Monday, May 25, 2020

End Times: Part 1

A friend’s 7-year old daughter recently asked him: 

“Daddy, is the world coming to an end?” 

One of those questions that stops you in your tracks and you know that Siri is not going to help you here. He posted it on Facebook and everyone offered their advice, which made for a stimulating exchange. My two cents is 1.9 cents too long for Facebook so I’ll put it here.

My own thoughts (if one can ever be said to have one’s own thoughts separate from everything people say around you, in conversation, poems, books, etc.) is first and foremost, the obvious. “We don’t know.” Well, I do suspect that the world itself will continue, but whether the dominant species is cockroaches or humans is another question. 

My second sense is that this is a conversation between God (shorthand for some underlying spiritual presence that gives meaning to the whole mystery of life and can be glimpsed in moments of clear vision and sublime attention) and humans, that flawed species given the gift of choice and most squandering it and making consistently bad decisions. If you shrug your shoulders in face of the facts and naively say “God will provide,” you’ve missed it. Likewise, if you confine yourself to the literal facts of science and have no sense of the grander mythological/ spiritual dimension, you also are too narrow in your thinking.  Consider this joke:

A deeply religious man lived in a house by a river. One day, a storm came, the river overflowed and the house was flooded. The man climbed on to the roof of the house and a neighbor came by in a boat and said, “Climb aboard.”

“No, I’ll stay here,” said the man. “God will provide.”

The waters kept rising and the man climbed up to the top of his chimney. Another boat came by. “Jump aboard!” 

“No, I’ll stay here,” said the man. “God will provide.”

Now the water was rising to the man’s waist. A helicopter swooped down. “Quick!” said the pilot. “Climb aboard!!”

“No, I’ll stay here,” said the man. “God will provide.”

The water continued to rise and the men was swept off the chimney and he drowned. Up in heaven, he went up to God and said, “Hey, I thought you were supposed to take care of me!”

God answered: “I sent you two boats and a helicopter. What more do you want?!”

In short, there may indeed be a grander sweep to our human drama that wants us to survive and thrive and if we can touch that feeling—again, through attention, through an open heart, through the capacity to still feel wonder and feel part of something beautiful and mysterious— it can bring us the kind of faith and comfort we long for in these difficult times. But at the same time, it’s not a story handed down to us that we either believe or reject, it’s a story that we are co-participating in, writing in every action and decision we make. The future is not a finished script awaiting us. We are writing it in each moment of the present time. It’s an ongoing work-in-progress and God has sent us the boats and helicopters of intelligent thought, caring hearts and prodigious imagination to do our part.

Stay tuned for Part Two.

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