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a poem in three days
Dedicated to the Memory of Mother Teresa Who Never Experienced Divine Assurance
I will give you a revelation.
You turned from the blind faith of your youth
to obstinacy. You questioned me from ignorance.
You are stubborn and unteachable, a shameless rebel.
You dwelt with the dissidents on the outskirts of the camp,
those who would not yield to Moses, yet the earth
did not swallow you, nor the fire consume you.
Though you were not among those who desired Egypt,
you imposed your will to possess the promised land
with Joshua and Caleb.
You were on the margin of my people, one suited
to lead the scapegoat into the wilderness,
one who feared neither demons or gods.
You did not cringe beneath my outstretched arm.
You were chosen for your role in my sacred drama.
When you grasp the lead rope you became the sin bearer.
Those who looked on you were fearful of indifference,
discomforted by your lack of dread; they did not
celebrate your reappearance from the place of wild beasts
and murderous, pillaging desert tribes, yet you returned.
From that faith you have endured to face me.
You have been praying to yourself
since you were a child,
speaking to your own understanding
of a being outside of yourself.
Divinity is within you because
it is outside of you.
You are a tremor within a vibrant whole,
yet you measure it as something apart.
When you speak, you ask another to hear;
do not be distraught, you shall be heard
through your own ears.
I am a symbol of your inscrutable nature,
the nature of the universe within you.
In what language would you address
what is beyond your comprehension,
give expression to reality, inform
the information that informs you?
Except that you understand yourself,
you are a babble of strange sounds.
Why question whether God hears, understands,
and answers; you have done all of these.
You will never receive an answer
from a being beyond you;
that is left to your imagination.
Live by faith that what you know
is beyond your understanding, yet
on which you depend absolutely.
Act as though the world depends on you absolutely.
You have evolved with a receptive mind,
yet it is integrated with a mix of chemistry;
alterations change the understanding
of your world, your god, and you.
There is a norm, you must claim it as your own.
You can structure the mind in many ways:
rational, ecstatic, scientific, or include all.
Do not be deceived by the competence
of any one of them; your mind is inclusive.
Reason is dependent on context, science
on the limits of models; in ecstasy you
may experience either the divine or demonic:
love, hate and fear; you have a choice,
you or another will control it.
Look to the mystery of being
for the content of your bliss, not to
what you think you understand;
when it dawns on you,
it will drive you out of your mind.
You seek reality and God; they are the same,
informing everything that appears and does not appear.
You will always fall short; every model, and
every god is false, yet you are obsessed
with finding me; only the fit survive the trauma,
disappointment, and the dead-ends of faith.
Those who persist are called the righteous.
The righteous live by faith, pursuing
the tail of a comet, enlightened by its flare.
Take refuge in the counsel of the wise,
those ahead of you; they took
their wisdom to the grave.
What symbol of being other than yourself
could you invest with meaning?
I have no name but what you give me;
by it you bless and curse yourself.
I am your father, but you are mine.
You are a child of your times,
I am a god of your times.
I am none of these; avoid idolatry.
You will never know a God beyond time.
That God you will know by not knowing.
You will always fail before knowledge.
Seek it, knowing that it will elude you;
do not be arrogant when you glimpse it within you.
Reality has many dimensions; I am all of them.
They are within you; your imagination is the portal.
Am I not in your breath?
Life is inside of you
because it is outside of you.
What is the risk to life but resignation?
You may believe that all is purely random, or that
what will come is an expression of a purpose
greater than your grasp of it.
It is yours to choose.
The vexing incidentals are not fatal to it.
Randomness is not chaos, and free will is not license.
Life is not a schema, planned and directed
toward a goal, but a swarm of particles colliding; Period?
you are but one, constantly changed by contact,
merging with the others in new creations.
Every new circumstance necessitates a response.
I have no path for you to follow,
no blueprint by which to build your life;
you respond to complexity and randomness
to create the world anew each moment as I do;
it is filled with pain, but love endures.
