The Four Agreements

Day 147

Numbers 29

Moses outlines the festivals that followers of the Lord are commanded to celebrate. Interestingly enough, celebration was the topic at last Sunday’s sermon, which… took place on the day after I was supposed to write about Numbers 29.

The problem with the sermon, as well-meaning as I believe the pastor to have been, is that it sounded a lot like “if you’re somber or sad, then you’re not being a good Christian.” This is a little too close to what has been called prosperity theology, or the prosperity gospel. To quote Wikipedia,

“Prosperity theology teaches that Christians are entitled to well-being and, because physical and spiritual realities are seen as one inseparable reality, this is interpreted as physical health and economic prosperity.”

It is also noted that followers and preachers of the prosperity gospel view poverty and sickness as spiritual ailments or curses that can be alleviated through faith. My partner has had some very negative experiences with churches that follow prosperity theology.

Poverty and illness are curses? Yeah, I mean it’s a damn shame to be sick or poor, and I believe that dedicated faith can lead to greater willpower and desire which can in turn lead to financial success. However, I don’t think that God’s plan for people involves or guarantees financial well-being. Poverty is not a sign of God’s disfavor.

Can poor personal habits and a lack of direction lead to poverty? Yes. But I don’t think that physical, material wealth has much to do with faith in Christ.

I see this situations as teaching surrender to God and His will, as opposed to undesirable curses. Does being poor debilitate a person? Damn right it does. I’ve lived with it for a long time, and sitting around that poverty line is depressing. It emotionally and spiritually drains you. Or it can.

But regardless, God can and will give you the strength to work through it, if you ask. “Thy will be done, in all things.” I seriously hate the phrase “Let go and let God,” but it’s important to ask that His will be done, that He may guide you to it.

Can the principles in the Bible teach you to be rich? Probably? I haven’t read the whole thing yet, but I’m willing to bet that if that’s the motivation one has while reading it, one will find a variety of implementable tips or lessons for financial success.

And just to be clear, I have no problem with people who want to be rich. I myself am determined to achieve some measure of wealth, to surpass my parents and my family, to provide for my own family and possible future children.

However, I think we, especially as Christians, have to see wealth as a means and not an end. Wealth as an end is idolatrous. But with wealth, one can do many things and help many others. We should seek to do our best as Christians even in poverty, but if we are wealthy, then our goal should still be to serve and glorify God.

Bill Gates is probably my favorite example of a wealthy person who does amazing things with his riches. Go to the website of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Read the 2014 annual letter. If that doesn’t restore some of your faith in humanity, I don’t know what will.

Wealth and power are responsibilities. Health and stability may be gifts if God intends them to be, but they may make us complacent.

“[A]s there may be pleasures in Hell (God shield us from them), there may be something not all unlike pains in Heaven (God grant us soon to taste them).”

— C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

In Numbers 29, the Israelites are commanded to celebrate, but every day of these festivals and celebrations involves sacrifices and offerings to God. Even, or especially, in our celebrations, we are told to humble ourselves to God, to supplicate ourselves before Him, and to glorify Him in all things.

In sorrow and in joy, do not forget the Lord.


Numbers 30

Oh my goodness, I went and looked at Matthew Henry’s unabridged commentary. It made my head hurt a little.

Numbers 30 concerns the making of vows, oaths, and pledges. Basically, at its core, this chapter states that a man who makes a vow must not break his word.

That’s a quote, by the way: “[H]e must not break his word but must do everything he said.”

This chapter also outlines how fathers and husbands have the power to override vows made by their daughters and wives, respectively. I think this is meant to be indicative of the Biblical position of fathers/husbands as the heads of households, which I think is intended to correlate with how God (the Father) is meant to be the head of the Church, both as a collective and as the singular body of worship that one human being offers.

Now, I don’t have the book in front of me, but I am reminded of the book Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill. If I recall correctly, he talks at some point(s) about the importance of keeping one’s word or speaking the truth. Or maybe I’m thinking of The Four Agreements, in which I know for a fact the author Don Miguel Ruiz outlines the importance of what he calls “being impeccable with [one’s] word.”

“Impeccable,” by the way, comes from a Latin word, meaning “not liable to sin.” An impeccable word is free of sin.

The way I see it, breaking vows erodes the strength of one’s soul. You make a habit of being disingenuous, of saying things that you have no intention of following through upon, of being careless in word and in deed. There is some Biblical support for this, I think:

“Better not to vow than to vow and not pay.”

— Ecclesiastes 5:5

Keep those words and deeds in line, dear readers! Keep that soul strong, exercise the power of your will, that you may have more dedication to offer to God.

Peace be upon you.

Day 38

sunsetclouds

“Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies within us while we live. “

— Norman Cousins, journalist, author, professor, and advocate for world peace.

I read about all the wonderful soap opera shenanigans that comprise Genesis 38, but it is so very late. I’m behind on everything again and I’m not sure what needs to change. But I thought tonight I would share with you this quote. I forget which audiobook I was listening to when I heard it, but it struck me in a profound way.

The version I heard used the word “tragedy,” instead of loss, but the point is the same. I was just watching part of an Ellen Degeneres stand-up show and there was a part where she talked about children and playing and how we should just run up to strangers on the street, hit them, and shout, “You’re it!” and then run away.

My current audiobook is about childhood anxiety, and even though childhood can be such a difficult and confusing time, children still possess such joy and such innocence. We get older and we become bitter or jaded or cynical, and it’s such a damn shame.

Don Miguel Ruiz, in The Four Agreements, wrote that we have the opportunity to become child-like again, but with the benefit of the wisdom of age. As a child we cannot always make sense of the things we feel or the things that happen around us. A saying of mine is, “No one makes it through childhood in one piece.” Our parents cannot be perfect, and we cannot be perfect either. Not in a never-ever-hurting-other-people-even-by-accident way, anyway.

I think that we should do the best we can with children. I work with children and I do care about my clients and I want them to grow up and be happy and healthy, to live healthy lives with functional attachment to others and positive self-image, to live with a desire for adventure and an ability to accept change. I work with these children but when I’m done they go back home, often to whatever environment contributed to their behavior or “problems” in the first place. We can only do so much.

But adults have freedom to make all kinds of choices, adults can take matters into their own hands and (for the most part), no one else is legally or ethically responsible for their well-being. They bear all the risk, but they get to reap all the reward. It’s just a matter of wanting to change, of looking deep within oneself and realizing and accepting that we are perfect and not perfect, that we are messed up, twisted, and confused, but at the same time, who else could we be based on the experiences of the past? Based on everything we’ve learned and everything we were taught?

But the time has come to seek out new learning, to make our own decisions, to not let our minds drift unconsciously from one day to the next. Answer the call, and rise to the occasion. No more dreaming without awareness.

