I am thinking about many seemingly unrelated subjects this morning: Ken Burns’ new film, The U.S. and the Holocaust, upcoming elections, the world my grandchildren will live in, and Brother Lawrence’s little book, The Practice of the Presence of God. Yet, all these are connected because they each remind us to live love. In reality, has life any more important lesson to teach?
In his film, Ken Burns reveals how due to anti-Semitism in high offices, and for political reasons, the U.S. did not help the Jews when it might have. How we treated Japanese-Americans and Native-Americans was equally bad. Some Americans still exhibit anti-Semitism as well as racism, misogyny, and other forms of hatred. Such thinking needs correcting.
Have we forgotten who we are? As sons and daughters of God, Good, Love, made in God’s image and likeness (Gen. 1:27), how can we have capacity for hatred? The truth, intelligence, and principle behind all that is did not create us to hate. If it weren’t for supposing we each have a personal ego with its own particular hates and fears, would we find ourselves enmeshed in spiteful, mean, and violent acts? If we corrected our thinking–and thus our actions–to know God, Good, as our origin, the only Ego, that we reflect Him by inheritance, we would grasp who we really are.
Pseudo-Dionysius wrote in the 5th/6th century, “Whatever is totally lacking in a share of the Good has no being and no power.” Then our only being or power comes from God. Fourteenth century anonymous theologian/author of The Cloud of Unknowing wrote: “God is the fullness of all that we are by participation.” Jesus said: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you. . .that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.” (Luke 6: 44-45). John wrote: “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing.”(John 6: 63). Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Cor. 3: 16) Can we grasp this? Can we aim more fully to live these truths in our lives?
Recent mass killings suggest people might do a better job of not only caring for God’s children but of being God’s children. Thieves, molesters, murderers, liars don’t represent God. Evil acts deny His presence. In the precious little book, The Practice of the Presence of God, written in the seventeenth century, the author explains how Brother Lawrence “had always been governed by love, without selfish views; and having resolved to make the love of God the end of all his actions.” The wisdom of this simple monk still offers guidance and correction for today as centuries ago.
When we get the wrong answer in math, we correct it rather than accept it. Where does 2 x 2=5 go when we understand that 2 x 2= 4? The wrong evaporates. Disappears. It never was true. It had no real existence. It was a supposition claiming to be true, but proven wrong. To the degree that we understand and participate in the right–in God’s goodness, love, truth, and intelligence–we do not live in the wrong–lies, hate, deceits, violence in ourselves and others. The wrong has no place. No reality. When we correct our thinking, align it with the good, eliminate wrong, live love, we work for the right.
We cannot merely say evil acts are unreal because not part of God and go on our merry way. That would be selfish and uncaring. Avoidance does not correct the situation. First, we must expose the wrong for what is: wrong! See it as unjust evil, the absence of God, therefore nothing. Those suffering from any evil as well as the perpetrators need to feel God’s presence. We need to love them all in our hearts, minds, and actions. Rapid and continuing acknowledgement that nothing can separate anyone from God is imperative. “I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We need to go beneath the false to find the child of God in everyone. Doing this every day is not easy. But as we practice the presence of God, the presence of Love, of Truth, of Goodness we know the right answer, and maintain, ourselves and others as we truly are: God’s children.
Artwork: Wharf Reflections, 20″ x 15″ matted watercolor. Reflections–that’s what we are. Reflections of our Creator, inheritors of His goodness, rightness. This is the right answer. When I saw this scene, I focused on the reflections in the water; they hinted at the shapes and colors of the original wharf boards and posts in beautiful array.