When Rachel Pollack wrote the foreword to my book, When Moses Was a Shaman, she wrote a haunting line. She was discussing the importance of asking questions as a life practice. She wrote, “Perhaps Questions are the ultimate Homeland for all of us.” Respecting the power of the question, this blogpost poses more questions than answers.
I originally started writing about his idea when it was just authoritarian cruelty and creeping fascism that I had to worry about. Now there is a deadly virus afoot.
It seems to me that living among human suffering (war, famine, disease, inhumanity, abuse, prejudice) throughout history and even today is far more common than living in places and times of stability and abundance. And a goodly amount of it is human-caused. Why are we always drawn to suffering? Is there something to be learned from it? Or are we just an impossibly wounded species that insists on inflicting harm? I wanted to see what the mystics say about it.
This is from Jewish Hasidism:
The famous, sagely rabbi of Mogielnica said, “It is well known that the sayings of our sages which seem to contradict one another are all ‘words of the living God.’ Each of them decided according to the depth of his root in Heaven, and up there all their words are truth, for in the upper worlds there are no contradictions. There all opposites, such as prohibition and permission, guilt and guiltlessness, are one unified whole. The distinction between prohibition and permission appears only in their action on earth.”
Really? A President can ignore a pandemic on the horizon, and I can’t expect heavenly retribution? The sagely rabbi of Mogielnica says no. What if I want to count on karmic repercussions for people who cause human suffering? Luckily, it’s not up to me. And from a purely practical point of view, if I carry hate or anger in my heart, I am creating more of my own suffering than anyone else’s. Perhaps it makes more sense to focus on the heavenly viewpoint. Will I change the world if I focus on and increase my own feelings of love? No promises there either but I can guarantee that I will change myself if I love more.
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