I’m very passionate about this sort of thing. One of these days, my definite chief aim will be a reality. At the moment, however, it is time for bed.

Good night, all. I love you, wherever you are, so show yourself a little love back!

Peace be upon you.

Day 28

I’m really starting to lose track of things right now. I’ve been so busy with work and with this and with life… I’m sort of behind a day, technically, as this post should have gone up about 5 or 6 hours ago. But I’m awake at 4:00 am doing yesterday’s paperwork, so I might as well play catch-up here too.

Even though it be difficult, every day that I commit to this I get better. Every day I commit to writing, I improve. Let my struggle be a lesson and inspiration. That might sound cocky, but I’m just going to leave it there anyway. It is so important that we strive for more in life, and right now as I sit here tired, sunburnt, and hungry, I am striving for excellence. I am seeking to improve, and I will not stop.


Genesis 28

Having blessed his son Jacob and listened to his wife, Isaac sends Jacob away to take a wife from the house of Bethuel in Padan Aram. Once gain, they’re keeping it all in the family, as Jacob will be seeking a wife from “the daughters of Laban [his] mother’s brother” (Genesis 28:2). In other words, his first cousin.

Isaac sends his son away with a new blessing, one that confers upon him all the blessings given to Abraham, and the destiny and promise contained therein.

Esau hears about this whole business and realizes that the wives that he has chosen are not to his parents’ liking. He takes a new wife, one of the daughters of Abraham’s firstborn son Ishmael. It seems that Esau is trying to make up for some lost favor, seeking to please his parents. This is noble, but I have a feeling his time would have been better spent connecting with God.

Speaking of…


Jacob’s Ladder

Jacob travels north toward Haran, and one night, while he is resting…

“he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.”

— Genesis 28:12

God is atop the ladder and speaks to Jacob, blessing him with the blessing of Abraham, reiterating the promise of the Seed by which “all the families of the earth shall be saved” (Genesis 28:14). Long story short, Jacob accepts the Lord’s blessing and vows that if the Lord is providing for him, then the Lord he shall serve.

But I’m not concerned about the details, here. I want to talk about the ladder.

Jacob’s Ladder has been referenced in many forms and depicted in numerous works of art. It was Jacob’s introduction to the divine, and by this vision he understood and welcomed God into his life.

There are numerous interpretations of the ladder, most of which revolve around the fact that the ladder is described as reaching from Earth to heaven, and thus depict it as being a metaphor for the path of the righteous man (Tarantino 25:17). But seriously.

One interpretation from the Torah states that the angels represent the exiles of the Jewish people, with each “step” of the ladder essentially marking a year.¹

Philo Judaeus, a Biblical philosopher born c. 50 A.D., gives a handful of his own possible interpretations:

  • The angels represent souls descending to and ascending from bodies (some consider this to be Philo’s clearest reference to the doctrine of reincarnation).
  • In the second interpretation the ladder is the human soul and the angels are God’s logoi, pulling the soul up in distress and descending in compassion.
  • In the third view the dream depicts the ups and downs of the life of the “practiser” (of virtue vs. sin).
  • Finally the angels represent the continually changing affairs of men.¹

Wikipedia makes note that these “allegorical interpretations” are “not mutually exclusive.”

Also from the Wikipedia article on the topic:

“Jesus can be seen as being the ladder, in that Christ bridges the gap between Heaven and Earth. Jesus presents himself as the reality to which the ladder points; as Jacob saw in a dream the reunion of Heaven and Earth, Jesus brought this reunion, metaphorically the ladder, into reality. Adam Clarke, an early 19th-century Methodist theologian and Bible scholar, elaborates:

‘That by the angels of God ascending and descending, is to be understood, that a perpetual intercourse should now be opened between heaven and earth, through the medium of Christ, who was God manifested in the flesh. Our blessed Lord is represented in his mediatorial capacity as the ambassador of God to men; and the angels ascending and descending upon the Son of Man, is a metaphor taken from the custom of dispatching couriers or messengers from the prince to his ambassador in a foreign court, and from the ambassador back to the prince.'”¹

This too, seems to be a fair assumption. Angels moving up and down a ladder; the ascending and descending, especially the descending, is what gets me about this story. I can see the interpretation of the angels representing or being a reference to messengers, as that always made sense to me as a reason why they would be going to Earth from heaven and vice versa.

Now is as good a time as any to bring up the fact that sometimes crepuscular rays (pictured below) are apparently sometimes referred to as Jacob’s Ladder. It is interesting that when viewed from above, they are actually parallel rays, but staring at them, they appear to be diverging from the sun. Ah, the relativity of truth…

I think this is interesting because to me, even as a young child, I can remember that these rays of light are how I conceived of God. I remember being out on our back patio and watching the beams of sunshine that caught every particle in the air. “Rays of God,” I called them.

I am also reminded of one of the early lines from The Four Agreements, where Don Miguel Ruiz writes that

“light is the messenger of life, because it is alive and contains all information.”

These beams of sunlight that shine down upon us carry life. You can consider this a metaphor if you like, but in a literal sense it is true: the energy that comes from the sun is the energy for plants is the energy for animals and so on.

But let us discuss angels: we have angels ascending and descending, and let’s play with the idea of Jacob’s Ladder as light. Perhaps the angels are metaphors for photons, then? By ascending and descending, these angel-particles are gaining or losing energy, or perhaps transferring it. Photons travel within a beam of light and give energy to the world, carrying it from an infinite timeless domain of God.

I realize this is a stretch, but I like to think that it is a beautiful-sounding idea nonetheless. Or the angels could be electrons, which ascend and descend from different energy levels and emit light. See, we’re stumbling upon a whole new domain here of angelic physics. Angelectromagnetism? It’s like how moving a magnet near a copper coil generates current, moving angels up and down a ladder generates… who knows what.

ps1509

For a fuller examination of angelic physics, including angel/antiangel pairs, I recommend Problem Sleuth, by Andrew Hussie.²

But let’s get serious and finish this with a beautiful quote I found while researching Jacob’s Ladder. Apparently in Islam, Jacob’s Ladder is considered a symbol of God, emphasizing the “straight path” of Islam.¹ Martin Lings, a 20th-Century British scholar who converted to Islam gave a mystical interpretation of the ladder:

“The ladder of the created Universe is the ladder which appeared in a dream to Jacob, who saw it stretching from Heaven to earth, with Angels going up and down upon it; and it is also the ‘straight path’, for indeed the way of religion is none other than the way of creation itself retraced from its end back to its Beginning.”

What an intriguing statement. I like it because the Beginning is God, and we are returning there, if “there” can even be conceived. It is not a place but a state of mind, in my opinion. Obviously we cannot turn back the clock and return to the moment of creation, but we can seek God and know God by doing and by loving.

