Remember that you are but a man… — In Pursuit of Mastery

About as spiritual as I have gotten lately. My thoughts on contemplating and dealing with one’s own mortality. I hope you enjoy.

~Tom – LITQM / In Pursuit of Mastery

“Because we don’t know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens a certain number of times, and a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that’s so deeply a part of your being […]

via Remember that you are but a man… — In Pursuit of Mastery

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Adam & Eve: Legends of The Fall

Or… “Things I’ve been wrestling with lately.”

One of the oldest questions regarding the tale of Adam and Eve and the fall has got to be, “Why?”. More specifically, “Why did God, the perfect being, create imperfect beings in the first place that He knew would betray Him with seemingly very little coercion and then doom all of mankind?”

The answer of choice or free-will in the context of, “Well, God wanted mankind to have free will, so they could choose between good and evil.” makes it seem like they were set up to fail from the get-go when you simply ask, “Why wouldn’t God spend a little more time with Adam and Eve; teaching them about the treachery of the enemy and his ability to manipulate and twist words, cause division and then teach them about their own weaknesses so they would be prepared to defeat him?” As far as the book of Genesis is concerned, we don’t have any record, to my limited knowledge of that actually happening. He spends some time with them and just says, “Hey, don’t eat from that tree or you’ll die.” by way of instruction, and that’s it.

The answer that God planned it that way so he could show off his Glory through Christ makes about as much sense. Besides sounding absolutely terrible, basically He allows four thousand years of tragedy, betrayal, heartbreak, sin, death and destruction, etc., so He can then redeem and save mankind and show off how good he is?

I feel terrible having these thoughts. At first glance, I feel like I am putting God on trial and that I am a heretic, doomed for Hell. Who am I to question a Holy and Righteous God, the ultimate Perfect Being? Why can’t I let God be God and just accept what is written for us and obey? I just can’t. Sometimes I feel like I swing between Atheism and Christianity like I was a kid at on a playground.

As someone who feels this, believe me when I tell you that I still want to believe. To use an analogy from this current Christmas season, its like the kid speaking to the hobo ghost on top of the Polar Express.

“What is your persuasion on the Big Man, since you brought him up?”

“Well, I want to believe…but..”

“But! You don’t want to be bamboozled. You don’t want to be led down the primrose path! You don’t want to be conned or duped, have the wool pulled over your eyes, hoodwinked. You don’t want to be taken for a ride, railroaded! Seeing is believing…am I right?”

“But what about this train?”

“What about it?”

“We’re all really going to the North Pole, aren’t we?”

“Aren’t we?”

“Are you saying that this is all just a…a dream?”

“You said it, kid! Not me…”

I feel like this train called Life is going somewhere. I still believe there is more to this life and that the destination called Death that we all are approaching together is a gateway.

But it’s hard.

So, back to Adam, Eve and God.

In all of this, the question beyond the question isn’t “Why does God let bad things happen?” Although a valid question to wrestle with, the question beyond that, I believe is something along the lines of, “Do we really have an accurate picture of what happened?”

I believe God is misrepresented. We attribute to Him some of the most idiotic and horrific shit. Misrepresentation must be a part of the answer.

Maybe the purpose of the story of Adam and Eve is similar to other stories and legends: to reveal truths about humanity.

Just a thought.

So, I won’t unwind this onion any further. This is just the layer I wanted to reveal today.

Can I accept the story of the Fall at face value? Not anymore, I used to, but not anymore.

I believe there is more to it than that.

I believe there is more to God than that.

I hope so, at least.

The Killdeer

I am writing this with a hole in my gut.  I was hoping to write a follow-up once the chicks were hatched.   As I’ve said before in my first post about the Killdeer, I am just fascinated by nature and I believe that the artwork or the creation can reveal the heart of the creator if we would just open our eyes and allow ourselves to be in awe and wonder.