You are a filament of energy, a vibrating string
creating a new melody each time you harmonize,
keeping time with an ever changing beat.
You will be moved, fused, and transformed
by the unexpected; you will learn many new songs;
they will never end as you expect.
There are many perplexing proverbs,
but patterns emerge among the contradictions.
You must shape life by them.
Your will to struggle and survive
has led you to the choice of life,
absurd though it seems.
Your life is unique because you are an artist.
Paint with bold strokes and strike
the stone with purpose.
Life was before you, and it is beyond you;
without you there is nothing but process,
none to know its symmetries.
In process there is no good or evil;
these you have discovered through
your presuppositions, your teachers,
through joy, suffering, and reason.
Your struggle with the absolute
is a struggle with yourself.
Consider the wonder of your mind,
the overlapping brain; it creates
ordered thought, a sense of self,
but there are random firings of the synapses.
It is a living universe within you.
Your human potential embraces all of it;
but there is a serpent at its heart;
you will be stretched in its coils.
There will be condemnation and contrition
in the court of understanding,
but beyond these lie forgiveness and faith.
Do not make timeless judgments
on the way things are or happen;
You must rise above them,
seek to command their intent.
In my creation you will be never be finished;
your rest is but the silence before
the next beat in the composition.
You are perplexed about existence.
You exist that I may know my own goodness;
by your existence I know suffering.
I exist that you may know your own strength,
that you may seek wisdom as the mind of God.
By my existence you know your destiny.
You exist to know purpose in the universe.
We exist each other that we may know love, “exist each other” awk, but poetic?
but I have left it to you to express it.
I do not ask that you love me,
I ask that you love one another.
In love one is embraced by the other.
You cannot love until you can forgive;
still your yearning for me springs from love
beyond your understanding, welling from yourself,
exposing everything that postures for the true.
By it every god proves false, every promise a lie.
You’ve pulled off my mask, behind it lies another.
When you forget what you look like
you will see my face as your own.
In love you desire immortality;
In love I desire to grant it.
In love divinity is realized.
By love the demonic is exposed.
Love is beyond the conflict of self interest.
There is a love that changes and passes away.
There is a love that never dies,
When it finds you, embrace it.
Love is a pure thread of being woven
into the universe, among myriads in the fabric,
together with the strands of contentiousness and hate.
Seek it out and wrap yourself with it:
affirmation, life, hope, and eternity.
Without love the garment will disintegrate
leaving you naked and alone.
Believe in love’s triumph; you will be the miracle.
Paradise is boredom; you need only taste the fruit.
Your mind has driven you from the garden.
You cannot return; a fiery sword prevents you.
Do not look back, lest you become a pillar of salt.
You may look to the words of holy books
and prophets for assurance; you will not find it.
Why should one rest on the words of another?
They are revelations of yourself.
Like you, when they spoke for me,
they found a hidden God.
Read above the lines, in the light
where nothing is written;
there, listen for my voice.
That is where they found it;
it was their own, it is yours.
I cannot control what is said of me;
nor could I strike you dead
for what you cannot mean.
Have no fear of blasphemy;
I would not stop the conversation;
my voice would fade away should you go silent.
Reality is not fixed, but pervasive;
it is changed by relationships
coalescing into the knowable world.
Do not surrender to nihilism;
time will condemn you.
There will be countless changes
to the world we fashion.
If I get hidden in the alterations
and you cannot see me,
that does not imply that darkness
prevails over light.
While I have hidden my face from you,
blindness is clearing your vision.
Your wounds have made you strong.
Until you learned to do without me,
you could not do with me.
Without you, my existence is pointless;
without me, you will never know yourself,
or embrace the other.
Now, let go of my heel and bless me;
day is breaking on the Jabbok.
A. Josef Greig is professor emeritus of religion and philosophy at Andrews University.
Look tomorrow for part three.