Science tells us about the Big Bang, whatever that may have looked like, but at the heart of that explanation is still the idea of one central point, one infinite Unity that had contained within it all the matter and all the information that would spread and unfold and change to become… now. Returning to that connectedness, that unity, that Beginning… that is knowing and accepting and loving. It is how we find all the virtues that we commonly attribute to God.

We are split and distant and separated, we have our own bodies and our own minds and our own experiences. I am sitting at a desk in a room and I am separate physically from these objects but some part of me, especially right now in this moment can recognize the shifting, shaping light of God that underlies all form and substance.

We are separate and we are not separate. As Carl Sagan said,

“We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.”

Peace be upon you.


¹ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacob’s_Ladder

² http://www.mspaintadventures.com/?s=4&p=001722

Day 26

Don Miguel Ruiz once said, “Always do your best.” It’s the fourth of the titular agreements in his book. But he also says

“Your best will be better when you are healthy as opposed to sick, or sober as opposed to drunk.”

— The Four Agreements

And I’m not drunk, but my best is not very good today. I’ve been battling a terrible stomachache and I’m exhausted, so let’s get this thing done.


Genesis 26

This chapter opens with a famine in the land, and although Isaac is tempted to move his family, God tells him not to and explains all the promises and oaths that He gave to Abraham. Isaac then does as his father did, and pretends as though Rebekah is his sister, and not his wife. It is not until Abimelech sees them together that he chastises Isaac. Abimelech proclaims that no one shall harm Isaac or touch his wife, on penalty of death.

Isaac does very well for himself in a year’s time, and he was the envy of the Philistines. These jerks went around and filled in all of Abraham’s old wells, and Abimelech kicks Isaac out. So Isaac leaves, heads to the nearby Valley of Gerar, and digs up the old wells. After running into troubles with the locals twice over, he names the first two wells Esek, meaning quarrel, and Sitnah, meaning enmity.

No one fights him on the third one, and he names it Rehoboth, literally spaciousness, because

“Now the Lord has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.”

— Isaac, Genesis 26:22

All goes well, and Abimelech and his commander, Phichol, and one of his friends, Ahuzzath, come to visit Isaac. They make a non-aggression pact with him, announce that he is blessed, and do not want him to hurt them. Isaac makes a feast and they go on their merry way.

Then things end with Esau taking two wives at age 40, which apparently is a huge pain for Isaac and Rebekah.

I’m not going to go to Matthew Henry today, but just share one of my own observations about this chapter. The Philistines are jealous of Isaac and his success; they kick him out and stop up his father’s wells and generally just harass him. And yet they only see the material things. They do not see his spiritual wealth, and if they do, they are put off by it. It seems to me that Isaac is a dedicated man; even though he inherits a great deal from his father, he also makes his own success. He prospers materially as well as spiritually, and it is my belief that the two go hand in hand, the latter preceding the former.

I am not saying that everyone who is materially wealthy is spiritually wealthy, nor am I saying that anyone who is spiritually wealthy will become materially wealthy. It just seems to me that as in this tale of Isaac, having a strong heart, having faith and a sense of purpose, these things can lead one to success, whatever that may be. For Isaac, his destiny is to inherit a land and to father a nation of people. This is what he has been told by God, and he has faith enough to get things done toward this end.

By faith, all things are possible.

I’m sick again, now. My stomach feels miserable. Contemplate these points, and rest well, everyone.

Peace be upon you.

Day 24

At the time of writing, my internet connection is down. But, it is 10:46 pm and tomorrow is not yet here. Today has felt long and short at the same time. I got some work done, got some things accomplished, and was fairly lazy for the rest of the day. It happens.

So, dear readers, I have looked into today’s chapter and I’m ready to go!


Genesis 24

Sarah, wife of Abraham and mother of Isaac, has passed away. Abraham wants his son to have a righteous wife and so makes a servant swear an oath to find one for him. He makes the servant swear to not allow Isaac to take a wife from the Canaanites, and for some reason insists that Isaac not return to his homeland with the servant.

It seems to me from the scriptures that Abraham is now taking very seriously God’s promises, and knows that Isaac must stay and live in this new promised land. As I write that, I remember another use of the term “promised land;” Don Miguel Ruiz uses it as one of the names for the mindset of heaven.

Here in the story of Abraham we see God taking the unfaithful, “lost” land that is Canaan and promising to make make it into a better place suitable for the families of the righteous. God alone works His magic and infuses the material with the spiritual. The power of God can make “heaven” out of “hell.” Heaven, in this case, being a righteous mindset, a strong holy purpose, love and compassion for others, and compassion for oneself. Hell is wandering and never finding, looking but never seeing, hearing but never listening… hell is the emptiness of the heart; hell is being lost at sea, cast about by the capricious whims of fate.

Heaven is finding purpose and fulfilling that purpose, knowing that God is with you through and through. Genesis 24 shows this, in a way. Abraham’s servant, who must travel to find Isaac a wife, is not sure if he can complete the task, at first. But he takes some men and camels and travels to the city of Nahor, home to Abraham’s brother.

When he arrives at the city, he waits by the well, and prays with intense purpose; his desire is strong, he is in place to fulfill his mission. He has clear expectations, and can envision how they will be fulfilled.

Lo and behold, who should come during his prayer but Rebekah, first introduced to us back in Genesis 22:23. I sort of overlooked her on Day 22, as I had no idea who she was. To me it just looked like a mish-mash of Hebrew-ish names. But here she is, apparently the granddaughter of Nahor.

The servant asks her for water, and she gives generously from her pitcher. She tells him that she will bring water for his camels too, and returns to the well to give him water. The man was surprised and waited, “wondering at her” (Genesis 24:21).

Seek and ye shall find, so they say. With clarity of purpose and determination to fulfill his task, yea, it is fulfilled. By the grace of God did this woman Rebekah come to him, this woman who fit his expectations and the needs of his master. And so it is, that with definiteness of purpose, with faith and determination, we can find a way to fulfill our needs and our goals. We can complete the tasks set before us through our own strength and will, but ultimately through the grace of God.

Many people have said this before and written books on the subject (Think and Grow Rich, The Secret, the latter of which I have never read and for which I cannot vouch) but I know it is true for myself. I once read somewhere that it is not necessarily true that events have inherent meaning, but it is possible to find meaning hiding anywhere. “Contemplate a grain of sand,” and so forth.

If you are looking for a solution, start looking at everything through the lens of your situation, and you will be amazed at how much suddenly applies and connects. Trust your instincts.

This happened to me once upon a time. I had gone camping and during that time of peace and quiet, that time of separation from the tyranny of clocks and the racing rats of life… during that time I had the most amazing experience. It is hard to explain, but I felt God in a cosmic, universal way. I was fresh and new from moment to moment, there was no past and no future, just a wondrous, miraculous now, and that now, the same now as right now, was at its core made up of the purest, whitest light. Color and shape and beauty abounded, but it was as though I could see the Light behind it all; I could see the light and love that is Creation. It was amazing.

