Wednesday, June 6, 2007

The Nature of the Divine

I suppose that one reason for believing in a Divine Presence is because it opens the door to infinity. I always prefer to visualise a sort of universe where anything is possible, preferring the infinite to the finite. It is the same reason I always believed in magic.

Beyond that rather frivolous foundation for spiritual faith is something more profound, however. I believe in the Divine because therein is an example of true Love for all humanity. If there is a Divine Entity who is omnipotent and omniscient, then our continuing existence is proof of the infinite power of Love of that Being. We are not that marvelous, after all. We are flawed, immature and untrustworthy beings for the most part. Yet we are allowed to continue making mistakes and to continue even to perform deeds that cannot be termed as 'good' by any reckoning. Why is that?

When I think about the nature of the Divine, I believe that Love is at the foundation of this Being. Love in its truest form has to be the sort of love a parent has for his/her child. That love basically is unconditional. It has nothing whatsoever to do with 'liking' the child or 'disliking' the child, 'approving' or 'disapproving'. It is a love that endures throughout an entire lifetime.

Although there certainly are parents who do not possess that sort of love for their children, it nonetheless is the truest form of Love and has to reflect the ultimate Nature of the Divine and Divine Love.

In that sense, the parable of the Good Shepherd told by Jesus does exemplify Divine Love. One need not be a Christian to appreciate the story. The Good Shepherd watches over the flock and never repudiates any of his sheep, even when they stray from the fold. In fact, in the parable, Jesus speaks of leaving the flock (temporarily) to rescue the one sheep who strays. This, like the rather unjust tale of the prodigal son, does embody the ideally unconditional love of a parent for all his/her children.
Perhaps the sheep or children who do not stray from the fold are worth far more than the one who does. It does not signify. It is the Love of the Shepherd/Parent for the child who does stray that is at the heart of these parables. In other words, despite our flaws and our errors, we are loved.

Those who argue against the existence of any God often do so by citing the undeniable pain and loss with which human beings are confronted and forced to endure. What does that have to do with Love? Every parent must allow a child to make his/her own mistakes and to evolve naturally into the being he or she wishes to become. In shielding a child from pain or error, a parent would not be doing that child any favours. Instead, the parent would be responsible for the continuing helplessness and immaturity of that child. It is only through trial and error, tribulation and loss that human beings learn and become strong. One of the most difficult trials for any parent must be to be forced to witness the pain of a child. Nonetheless, if the child is to become an adult with the power to create his/her own destiny, the parent must become a passive bystander at some point.

I know I have remarked upon this point before, but I will do so again. The most poignant scenes in Mel Gibson's 'Passion of the Christ' were those wherein Mary voluntarily witnessed her son's torment and agony and in doing so, gave him the strength to endure. By not attempting to control his life or determine his choices for him, she won for herself the title of 'Mother of God'. I do not know how many mothers or fathers could summon the necessary courage to witness the martyrdom of a child. It has to be one of the most difficult tasks in the world. Martyrdom, although it has religious connotations, need not be an act dedicated to any religion. It could be a sacrifice committed for the sake of any cause.

In any case, martyrdom aside, unconditional love really is a matter of allowing the beloved to make his/her own choices. Those who condemn the Divine for allowing pain and loss to exist really are missing the point. We would have no independent existence if we were not allowed to take our own paths in this world. In the same way, we often define love in the context of our own desires. True love exists apart from our own desires and our own satisfaction. By this definition, therefore, no human being ever could say to another, 'I do not love you any longer.' Love would transcend all the petty consideration that cause people to fall 'in' and 'out of love'.

In the past, I always told myself that whatever reason I had to love some one in the first place had to be valid in some way. I therefore never should forget those reasons, whatever negative considerations ultimately prevailed between myself and that person.

I still believe this to be a better philosophy than the one that consigns old loves to a sort of hell for having proven themselves less than positive in every way. On the other hand, I now realise that the sort of love that affixes itself to 'reasons' is not true love. True love is Divine Love and it is difficult for human beings to aspire to divinity. The love of a parent for a child may be the closest that we come to that. Nonetheless, I do believe that it should be possible to find a partner in this life with whom one could aspire to experience that kind of unconditional love. Of course, I remain an incorrigible romantic at heart...

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