I’m a little bit worried about this post, because I know in advance it is going to be about very abstract and questionable dealings of faith. But, I need to clear my head about it, and this blog often is a real help to me in this way. Hopefully occasionally to someone else, too.
I often find I am dissatisfied with my closest friends and companions. And, I rarely am candid about either the dissatisfaction or the reasons for it. Reason being, I see myself as strong, independent, a problem-solver, a hard worker, a person who gives what he has to give. So admitting this dissatisfaction with others to myself, let alone those who have disappointed me, would give the lie to the high regard in which I hold myself. That is, there was a problem with one of my important relationships, and I failed to solve it. Instead, I tend to try to deal with these situations by pulling even farther into myself, and to search for the resolve I need in God. Maybe I will pray about the situation. Maybe I will practice the meditation that I have followed for the last 30 years. Or perhaps I just do that little mental shenanigan of “Turning it all over to God.” And a lot of the time, this actually works. The dissatisfaction passes; the rend is mended.
But sometimes, it doesn’t work. Like recently. I have been in a caretaker mode for a while now, and I have started finally to wear out. But the one I am helping needs his strength for his own struggles. I meditated last night, mainly to clear my mind. But just in the middle of the meditation, I was struck like a lightning bolt by a question: “Where is God in the Other?” I’ve been pondering that question all day, and while I don’t exactly have an answer, I do now know in what direction to look for an answer.
Where is God in the Other? God is in two places in the Other. God is present to the degree that Self and Other hold holy views of each other. Now, we are seldom able to elevate our views of others as we would like. But we do at least have a concept of what it would be like to so elevate our views. It is an ideal, which we strive mightily to adopt, or at least some of us do.
But what is the point of all this abstract yammering? I’ll make one stab at getting more concrete. We all of us must eventually die. In some sense, that means things must ultimately get very bad for each living soul. Not only that, but things seldom go just as we had hoped. There is one area, however, in which we can escape failure. We can live with dignity, and we can die with dignity. I can help you a lot in your struggle to live and die with dignity by at least being as sure as I can that I don’t diminish your dignity. And you me. And that is where God is in the Other. No matter the dissatisfaction, the challenge, the difficulty. If we can’t keep our own and others’ dignity in mind as we go about our day to day business, we’ve blocked the conduit to God.
It is we who bring God into the world, and we must strive to remember this. Our gaze must see God in the Other for God to be in our world. Maybe here’s a new term for this: person meditation—clearing all extraneous projections out of one’s mind, and just seeing the Holy potential of the person you are witnessing. I’m adding it to my daily routine.
One final thought. Laplace once said of the possibility of God, “Sir, I have no need of that hypothesis.” Well, all due respect to Laplace and others of his persuasion, I do have a need of that hypothesis. It makes better sense of my world for me. And now I see that this aspect of God of which I now speak is what is called an emergent phenomenon. We didn’t create the universe, but we do assist God in creating dignity, by seeing others as dignified, even when it’s maybe tempting to think that they are not. I’ve got my work cut out for me!