The only problem was, I didn’t know what to do afterward. How could I ever go back? How could I go back home, back to living by a clock, back to working at my bulls**t, dead-end job? I was afraid and I was filled with despair. Much like Abraham, who had seen the power of the Lord, I still doubted. Oh, Abraham… I never realized until just now how much I understand you.

And so my night passed in contemplative silence; reality was coming and I had no choice but to face it sooner or later. But I knew that something in my mind had to change; there was a switch that needed to be turned on, some new piece of information I needed to acquire to be at peace. Lo, and behold…

I had brought with me a book, The Way of the Peaceful Warrior, by Dan Millman. It was lent to me by a friend and spiritual confidant; she thought I would appreciate it. I don’t know why I brought it, or why the circumstances in my life had led me to talk to this friend, or the circumstances that led her to be in a place to acquire and read and value this book, and so pass it to me. A million little choices added up to one little miracle…

So the morning we’re supposed to pack up and leave, head back to “civilization,” as it were, I was still feeling empty. Like Abraham, I felt as though I would be headed to a foreign land, and I was concerned about my safety. That morning, I picked up the book and started reading where I had left off. This is the other part that gets me: I left off in such a perfect spot, and so on this morning, I was able to find exactly the piece of information I needed. Like Abraham’s servant, I knew I needed something, and by the grace of God, I found it. What follows is one version of the same parable:

“Long ago, there was a young man who was searching for enlightenment. He saw a very old man walking towards him, carrying a heavy sack of rice on his back, and was stooped over, his head low to the ground.

The young seeker went up to the old man. He said: ‘Please, sir, can you tell me what enlightenment is?’

The old man threw the sack off his back, and stood up straight and proud.

‘Ah yes, I see!’ The young man cried. “Now can you tell me what comes after enlightenment?’

The old man picked up the rice, and continued his stooped march up the hill.”

I read this and stopped. I looked up and laughed and wept. It was hilarious, it was beautiful, and it was obvious. My burden and my fears were gone from me, and I was able to return home in peace. Of course, I grew increasingly dissatisfied with my position, and only lasted about three more months there, but that is a story for another day.

By the grace of God, we are given what we need, if only we have the courage to look and to ask with an open heart. I am reminded here of a joke that shows what happens when you do not have the eyes to see the gifts of God.

“There was an old man sitting on his porch, watching the rain fall. Pretty soon the water was coming over the porch and into the house.

The old man was still sitting there when a rescue boat came and the people on board said, ‘ You can’t stay here. You have to come with us.’

The old man replied, ‘No, God will save me.” So the boat left. A little while later, the water was up to the second floor, and another rescue boat came, and again told the old man that he had to come with them.

The old man again replied, ‘God will save me.’ So the boat left him.

An hour later, the water was up to the roof, and a third rescue boat approached the old man, trying to get him to come with them.

Again the old man refused to leave, stating, ‘God will save me’ So this boat, too, left him.

Soon after, the water rises and the man drowns. He arrives in Heaven, and when he sees God, he asks, ‘Why didn’t you save me?’

God replied, ‘You dummy! I tried! I sent three boats after you!’”

Gets me every time.

But I digress. The servant does not have the problem of the drowning man, and he sees the work of the Lord for what it is. He speaks to Rebekah, offers her a golden nose ring and golden bracelets, and prays to God. She tells her family about the man, and her brother Laban speaks to him and invites the servant into their home.

The servant tells his story to Laban and Bethuel, his father, and they are reluctant to let her go so quickly. They wish to keep her for ten days, but the servant implores them to reconsider.

reconsider

Something like that. ¹

They ask Rebekah about this and she agrees to go with the servant. Her family blesses her, and Rebekah and her maids leave. They travel back to the land of the Canaanites, where Isaac and Abraham dwell. Rebekah covers herself with a veil and meets Isaac; the servant explains the story, and Isaac and Rebekah are married. First cousins once removed wasn’t such a big deal back then.

Genesis 24 ends in verse 67, stating that Isaac was comforted after his mother’s passing. It seems to be only natural that the new takes the place of the old, and that we move on after our mourning period. Abraham does not forget his wife, but he buries her and mourns her and then goes about the business of living.

Isaac, too, must live, for his life has purpose; he must not spend forever grieving over the loss of his mother. In this case, the beautiful and virginal Rebekah (Genesis 24:16) seems to ease his mind. But of course I joke; Genesis 24:67 also says that Isaac loved Rebekah, and by loving her, he can once again experience joy.

Well, time is up for the day! Midnight has come, and further writing will have to wait for tomorrow’s chapter.

Good night (or good day, depending on when you’re reading this), and peace be upon you.


¹ Kung Pow! Enter the Fist, 2002. 20th Century Fox and O Entertainment. Image retrieved from http://archive.4plebs.org/tg/thread/26247501

Day 23

Oy, some days I just do not feel like writing much. After waking up after not enough sleep and going to a joyous tax appointment, I’m barely up for it. But a promise is a promise, and so here I am.

I’m just going to take a moment today to promote my Contribute! page. For those of you who are following or reading along, I’m always interested in people’s experiences or interpretations, and if you have some insight or opinion on a chapter or verse of the Bible, please share it with me!

Also, I’ll probably have a new page tomorrow or the next day: I’m going to start a list of book recommendations. These will be spiritual- or self-help-type books that I have read and that I highly recommend. Expect it by the end of the week.

Let’s get started, shall we?


Genesis 23

Sarah, wife of Abraham, finally passes away at the tender young age of 127. Abraham seeks to find a burial site for his wife, somewhere where she may be “out of [his] sight” (Genesis 23:4). This struck me as interesting, because it suggests that even our closest attachments in life can be put behind us. Abraham will not forget his wife and the time he spent with her, but she has passed; his duty is to live and keep living a godly life. He honors his wife Sarah with a burial, and he honors himself by moving on.

Adventure Time!

Adventure Time S5E16 – source: http://imgur.com/gallery/WvaQn

Now that I’ve posted the above image, I am reminded of Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now. In the book, Tolle explains that the state known as “enlightenment” does not come from a denial of the body or an escape from the present moment, but instead comes from acceptance of and presence in the now. Things and people come and go; living in the past or future can cause depression or anxiety. Living in the moment, in the now,is key. This does not mean to disregard or ignore the past or future, necessarily. It just means being wholly present, being aware of feelings and sensations, being an impartial observer and not ignoring what it means to be human and alive in this moment. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, just being fully present is enough to be alive.

