charity") is of great comfort to me. Love is the way, the only way to live a meaningful life. Yes, that word is overused and perhaps trite, but it has to suffice.

I am, at heart, an intellectual. So I also draw strength from the promise given that one day, I shall know fully. And what a wonder that I am fully known! I can't figure myself out, but I am known.

Paul had his drawbacks, the greatest being his misogyny and disdain of marriage, but he clearly had a direct spiritual connection to God when he wrote powerful scripture like this.

Today, I did a couple of things that were quite real and linked me to the natural world and God. I cooked some of the Pavliska's beef from their cow that they raised, grazed, and slaughtered. This meat did not ooze quantities of water, nor drip fat. It was not overprocessed or hormone- or antibiotic-filled. It was quite dry. Maybe this will sound strange, but it seemed to me more filling than the processed storebought meat that we, in our spiritual poverty, typically eat. It was denser. It was real.

I also put the sheets out on the clothesline today. I love the smell and feel of laundry that has been caressed by the breeze, even if it's the deadly 100+-degree kind that has been blasting through South Texas lately! I feel a pang of regret if a load has too many small items, or things that would have to be ironed if I didn't dry them in the dryer. I now prefer my towels stiff and air-dryed. Yup, they are more real that way.

I also watered the garden and harvested more okra before the wasps drove me away. I just want to live in harmony with them, but I don't know if they realize that or not. I think they are attracted to the lush, watered plants ... an oasis in a desert. Our okra is going gang-busters, and every day I see several gigantic okra that must have been overlooked from the last harvest 2 days ago. I don't believe they can grow that quickly, can they? Andrew learned to love okra from the last time we grew it in the garden.

I have been eating a tomato a day from the garden. Now that's as real as it gets. Those storebought dry, tasteless red spheres masquerading as tomatoes -- please. You can leave those pretenders on the counter all summer, and they will never ripen. They just get harder and more dry. I remember a writer friend, Art, who wrote a rapturous short story about searching for the perfect tomato. Unfortunately, he was looking in the store. I could have told him that story would not have a happy ending.

This "real" business was written about by C.S. Lewis in one of his Christian books, "The Great Divorce." The difference between heaven and hell, in his reckoning, was chiefly that heaven was so real. Hell was false, a human-created place where neighbors couldn't stand each other and moved further and further apart. Heaven was so real that it was quite alarming to people who were used to living in their own fictional world. They preferred to stay in hell. At least it was familiar to them.

His ideas have more than a ring of truth to them. People do live in a world of their own creation, that bears little resemblance to what is really going on. Of course, this describes the human condition. It's impossible, as Paul points out, to see what is really happening, trapped in our prisons of flesh. I have no choice but to live in the first person, as do you. I try to make sense of the world with the limited senses I have. Being in contact with others, people and God, is the only way to broaden my perspective.

But so many people don't ever explore outside of themselves, or really work to understand other people as the completely unique and individual creations they all are. People get blinded by their own circumstances until they lose the charity that seeks to improve the welfare of all of God's creation.

I think we are born with the ability to empathize, but many people block off that part of themselves until it withers and dies. It can be quite painful, after all, to be aware of all the suffering out there. A child with terminal brain cancer; children starving to death and dying of preventable diseases; the trees and grass and animals crying out for water; people losing love and becoming more entrenched in hatred and violence; the list is endless, isn't it?

For people who can tap into God's all-encompassing love, it is possible to not just be aware of a multitude of problems, but to do something positive to help, without being completely overwhelmed. But even the most saintly people do become overwhelmed at times, even Jesus. Even Mother Teresa. You have to allow it to happen and have the faith that God will pull you through, somehow. Too many people covet their own lives, their own welfare, their own money and possessions, and purposefully blind themselves to how they could help others.

Even though I write this, it does not mean that I have reached this stage of enlightenment. But I believe in the power of thoughts, that become words, that become actions. Guard thoughts, for they are the gateway to the soul.

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