Sunday, June 11, 2017

No matter how far apart we are

Theories about the creation of people, that I know about anyway, seem to come down to three:

God created Adam in the Garden of Eden.
All people evolved somewhere in Africa.
Some combination of the two happened.

Maybe that is 2 1/2 theories.

In any case, it hit me that they all have something in common. At some point, there was only one: one creature of both sexes or one man (depending on the version of the creation story you are reading in the Torah), or one person (beginning the evolutionary chain).

One. One body. One soul.

Think about that. Today there are over 7.5 BILLION. From one to 7.5 billion.

(You can watch the world population number go up here: if you are that kind of person. Apparently I am. I found it oddly fascinating to watch the page tick off births, deaths, and today's population increase. 

And I had to check: The US has the 3rd largest population in the world. Israel has the 98th largest, which is kind of scary.)

Anyway, back to the point... which is that everyone alive today is, at base, related. We all came from that one body and one soul. 

Religiously I'd been taught that before but it never really resonated with me. You know how sometimes something is just words, then suddenly you realize, on some deep level, what the words mean. I had been told many times that the reason God made only one man during creation was so that no one could claim their ancestors were created before other peoples'. After all, everyone came from that same guy.

And I've read a little about evolution. In fact I have a book in my unread book pile about evolution right now. (Perry Marshall, Evolution 2.0 - no recommendation, after all it is in my unread pile, but it seems like it will be a fascinating read when I get to it. He is a Christian who believes in intelligent design and science. This book is his reconciliation of the two.)

Yesterday, my rabbi was NOT talking about this. But, in talking about repairing the world, he  explained that we could envision that original one soul being fractured, like dropping a very large glass bowl, into millions of pieces. (He went on to say it is our job to help find and put all the pieces back together, but that is not what this piece is about.)

That image, though, shook me up and gave me one of those "light bulb" moments.

We all came from the same soul, the same breath of God being breathed into one lump of clay. Or, if you don't believe in God, from whatever evolutionary nudge caused an aquatic creature to become a land based creature drawing its first breath of air.

It was a wake up moment for me. That that first breath of air (wherever it came from) was my first breath of air, was everyone alive today's first breath of air. 

Yoko Ono, of all people, (not my favorite anything I have to admit, even though I don't think she broke up the Beatles. If you don't know who the Beatles are, don't worry about it) did write a poem I always thought was kind of profound. It's called AIR TALK and strangely enough, it sums up what I've been saying:

It’s sad that the air is the only thing we share.

No matter how close we get to each other,
there is always air between us.

It’s also nice that we share the air,

No matter how far apart we are
the air links us.

No matter what some racist, pseudo-scientists may say about the inherent differences between the races, that first breath of air links us all. It will always link us all.

It might be a better world if folks would think about that before maiming and killing; or even before just being rude or nasty to other people who share the same life's breath.

I am certainly going to make an effort to keep it in the front of my mind before I open my mouth to deliver, what would previously have been, some off-hand cutting remark to the person next to me who shares the air.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

My name is Issac. My father tried to murder me this morning.

My father – a holy and revered man, a good man. No, more than good, the best man I know, whom I love.

Abraham – known to all as a man who walks with God - brought a knife so close to my throat that I could feel the trickle of blood when, at the very last moment, he pulled it away.

I couldn’t move when he untied the knots that bound me there. He had to help me up. That’s when I noticed I had wet myself and the blood at my throat matched my face burning red with the shame of it.

He set me down well away from the alter, as though he was now trying to protect me from harm.  He carefully slaughtered the ram, then said grateful prayers to his God. I began to shake. 

I’d wondered what we were about from the beginning of the journey, when my father woke me, so careful not to wake my mother. Why would he not say goodbye to his beloved wife? And if we were to make a sacrifice, where was the animal? But I had known since I raised up my eyes and saw the great mountain surround by God’s presence. The others who accompanied us could not see it. I knew why I could. It was the place of my death.

I felt the Adversary taunting me. “Run you fool! You know you are the animal! He’s old and weak! You can get away!”

We came to the high place and began stacking the rocks, then placing the wood. Creating the place of Sacrifice. “Father,” I finally ask, “where is the animal?”

Refusing to look at me, he said “God will provide, my beloved son.”

Adversary: “Beloved? He’s about to slaughter you! Perhaps he should! You stand there holding the rope! Perhaps you are an animal! Fool! Run!”

I could have, you know. I could have knocked him to the ground. He would not have tried to hold me back.

I saw he hoped I would run.

I saw the tears he was holding back.
I saw the pure love he had for me.
I saw his determination to do what he felt his God wanted him to do.

How do I know that God ordered him to kill me? My father didn’t tell me and God has never spoken to me. Although sometimes I feel as if I have had little glimpses of him – just a brush of awareness like the brush of a bit of fabric on your arm as someone walks past you. I think of Him as my father’s God, but I know He is mine too.

And I’ve spent my entire life listening to my father teach and watching his joy when God is with him.

I know.

I know because my father would not do this thing on his own. 

I know because the Adversary taunts me with it again and again: “Boy, stupid, stupid boy. God, your God,” he sneers, "wants you dead. Has ordered your own father to kill you. You obviously do not know God. But you know your father. Do you think he will refuse?" 

And then, far worse than the sneering, he laughs... And laughs... And laughs. I would cover my ears, but, of course, that will not shut out this sound.

I am terrified. I want to run. Fast and far. Never to come back.

But I look over at my father. On his face determination warring with love. Love. Who does my father love? Me? God?

Isaac: “Be gone Adversary. Did you really think I would so dishonor this good man who loves me – who I love?”

Although who might not fight or flinch or run at the last moment. Standing beside the stones and the wood I have helped my father pile up, I look him in the eye. With a slight smile I lay down.

Isaac: “Bind me tightly, Father. I would not inadvertently hurt you, or flinch and ruin the sacrifice.” 

Or run. How much I want to run. I turn my head away and whisper “I love you.” To my father? To God? Perhaps to my mother, of whose love I have no doubts?

When it is over, the ram dead and burned, the prayers said, my father walks toward me, perhaps to embrace me. I look down and back away.

I cannot bear to look at my father, to walk beside him, as if nothing has changed between us. So I lag behind, returning home alone.  I carry the rope with me. It is never out of my hands. I jump at the smallest sound. I have no appetite. I do not sleep. I cannot bear the nightmares. But the waking visions are worse. Waking or sleeping I see it. I feel the knife at my throat. Sometimes I simply stand and shake: Will God demand this of my father again? Will He demand it of me?

And yet…

I am almost certain I felt the tip of an angel’s wing come between me and that knife. Did my father’s God, my God, save me in the end? And if he did, why demand my death in the first place? 

And why, oh God why, did my father not refuse?

I cannot discuss this with my father. I cannot discuss it with anyone. Not now anyway. Perhaps not ever.

My mother would have understood, I am sure of it. But after the walk back through the dessert, which seemed so much longer than the walk to that mountain, I am faced with the news of her death. Her heart had simply stopped when my father enthused to her over the wondrous thing that had just happened to her son. Her only son. The one that she loved.

What will I do now? Who can I share my secrets with? Who will comfort me?

Will God demand this of my father again? Will He demand it of me?

I run my hands over the rope.