Abraham chooses life, and even though he loved his wife dearly, he buries her out of his sight. He puts the past behind him, for that is the land of the dead. Now is the only time to be alive.

Abraham speaks to the people of Canaan, the sons of Heth, and they tell him to speak to Ephron about the land he desires. Abraham does so, and Ephron offers him the land for free. Abraham has the ability to pay, and does not take advantage of Ephron’s kindness.¹ Ephron deeds the land to Abraham, and he buries his wife Sarah.

It is strange that I should feel sad about this. I am reminded of what I wrote the other day about death and dying (hard to believe it was a week ago). Even though death is a release, a release from this human realm of suffering, I am still imagining how Abraham must feel. After many long years with his wife, her time had come to an end; he grieved and he buried her.

I have never had to dig a grave for a person, but I have dug a grave for a beloved pet; that was difficult enough. I sang and I cried while I dug the grave; I am not ashamed. We can love so completely and so dearly, and letting go is hard. It is natural for us to be accustomed to others, to be accustomed to their presence and the joy or comfort that they bring us.

We forget, or perhaps many of us never even learn, that all the love and joy is within us. We spend so much time seeking love and seeking peace, hoping that it will come externally or in the future. The truth is that all the joy you have ever felt has come in the form of brain activity and neurotransmitters. Not so poetic, I know, but feel free to attribute this to the actions or presence of the Holy Spirit if that suits you.

My point is that with the right frame of mind, it is possible to realize the joy that is within. I know it is possible, because I did it. It was a fleeting feeling, but it came during intense self-reflection and meditation. I searched deep within myself, exploring my thoughts and my past, trying to understand some of my dysfunctions, trying to find the motive force behind my recurring problems.

I suddenly understood, and more importantly, felt the truth of the matter: the love I was seeking was within me. It was like a wellspring that had been forgotten and ignored, but I had rediscovered it. I have not visited that place, that state of mind, in quite some time, but knowing that it exists makes me feel better.

This well exists as a boundless love, love which as always implies acceptance. This acceptance is centered in the timeless divinity of now, the eternal peace of Being. The well is the love of God, the path comes from awareness and presence: a state of Being. The well is within us; the path is within us. And this is not a path that the so-called egoic mind can traverse. Only the higher consciousness, the Observer, the great “I am” can walk this path. And all of this is within you. This divine wellspring, this boundless love is within you right now, waiting to be found.

The well, the path, and the traveler; all three are God. These three aspects are one and the same; each implies the existence of the others. When one discovers this love, this peace, this presence… the moment before the realization, you feel a progression, you feel like you’re approaching a destination, you have a sense of the path. But the moment after the realization, you will realize the unity of it all. The truth is that you are at the well because you are the well. The love comes from within you, and it is only now that you are finding yourself.

Words are terribly insufficient for describing this phenomenon. I’ve tried like four times to write a sentence and I can’t come up with one. You’re not just finding yourself, though. You’re finding everyone else, and realizing that the every words “everyone else” are meaningless. I’m going to quote Don Miguel Ruiz from The Four Agreements and hope that it is sufficient:

“It is true. I am God. But you are also God. We are the same, you and I. We are images of light. We are God.”

My brain is officially wracked trying to explain something for which there are no words. Just be present, explore yourself, love yourself. Grok the meaning of “I am,” and never forget that it is one of the names of God.

Peace be upon you.


¹ Henry, Matthew. From http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?com=mhc&b=1&c=23

Day 16

I’m sure by now most of you have heard this song, and some of you are probably sick of it. I used to not listen to the radio much, and I still listen to it minimally, so I have the benefit of not getting tired of songs that are overplayed… mostly.

I had an amazing revelation yesterday. I was listening to this song on the radio, and thinking about it as it relates to the historical city of Pompeii; the song obviously relates to death and dying, the total destruction of the city. And it is romantic. It is so hauntingly beautiful, and it is not the only work of its kind. We often romanticize death, we romanticize people leaving or committing suicide, and dying. I realized yesterday that it is not so much a longing for death that afflicts us but a longing for rebirth. We romanticize death because it is a doorway, it is the next step toward something better. We want to die, and like Don Miguel Ruiz said, we are not afraid of death but we are scared of living.

On some level, I think we know that death is the next step, that part of us has to die. This human life, the world to which we are all so accustomed, the things that we’re all so convinced of… we consider this world, this life of sin and suffering to be inevitable. We believe that the way we live now, the way we exist is inevitable, and in a way we want to die. We want to die, so that we can go on to something else. We know that part of us has to die, that something has to go away.

And the part that is left will be beautiful. That something will survive after death, that some part of us will be reborn into a much better, happier, life… that’s dying and going to Heaven, that’s why we have that dream. We want to die and find peace, to find Heaven, to achieve Nirvana. We want to stop the cycle of death, of living “as if we are dead,” to quote Ruiz. We want it to end.

Regardless of whether Heaven is a literal physical place where the soul goes after the body dies or not, regardless of whether the soul literally transcends suffering and attains Nirvana, these stories, these ideas are present the world over because they represent the innate human desire to get away from all of this. Regardless of the truth, these stories are also potent metaphors.

If you’ve spoken to someone who engages in transcendental meditation or someone who’s taken psychedelic drugs, you may have heard of a feeling of “oneness.” Perhaps for one reason or another you have experienced this for yourself. There is a related but deeper phenomenon known as “ego death” that can be experienced in a variety of ways. “According to Stanislav Grof, ‘Ego death means an irreversible end to one’s philosophical identification with what Alan Watts called skin-encapsulated ego.'”¹

In The Four Agreements, Ruiz talks a great deal about a process that will lead to joy and freedom that he calls the “initiation of the dead.” This, he says, is a spiritual, symbolic death that destroys the wounded mind, destroys the inner judge and victim, destroys what Eckhart Tolle calls the “pain-body.” In this way, we cease associating with the body and the mind’s conception of the “self” and instead begin to see the bigger picture, so to speak. We begin to become aware of the Unity that is.

When we realize our oneness, our connection with all things, with things beyond ourselves, we find that we can love everything and everyone. It is not easy to do, and it takes practice and awareness. But according to Ruiz, this is the state of mind that has been called “Heaven.” This is the kingdom of Heaven that is within man; this is the Heaven that is in our midst (Luke 17:21). This is truly living, being fully alive.

Part of us has to die to get there, but fear not. Once you break through, you will realize that there is no “you,” and that instead, We have been here all along. That is the best way I can put it at this time. I’ll just leave this here:

“Jesus Christ knew he was God. So wake up and find out eventually who you really are. In our culture, of course, they’ll say you’re crazy and you’re blasphemous, and they’ll either put you in jail or in a nut house (which is pretty much the same thing). However if you wake up in India and tell your friends and relations, ‘My goodness, I’ve just discovered that I’m God,’ they’ll laugh and say, ‘Oh, congratulations, at last you found out.'”

