Soul-Searching: Our True Calling
Column for the Capital News (June 2013)
When natural disasters such as the flooding in Alberta and elsewhere in the world strike with little warning, we are reminded of how fragile is human life-and all life-on this amazing planet. Our Earth is one planet, circling one of billions of suns. The slightest variation of temperature or any number of other conditions, and we would not be here. We may have different ideas of how this came to be. Yet that is not what is important.
What is important is our responsibility, in the face of our fragility and the fragility of our precious planet, to serve the Spirit of Life, not the forces of destruction. To act from a place of gratitude and amazement, of compassion and tenderness. To challenge the careless destruction of human life and the balance of creation out of greed and ego, craving for power, ignorance and hatred. Anyone can hurt and destroy – that is certainly no measure of what it means to be a worthy human! If we are made in “the image of God,” it is in our ability to create and nurture, within the limitations of our finitude.
How dare we humans harm others and claim that we are “serving God?” The only gods we are serving are the idols of self-righteousness, greed and power. Every religion on earth calls us to compassion, calls us to awe, calls us to humility before a creation magnificent beyond our comprehension. “What does the Holy One require of you? To do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God,” the prophet Micah proclaimed millennia ago.
Walking humbly with the Spirit that set fire to billions of stars, yet cradles the sparrow in its “hands” means we acknowledge our own fragility and limitations. No matter how inspired, all scriptures have come to us filtered through a limited human mind. No matter how elevated our moments of feeling embraced by a Holy Reality, our attempts to define that greater reality cannot begin to encompass it. Only poetry comes anywhere close- because poetic language is open-ended and suggestive, embraces ambiguity, and can hint at something beyond itself. “The Tao that can be spoken is not the Eternal Tao,” says the Tao de Ching.
Our true calling as followers of the Spirit of Life is not to spend our energy debating with one another over definitions, or whose limited and flawed understanding comes closest to what cannot be defined. It is certainly not in attempting to control or to kill one another using religion as an excuse for acting on our own prejudices.
Our true calling is to “do justice and love mercy” and to choose humility over self-righteousness. It is to love our neighbours, and to be stewards of this fragile planet. So much of our preoccupation and worry and grasping after happiness falls away when put into the perspective of a higher purpose.
The true measure of a society is not wealth or power or influence, unless these are used to create a more just and compassionate world. The true measure is how we treat the “least among us” and whether we are good stewards of the Earth that sustains us. It is about having the courage to speak truth to power - refusing to be numbed into accepting poverty and violence as “just the way things are” – calling ourselves back from the distractions that allow us to forget our fragility and the fragility of one another- back to our commitment to love one another and walk humbly with what is most holy and life-affirming and sustaining through all the seasons of our lives.