I don’t write much about my relationship with the Divine, not for public consumption at least, because it’s heretical in about 40 different ways (I suspect), I don’t want to horrify my friends and family, I don’t want to get into arguments with people about religion. As the “No Solicitors” sign on my door says, don’t evangelize me and I won’t evangelize you.
But I think that what I’m about to write is useful in lots of different philosophic and religious world views. At any rate, I need to write it out to get it straight in my own head. As good a thing to do on a blog as anything else.
When I was an impressionable teenager, I read the book Illusions by Richard Bach. [Let’s also not waste time discussing the quality of his “revelations” or whether he walks what he talks. Doesn’t matter.] Here’s the passage that has always stayed with me:
26. And [the Messiah] said unto them, “If a man told God that he wanted most of all to help the suffering world, no matter the price to himself, and God answered and told him what he must do, should the man do as he is told?”
27. “Of course, Master!” cried the many. “It should be pleasure for him to suffer the tortures of hell itself, should God ask it!”
28. “No matter what those tortures, no matter how difficult the task?”
29. “Honor to be hanged, glory to be nailed to a tree and burned, if so be that God has asked,” said they.
30. “And what would you do,” the Master said unto the multitude, “if God spoke directly to your face and said, ‘I COMMAND THAT YOU BE HAPPY IN THE WORLD, AS LONG AS YOU LIVE.’ What would you do then?”
31. And the multitude was silent, not a voice, not a sound was heard upon the hillsides, across the valleys where they stood.
Can you answer that question? There are a lot of days when I can’t.
A few weeks ago I discovered this video by George Harrison:
The video is painful in places — in case the 70s leisure suit and the giant rubber duck didn’t give it away — although if you can hang on to the first chorus he makes a silly face that’s worth seeing.
The chorus is the key part. Once the Beatles broke up, George was free to write music that reflected the spirituality that he’d been discovering. Many of his songs can be applied just as well to Krishna (his ishta devata, his personal deity within the Hindu pantheon) as to any human relationship, and this is one of them.
All I’ve got to do is to love You
All I’ve got to be is to be happy.
That “happy” is not a request for happiness to be bestowed upon him, and it’s certainly not any superficial kind of happy. It echos Mr. Bach, who was echoing (from a far far distance, admittedly) the ancient philosophers. What is a good life? How am I to be happy in this imperfect world of pain and loss and lack? How am I to be happy within the constraints of whatever ethical system I have been born into, or chosen for myself?
What if all the religious promises of happiness — in this world or the next — are not promises, but instructions? Or even, maybe, commands?
Yeesh. God’s not going to give me happiness, in fact God is going to expect me to use whatever I’ve been given to get through all the drama, tragedy, etc of worldly life and still be able to say that life is good.
I don’t think the Divine wants martyrs. [One more thing religious persecutors throughout history have gotten wrong. Don’t tell the Inquisition.] I think we’re here to increase the amount of Love in the universe. Our talents and our flaws and our passions are indivisible — maybe our journey to “happiness in this world” is the gift of our souls back to the Divine, when this life ends.
Do you know what happiness is to you? I’m still trying to figure it out.