— Alan Watts²

Genesis 16

Gen 16 describes Abram seeking a child. Sarai, his wife, tells Abram that he must have a child, and she tells him to marry her maid and father a child that way. Abram heeds her words instead of seeking a solution or a sign from God, and lo and behold, the trouble begins. Hagar, the maid, begins to despise Sarai, and the two women just about get into a fight.

Hagar runs off, and “an Angel of the Lord” finds her by a spring (Genesis 16:7). Matthew Henry states that this Angel is “the eternal Word and Son of God,”³ and considering that everything about the Angel is capitalized, that makes as much sense as anything else. Especially when one considers that the Angel blesses her and tells her the things which He will accomplish. I figured just by reading it that the Angel was in some way an extension of God.

Hagar says as much, when she asks, “Have I also here seen Him who sees me?” (Genesis 16:13) This reminds me of a fun limerick:

“There was a young man who said ‘though

It seems that I know that I know,

What I would like to see

Is the I that sees me

When I know that I know that I know.'”

— Alan Wattsª

A name of the Lord given in Genesis 16:13 is “You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees.” That limerick is lifted from “The Nature of Consciousness,”ª and I highly recommend it. Just from reading a few paragraphs I know I’m going to revisit it soon.

After speaking to the Angel, Hagar returns to the house of Abram, returns to that holy family and the righteous life, after having wandered off. I don’t think I need to explain this one; Matthew Henry does a fine job of that already.

Hagar bears Ishmael, and so ends Genesis 16.


That great illusion and tormentor, time, is pressing on me. My heart and mind are distracted by impending work. I feel as though I have said what I needed to say today, and I shall see you all tomorrow.

God bless, and peace be upon you.


¹ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ego_death

² http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Alan_Watts

³ http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?com=mhc&b=1&c=16

ª http://deoxy.org/w_nature.htm

Day 12

I had the strangest experience last night.

I had an overwhelming sensation that I wasn’t going to wake up in the morning. Or at least that the “me” that was going to wake up in the morning was not the same “me” that was lying in bed.

There is an illusion we call continuation of consciousness, and I suddenly became aware of it in a very big, big way. I felt as though I was going to die, whether that be in a literal or figurative sense. I felt as though the person who woke up in my body would be someone else, an alien who would have forgotten things that I was thinking, would have different motivations, hopes and dreams. It was all very strange.

As I was lying in bed I had a number of bizarre visions as well; I had visions like an hourglass running out, looking as though it were limned by the infinity symbol. I watched it run out, tried to envision it turning over, only to watch it run out again. When I tried to visualize my council of spirit animals (more on that later), I came up empty. I instead envisioned a blank gray wall which receded from me until I realized I was looking at a large skull that became part of the form of a Grim Reaper-like figure. It was then with this figure positioned over me that I suddenly became aware of the presence of my spirit animals once again. My Left cried out against this figure and I felt strongly implored to take up my “sword” and defend myself against this manifestation of Death.

All in all, it was both a deeply humbling but empowering experience. I’m not entirely sure what to make of it, but as much as any man can say this, I know I’m here today.

Genesis 12

Here in Gen 12 we have the departure from Abram from Haran, where his father Terah lay dead. God tells Abram to go, leave for a new land. Abram feels this conviction from God and takes his wife Sarai and his nephew Lot to the land of Canaan, which if you recall from Genesis 9 was basically cursed by Noah and by the Lord. Or at least its inhabitants were. So the godly man, Abram, is cast by God Himself into the realm of the ungodly, the Canaanites. And the Lord sayeth, “Trust Me on this one.”

One verse of note is Genesis 12:3, wherein God tells Abram, “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” According to our old friend Matthew Henry, this is to signify the coming of Christ, that by the line of Abram shall the world be saved.

So when Abram finally settles near “Shechem, as far as the terebinth tree of Moreh” (Genesis 12:6).

This guy.

This guy. ¹

It seems there is a great deal of discourse surrounding this tree business. Matthew Henry does not touch on the nature of the tree or any symbology thereof. This website, the Jewish Heritage Online Magazine, mentions that tree worship existed in some form in ancient days. They suggest that by being “rooted in the earth and [reaching] toward the sky,” trees represent a bridge between Heaven and Earth, or symbolize man’s journey from the latter to the former. Apparently at some point this practice was discontinued, possibly to mitigate confusion and prevent blurring between the holy religion of Israel and the idolatrous religions of the Canaanites.² Interesting. Now back to Abram.

Abram carries his faith with him throughout his journey and sets up an altar wherever he makes his home.

“Wherever we go, let us not fail to take our religion along with us.”

— Matthew Henry ³

God blesses Abram and tells him that his descendents will inherit this land, this land of Canaan that is currently in possession of the ungodly. As I said recently, perhaps as recently as yesterday, worldly goods cannot fill a spiritual void. In time, the cruel and evil will fall and the righteous will rise. I’m not necessarily using “righteous” to mean “Christian,” here, but I believe in the inherent goodness of humanity, or at least the potential and desire for good.

Man is often his own worst enemy, and our desire for righteousness must overcome our desire for comfort in sin. Man must become accustomed to some level of discomfort in order to break the cycle. In our modern society, we have food and shelter and entertainment but these things do not bring happiness. Our comforts are worldly and fragile; satisfaction of the soul, peace with the Divine, is forever.

“So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains
And we never even know we have the key.”

— The Eagles, “Already Gone”

But I digress. Things become difficult for Abram once there is a famine in Canaan, as described in Gen 12:10, so he leaves and heads to Egypt. Even a godly man such as Abram is burdened with doubt and disbelief in this trying time, and he lies because he is afraid. Abram pretends that his wife Sarai is his sister because he fears for his life and safety, believing he will be killed by someone who wishes to claim her.

Once the Pharaoh’s men see her, they take her to the Pharaoh, but God has other plans. Even though Pharaoh treats Abram well, the Lord shakes things up, perhaps so that Abram will not be comfortable in this land but will return to his God-given destiny. God plagues the hell out of Egypt (a preview of things to come) and Pharaoh realizes the problem, gives Sarai back to Abram, and kicks him the hell out. Matthew Henry’s commentary fits well here:

“Those who set out for heaven must persevere to the end. What we undertake, in obedience to God’s command, and in humble attendance on his providence, will certainly succeed, and end with comfort at last. Canaan was not, as other lands, a mere outward possession, but a type of heaven, and in this respect the patriarchs so earnestly prized it.” ³

Just as is in The Four Agreements, Matthew Henry equates Canaan as a state of mind, a type of heaven. Though the story in the Bible is about a land, there is more than meets the eye. It is symbolic of the gifts that God grants to the faithful, it is symbolic of peace, serenity, and love. God did not let Abram settle in a land of fear, a land of suffering and deceit. Abram found no peace in the land of Egypt, and so too do we find no peace while we are burdened by our lies and our mistrust. Abram initially trusts God to provide, but when times get difficult, he abandons the dream and promise of Canaan for worldly “security” elsewhere.