Yesterday.  The end of the day.  The very last customer.  He was a painter, or a construction worker, or a home remodeler by the looks of him, his truck and the trailer he parked right in front of the nest.  As 5:02 p.m. rolled around, he finished his transaction and walked out of my office.   I followed behind by about thirty seconds or so to lock the door behind him and saw that he was approaching the nest.  I was too late and too slow to say something and watched him step onto the gravel where the nest was.  And with a bit of shock, horror and disbelief, I saw him mindlessly and obviously step right where the nest was with his large boot.

My stomach sank, but I hoped…

Maybe….? 

I didn’t hear the shrieking of the parents as I walked out of my office to investigate.  Sure enough…cracked eggs, a little blood and orange goo as these little lives were twitching and dying right before my eyes.  Based on the way he stepped, he must have kicked slightly backwards in the gravel, for one egg was cracked open with a Killdeer chick half-inside a few inches from the nest already dead.  Next to it, more inside the nest, more crushed into the ground was another of its siblings, twitching in the throes of death.  The other two… I couldn’t make out.  I think the boot ground them farther down into the gravel, assuring their quick death.  Momma came up to me shrieking, wings slightly puffed out in defense and distraction and more aggressive than before.  I had gotten used to talking to her as I walked by, just saying ‘hello’ to the little momma, childish things like that.  At this moment, I found myself saying:  I know!  I didn’t do this!   And I walked away.  Duty called and I needed to help close out the office.

Fifteen minutes had passed and I was done and walking back out to investigate more of the scene.  I stared at the senseless wreckage of the poor Killdeer momma’s nest.  She was standing by faithfully, every now and then sitting on the eggs and shrieking at me in defense.  I got a picture of her standing by the nest.

guarding a broken nest

She and the father were definitely in a hostile mood now.

Wouldn’t you be?

I looked around and noticed that one of the Killdeer chicks were, curiously enough, laying on cement in a parking spot about six feet away.  Could one of the parents carried it there?  Could it have possibly been dragged over by the boot of the worker?  I wasn’t sure.  I didn’t see a trail of any kind that would lead me to believe it was the boot…but from watching the two parent Killdeer, it looked like they were picking apart the remains and carrying them off somewhere, so that could be the reason this little one was so far from the nest.  I took out my pocket knife and carefully put the small, lifeless body onto the flat side of the knife and moved it over to the gravel, about three feet from the nest.  The little momma was shrieking more.  She is just a bird, so none of whatever I was doing was making sense to her anyhow.  Why was I even doing this?  I laid the bird on the gravel and carefully scooped up the gravel and buried it.

Hey…  what can I say?  I’m a big softy, O.K.?   I’m not some green-peace-earth-first-worship-the-trees-crazy-nature-person.

Call this my mourning process…

I’m mad at myself because I had grown attached watching this little dedicated bird and I didn’t act quick enough.

I got in my car and noticed that momma was picking at the nest and then carrying bits and pieces off.  I waited, watching her fly off about ten yards away.  I pulled up in hopes that I would get a closer look at the nest, maybe…just maybe one?  Mom and Dad were back.  One with its wings and chest puffed up and spread out in an aggressive stance (see pic below), inching closer to me and shrieking, the other a few yards away on the cement acting injured.  I backed slowed away from the nest, only able to take a small look, not able to really see anything in the carnage by my feet.  I drove home and during my twenty plus minute commute down rural roads, all I kept seeing and hearing were other Killdeer.  Not in my head, mind you, but other Killdeer I had noticed before in other little areas…ALL of them were out and about at this specific time.  Life goes on.

guarding an empty nest 2

Today, neither parent was present at the nest.  The nest was completely bare, all the pieces of shell were gone.  My small pile was left untouched where one of the birds now lay, and about two feet from the nest in the gravel was the small torso of a Killdeer chick.

I thought back on the blog post I had written before on how the Artist or Creator is revealed through the Artwork or Creation.  Before, I had purposefully left out theological questions that Nature does in fact present.

But now…now?

I said before that watching the steadfast Killdeer revealed to me about our Creator: a willingness to create life in the middle of great danger.

