Friday, April 15, 2011

Post Script: Life, Spirituality and Religion

Further thoughts on "Delivery Salvation" and "Life, Spirituality and Religion."

The parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke suggests a paradox that we instinctively knew as small children. It is when I decide, motivated by selfless love of another, to generously move beyond myself that I am most fully alive. It is in that very act, when I lift up and help someone else that I myself am lifted up and helped.

Each of us, on this life’s journey, has encountered luminous and loving people (e.g. a parent, a true friend, teacher, professor, supervisor, co-worker, etc) who have shown us mercy, extended us patience, kindness and love. Each of us has been that broken wounded person on the road who was helped by another. Implied in that story is, of course, the mugger who, motivated by selfish desires, visited evil upon the person and left their victim to die alone on the road. Each of us can become either the Good Samaritan or the unnamed mugger. Truthfully, each of us has been both at different moments in this life’s journey. The question in life is who do I wish to become. My words and actions NOW determine who I am; they are the hammer and chisel that sculpt me. Eleanor Roosevelt said, "Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art."

My choices have both personal and collective resonance. Whom I chose to be affects both me and everyone I encounter today. My words and actions have a ripple effect on me and other individuals and on society that I will probably never fully appreciate in this life. The parable of the Good Samaritan underscores the trans-formative personal and collective power of human decisions to be indifferent/removed (safe) and to choose to love (and become vulnerable).

The spiritual crisis in contemporary life stems from the false belief that meaning/happiness is externally conferred upon me and the fear of being abused by others. The counter-intuitive truth is that meaning/happiness are like water; the only way to hold it is with open hands. Clenched fists create the illusion of invulnerability; however, the cost is isolation. Clenched fists will leave others bruised and will leave me to die of thirst.

In the passage from the Gospel of Luke, the initial question asked by the lawyer is, “Rabbi, what must I do to inherit everlasting life?” In the rabbinic tradition, life answers with another question, “What have you done to expand love in this world?”

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