It seems to me that this was a lesson that Abram needed to learn the hard way. God is not a wizard, but had He wanted to, I am sure He could have prevented the famine in Canaan. But God does not make our lives easy; instead God teaches us to have faith in the most difficult times. God does not clear the skies and calm the waters, but instead dances with us in the rain and teaches us to weather the storm. This is how we learn and grow stronger. Like a parent to a child, God allows us to suffer and be injured that we might grow wise and strong.

God does not always appear to us and tell us where to go and what to do, but if we pay attention to ourselves and to our feelings, we can know right from wrong and find a good path for ourselves. We will not be comforted in Egypt, and must find our way to Canaan. In Canaan we will find peace, and our faith will be rewarded. It may be a long road, full of setbacks and obstacles, but faith can move mountains, not by magic, but by inspiring us and motivating us to take up our pickaxes and start chipping away, one stone at time.

I feel as though I am repeating myself and rambling; I will end here for today. Love and be loved. Spread joy wherever you go.

Peace be upon you.

 

¹ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pistacia_palaestina

² http://www.jhom.com/topics/trees/worship.htm

³ http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?com=mhc&b=1&c=12

Day 11

For heaven’s sake… God is not going to make this easy on me.

Today is the first day that I’ve actually had difficulty doing my writing, and I foresee more challenges on the horizon. Work is ramping up in a big way and I need to get it under control before it controls me. I’m also not getting enough sleep and not enough personal leisure time.

One consolation that I forgot to write about came in the form of my horoscope from 3/25/14. This happened to be the day or the day after I told my friend about this project and worried about my lack of motivation. My horoscope read:

You have more command over your emotions than you think you do, which you’ll find out by taking control of your environment.

That’s the kind of information I need these days. I wish the “taking control of [my] environment” part wasn’t such a pain in my ass. My room and my house are a terrible mess. All my work folders and paperwork are disorganized. I feel like I have neither the time nor the inclination to change this, because it feels like an overwhelming undertaking at this point. But I have to work and I have to pay my bills and I have to have to have to.

I’m just going to bang my head on the keyboard for a while and see what comes out.

Genesis 11

Gen 11 reminds me of Gen 2, in that it appears to conflict with the previous chapter. Genesis 10 shows all the different genealogies of all the families and constantly lists them as “according to his language, according to their families, into their nations,” or some form thereof (Gen 10:5). It shows that all these people were separated into different cultures and languages.

Genesis 11 comes along and says that “the whole earth had one language and one speech” (Gen 11:1). It seems that, like Genesis 2, Genesis 11 is here to elaborate on the narrative of the previous chapter.

With their one language, people started building a tower “whose top is in the heavens… lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth” (Gen 11:4). I love this verse because they’re like, “Oh boy, we better not get scattered to the four winds! That would be terrible!” And then the Lord sees them and does exactly that. Once again, the Lord refers to Himself in the first-person plural: “Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language” (Gen 11:7).

So God does this apparently because humans will be able to do anything they want! With one language, they could build a tower straight up to Heaven, which once again points back to the Hebrew mythology of a heavenly realm located physically above the Earth.

This baffles me a little, and Matthew Henry gives me no placating explanation. I think… firstly the location of Babel is in the land of Shinar, which was mentioned previously as part of the kingdom of Nimrod in Gen 10. So we already know that these are not supposed to be the godly folk. With that in mind, it seems that their hubris was their undoing; with one language they could have accomplished many great works but instead decided to essentially rebel against God by saying, “Screw the rules, we’re building our way to Heaven!” And the Lord says no.

So He punishes them for their hubris and their disrespect by confounding their language and scattered them all over the world. Apparently this is part of the plan, that humanity will be divided. The eventual reunification will come with Christ, apparently. So sayeth Matthew Henry:

“The children of men never did, nor ever will, come all together again, till the great day, when the Son of man shall sit upon the throne of his glory, and all nations shall be gathered before him.” ¹

Mankind does seem to have this problem where we help each other in our misery rather than lifting out of it. Ruiz says as much, that we have agreements to help each other suffer.² Suffering is comfortable because we are so used to it, but the company of angry, fearful fellows does not beat the serenity that can be found within. It is a hard lesson to learn, but the more people that learn it, the better we will be as a species.

Genealogy

The rest of Genesis 11 is dedicated to the genealogy of the family of Shem.

We have:

  • Shem
    • Arphaxad
      • Salah
        • Eber
          • Peleg
            • Reu
              • Serug
                • Nahor
                  • Terah
                    • Haran -> deceased
                    • Abram — Sarai
                    • Nahor — Milcah
                      • Lot

Yikes. I think that’s everybody. So at the end of Genesis 11, Terah takes his son Abram, Abram’s wife Sarai, and Lot, Abram’s nephew and Terah’s grandson, and they leave Ur, headed toward Canaan. They stayed in Haran, or Charran, for a time, where Terah passed away. Matthew Henry ends this portion of his commentary with the poignant thought:

“Many reach to Charran, and yet fall short of Canaan; they are not far from the kingdom of God, and yet never come thither.” ¹

I’ve heard a similar sentiment regarding general or business success, but here it applies spiritually as well. Ah! Found it:

“Most great people have attained their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure.”

—  Napoleon Hill

Most of the time we never know how close we are to something, to achieving a goal, and our tendency is to stop or turn around, often just before we make a breakthrough. Persevere! Today I will leave you with one last quote, the other of which I was thinking:

“When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter
hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as
much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first
blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that last
blow that did it, but all that had gone before.”

— Jacob A. Riis
Look at a stone cutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred-and-first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not the last blow that did it, but all that had gone before.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/j/jacobaugus107072.html#pTWJkqAJYzZKKMRA.99

Every blow weakens the stone, just as every step in the right direction, no matter how small, leads closer to one’s destination.

Blessings to all, and peace be upon you.

 

Look at a stone cutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred-and-first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not the last blow that did it, but all that had gone before.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/j/jacobaugus107072.html#pTWJkqAJYzZKKMRA.99

Look at a stone cutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred-and-first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not the last blow that did it, but all that had gone before.

Jacob August Riis

Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/j/jacobaugus107072.html#pTWJkqAJYzZKKMRA.99

Look at a stone cutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred-and-first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not the last blow that did it, but all that had gone before.

Jacob August Riis

Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/j/jacobaugus107072.html#pTWJkqAJYzZKKMRA.99

¹ http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?b=1&c=11&com=mhc

² Ruiz, Don Miguel. The Four Agreements

Day 10

Woo! Ten days in a row. So far so good!