How true this is.  And how much we struggle with this.

God, willing to create life in the middle of great danger and risk.

God, knowing and understanding the risk of his children turning on him, understanding the hell we would inflict on our own brothers and sisters…knowing the risk involved in creating life.  Yet He still chooses to do so.  A famous quote by C.S. Lewis basically says that if you give your heart to anything, it will inevitably be broken and torn, even by a fish or a dog and the only remedy to make sure you do not get your heart touched in any way is to close off your heart so nothing comes in or out, entomb your heart.

That is so true…isn’t it?

I’ve had a few dogs pass away, I cried for each one.  I’ve had a friend pass away in a roll-over crash on a Halloween night when I was fifteen.  I’d never experienced death before on a human level, it tore something inside of me.  Three of my four grandparents have passed away in the last four years.  My wife’s remaining grandparents have both passed in the last two years.  Even without having the best of relationships with my mom’s parents, there was still a mourning that happened with them.  A deep profound regret that I didn’t know them better.  The passing of my father’s mom was the hardest on me, she passed just this year and fortunately I was blessed to be there for the funeral, visit with my grandfather, father, aunts and uncles and assist as a pall-bearer.

I miss her.

The question is commonly asked:  Why would a good God allow evil or bad things to happen?

It is both an infantile question and an earnest one.  Infantile because a “good” God controlling everything ceases to be good.  Like the fish Dory says to Nemo’s frantic father:  “Well, you can’t never let anything happen to him.  Then, nothing would ever happen to him.  Not much fun for little Harpo.”

The question is also earnest in its asking because we hurt.  Life and death come to us like a freight train that has lost its brakes:  totally out of our control, no matter how much we try to control it.

Remember, I’m about questions.  I don’t necessarily want to provide answers.  Answers are not necessarily my place to give.

We strive too much for answers and we are not comfortable enough with the questions.

We believe the answers will lead us to some sort of peace and enlightenment.  But really, we want answers because we want to be in control so we turn to something to provide enough answers for us to have some sort of control.

One man swings wide on the pendulum of answer seeking and claims that there is no God, all is random and meaningless, and he obtains a false type of control in his understanding of things, it comforts him.  Another swings to the opposite side and says that not only does God exist, but he controls everything, a cosmic chess player in the sky, and he too obtains a false type of control in his understanding of things and this too soothes and comforts him.

A drunk driver mindlessly takes a life in “name your state” U.S.A..  A bullet meets the intended victim or randomly hits someone else.  Someone suffers a seizure while driving, careens into oncoming traffic and takes out a family visiting from another state.  A woman almost full term just loses her growing infant with no real rhyme or reason to it, the baby just…dies.  Men, women and children die every day of starvation.

The one man on the pendulum sees these things as both random and meaningless, the other sees the hand of God is at work, doing or purposing all of these accidents, tragedies and atrocities to happen in his grand cosmic plan.

The whole world would say:  These things happen every day…

These things happen every day. 

Doesn’t that statement infuriate some part of you?  Have we grown so insensitive to the death and carnage that happens in our world that we just shy away from it with a glib “it happens every day” reasoning?

And those who have not taken a stance on the pendulum or refuse to play that game, regardless of religious views, are left to question:  Why? 

Try as they might, but even the men on the pendulum are not fully satisfied with their understanding and the “why” haunts even them.

Why….why?

I will not offer answers, especially to things that I really know nothing about…wasn’t that the lesson of Job…all three of his friends AND Job speaking ignorantly out of their asses about stuff they really didn’t know a damn thing about?

There are a few things I hold to that help me get by when someone I know passes, but none of those things are able with all-sufficiency to fully satisfy.  I realize this.

We shouldn’t settle for empty religious or secular platitudes, they hinder more than they help.

We should take the questions to the One they should go to and, I guess, let the answers unfold in due time.

I’ll miss watching that little Killdeer momma and the roaming Killdeer daddy watching over the nest.   I had so hoped to see the chicks and share them with you if I could get a pic.

The Eggs