This is my second Informer article I have written this month. The first one focused on the General Election and the ideas of freedom and responsibility. Yet, after spending nearly five hours researching and writing, I came to a sudden realization, this topic was intellectually stimulating, but left me feeling rather cold. If it was having that effect on me, the chances are, it would also be like that for you. I knew it was time for a serious change of direction, yet I could not get the ideas of freedom and responsibility out of my mind. They could stay, but the General Election angle had to go, in the words of a modern day idiom, ‘I was over it.’ Maybe with all the recent revelations around ‘Dirty Politics’ it is leaving me rather disillusioned with the General Election and politics in general, who knows?
So let us travel along another pathway. While I was researching my previous article, I heard the news of the shooting at the Work and Income office in Ashburton. People I have spoken to are shocked and outraged that such a tragic event as this could happen in small town New Zealand. Our history tells another story. Talkback radio has been filled with people offering their solutions to ensure nothing like this could happen ever again; unfortunately, our human nature determines it will.
Psychiatrists and psychologists will offer their reasons why this man acted the way he did, based upon their own particular model of human psychology. However, ultimately human nature is an unfathomable mystery. Yes, the man will have had reasons for his actions, but whether they are rational is another matter. He was always free to choose a particular course of action and direction in his life. He has acted in one way, now others will suffer the consequences of those actions.
Prior to returning to this article on Wednesday morning, I checked the news on line and read that the Islamist State Militants had beheaded another journalist. Words cannot fully describe the horror of such actions, all done in the name of religious fanaticism. The problem of evil is alive and well in our world and in this small country called New Zealand.
We may attempt to plumb the depths of the human psyche, alas, if we are truly honest, we must admit there are canyons and deep ravines within, which are bottomless.
We never fully know ourselves, we can seek knowledge of our unique humanness; we may call this spirit, which constantly evades our grasp, for we live always within the embrace of mystery
I readily admit, ‘mystery’ is a favourite word I use often in my writings and in my reflections here at St Aidans. Gabriel Marcel (1889 – 1973) was a French philosopher, playwright, music critic and leading Christian existentialist. In his writings he showed the distinction between problems and mystery. He suggested that collecting sufficient data might solve a problem(s), whereas genuine mysteries cannot be eliminated by any conceivable amount of knowledge. At first glance a mystery may only seem to be a really difficult problem that could be solved, if only we had additional information of some kind.
For instance, in the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa, steps are being taken to prevent the spread of the virus and research undertaken to find a vaccine. The problem is quantifiable and measurable; in one sense there is an objective standpoint from which human intelligence can seek to solve this pandemic outbreak.
However, when it comes to meaning in our lives, or evil, or presence of spirit, or soul, or God; there is no objective standpoint from which we may seek to explore these, for they are intrinsically linked to who we are. A writer who has been a mentor of mine for over twenty years is Sam Keen, he writes:
‘A mystery is something in which I myself am involved, and therefore the distinction between what is in me and what is before me loses its meaning and its initial validity. Each of us must make awesome decisions about whether we are or may be become free, what we value, when and to whom we make commitments, whether we trust or mistrust the mystery that encompasses us, how we tell the story of our life.’
Reflecting upon these words, in the mystery of the Sacred One, named God, who is Ultimate Mystery, we live, move and have our being, offering great freedom to embrace and compassionately respond to the wonder and mystery of life. However, with that freedom comes great responsibility. A short poem comes to mind from Abraham Joshua Herschel:
…… the world is not a vacuum.
Either we make it an altar for God
or it is invaded by demons
There can be no neutrality.
Either we are ministers of the sacred
or slaves of evil.
When it comes to what is termed the ‘problem of evil,’ alas, it is not a problem as described earlier, for how much more ‘data’ or ‘knowledge’ would be needed to solve the problem of evil. No amount of knowledge would resolve or solve such a problem, as evil. For, evil, lies deep within the caverns of the human soul, there in the darkness, with no light to shine, feelings and thoughts are slowly transformed into actions, and these have their consequences, as we have seen this week in Asburton and in the beheading of the US journalist by the Islamic State Militants.
Gary Zukav in this book The Seat of Soul suggests:
‘Evil needs to be understood for what it is: the dynamic of the absence of Light….. Understanding evil as the absence of Light automatically requires that we reach for this thing called Light……the remedy for an absence is a presence. Evil is an absence and therefore, it cannot be healed with an absence. By hating evil or one who is engaged in evil, you contribute to the absence of Light and not to its presence. Hatred of evil does not diminish evil, it increases it… The absence of Light causes the personality to suffer. Hatred of evil affects the one who hates.’
These words require careful reflection. The presence of the Light might be the presence of glory of God within each person, for the presence of the power of Light, brings a presence to the darkness within. They also invite us to examine how we seek to respond to evil that is ever present within us and at times in our communities and our world.
I want to finish on a positive note, for it’s this inner Light that we can choose to use for good to bring a presence in our life and the lives of others. When our own light shines, its presence leaves less room for evil to be present. May the following words warm your heart and encourage you to let your light shine.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. Marianne Williamson