So I added a new page, which I will be sure to whore out every day until it starts receiving regular attention. Basically I’m soliciting interpretations from the good people out there reading this blog. I have my opinion and I have Matthew Henry’s opinion, but I want to hear from a broader variety of people. I’m interested to see what people from different walks of life think about the Bible.

The submission page and guidelines can be found here. Click the link and go at it!

Also I want to clarify something before I get into today’s chapter: I keep referring to my partner as just that, my “partner.” I know someday she is going to read this and probably be confused as to why I chose that word. A few reasons:

  1. It does signify a close bond, as we go through our lives together.
  2. Saying “girlfriend” seems cheesy, even though I’ve already outed her gender.
  3. Part of it seems distant and mysterious, and for purposes of this blog, I kind of like that.

That’s all there is to it, really. Just wanted to clear that up because I know someday she’ll read this. (Yes, you. ♥)

Genesis 10

Today we have the weird inbred genealogy of the sons of Noah. I know Biblical genealogy is concerned with the lineages of sons, and that daughters are not mentioned, but seriously, either back in the day people knew that these were stories and that there were other people to be found on Earth… or people were just totally a-okay with a lot of incest and inbreeding. Maybe they just didn’t read into it.

What was that about inbreeding?

“Well, golly! Only people round here to beget with are my cousins, my sisters, and my mother!” ¹

So we have the sons of Japheth (see above), who become the Gentiles, who “separated into their lands, everyone according to his language, according to their families, into their nations” (Genesis 10:5).

Then we get into the sons of Ham: Pork, Bacon, Loin, Cubed, Shaved… Alright, I’ll stop. But seriously, the sons of Ham. Eventually through his lineage, we get one of Canaan’s nephews, the mighty hunter Nimrod, whose reputation lasted right up until Bugs Bunny came along and turned him into an insult. I wasn’t going to write much about him but then I looked up the Matthew Henry commentary. I’ll just leave this here:

“Nimrod was a great man in his day; he began to be mighty in the earth, Those before him were content to be upon the same level with their neighbours, and though every man bare rule in his own house, yet no man pretended any further. Nimrod was resolved to lord it over his neighbours. The spirit of the giants before the flood, who became mighty men, and men of renown, Genesis 6:4, revived in him. Nimrod was a great hunter. Hunting then was the method of preventing the hurtful increase of wild beasts. This required great courage and address, and thus gave an opportunity for Nimrod to command others, and gradually attached a number of men to one leader. From such a beginning, it is likely, that Nimrod began to rule, and to force others to submit. He invaded his neighbours’ rights and properties, and persecuted innocent men; endeavouring to make all his own by force and violence. He carried on his oppressions and violence in defiance of God himself. Nimrod was a great ruler. Some way or other, by arts or arms, he got into power, and so founded a monarchy, which was the terror of the mighty, and bid fair to rule all the world. Nimrod was a great builder. Observe in Nimrod the nature of ambition. It is boundless; much would have more, and still cries, Give, give. It is restless; Nimrod, when he had four cities under his command, could not be content till he had four more. It is expensive; Nimrod will rather be at the charge of rearing cities, than not have the honour of ruling them. It is daring, and will stick at nothing. Nimrod’s name signifies rebellion; tyrants to men are rebels to God. The days are coming, when conquerors will no longer be spoken of with praise, as in man’s partial histories, but be branded with infamy, as in the impartial records of the Bible.” ²

Come on, Matthew! You’re making me look bad, over here. I’m making incest jokes about Gen 10 and he’s busy analyzing that Nimrod is a tyrant, a “rebel to God,” which would make a kick-ass band name. But seriously, wow. Matthew Henry expands on this point in his analysis of the line of Canaan. I can’t not share this.

“The posterity of Canaan were numerous, rich, and pleasantly seated; yet Canaan was under a Divine curse, and not a curse causeless. Those that are under the curse of God, may, perhaps, thrive and prosper in this world; for we cannot know love or hatred, the blessing or the curse, by what is before us, but by what is within us. The curse of God always works really, and always terribly. Perhaps it is a secret curse, a curse to the soul, and does not work so that others can see it; or a slow curse, and does not work soon; but sinners are reserved by it for a day of wrath. Canaan here has a better land than either Shem or Japheth, and yet they have a better lot, for they inherit the blessing. Abram and his seed, God’s covenant people, descended from Eber, and from him were called Hebrews. How much better it is to be like Eber, the father of a family of saints and honest men, than the father of a family of hunters after power, worldly wealth, or vanities. Goodness is true greatness.” ²

Wow. This is a beautiful description, an amazing interpretation. It reminds me of everything I have read thus far related to goodness and success. It reminds me especially of that wonderful book, The Four Agreements, where Don Miguel Ruiz describes the dream of Hell in which mankind is living.

“We cannot know love or hatred, the blessing or the curse, by what is before us, but by what is within us.”

— Matthew Henry

This reminds me especially of something written in The Myth of Sisyphus:

“It is probably true that a man remains forever unknown to us and that there is in him something irreducible that escapes us. But practically I know men and recognize them by their behavior, by the totality of their deeds, by the consequences caused in life by their presence.”

— Albert Camus

All these authors and writers are privy to a truth that many of us feel but have no words to describe. No matter what shows on the outside, man suffers in the absence of God. In the Bible, Noah curses Canaan and his lineage, but in truth he need say nothing; Canaan curses himself and his children by his actions, by leading them down a bad road, away from the grace and love of the Lord.

Ruiz knows that we live in Hell, that men suffer in silence in the depths of their souls because we have abandoned love and truth and beauty. We are wounded, lost children, and we strike at others out of fear and anger. No matter the heights of our success, in the end we are empty and miserable. We cannot be placated with material things; gold does not fill the coffers of the soul.

Camus would not be thrilled that I suggest turning to God to rectify this, but let me clarify: the feeling, the knowing of God can be had on Earth by mortal men. One does not have to cling to a hope of a distant heaven. Ruiz says as much himself: Heaven is a state of mind, and it is possible to attain. There are people on Earth who live lives of happiness, who do not suffer despite having excuses to do so.

I recognize God, I love God, and I accept God, in my own way, but I also recognize and accept the absurdity of “the human condition.” I cannot prove God to you. But my experiences and my life have been nothing short of miraculous, and if you have the eyes to see it, you will realize that your life is the greatest miracle and the highest truth. God works his magic through you. Look at all the “coincidences,” learn from them, see where your life has come from and where it has gone. There is no place you could be but here, no time you could be but now.

This moment is yours.

Seize it.

 

¹ http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/25574/gomer-pyle-usmc-the-complete-first-season/

² http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?com=mhc&b=1&c=10