Sunday, February 11, 2007
About the Wise Children Who Ask You — WHY?
As the 21st century dawned, I could hear Yeat’s poetic warning in the distance. The hairs on the back of my neck still tingle with an eerie sense of prophesy being fulfilled in our time…
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
I strongly suspect that the problem many of us are having right now is that everything of real importance in our lives is under attack from some quarter, but that the communities of support that our grandparents took for granted are divided, fractious and ambivalent.
Some things of great importance in our lives seem to be marginalized by religion, or they are denigrated by secular materialism, or they are mocked by the cynical and sophisticated minds; these are the voices that reject all transcendent caring as the mark of primitive superstition.
I think that all of these destructive critics are products of a single malady, PTFAS, or Post Traumatic Faith Abuse Syndrome.
Rather than simply issue a Postmodern Fatwa, I’ve elected instead to outline a better view of life, the universe, and everything, one in which everything of real importance in our lives is of Real Importance, period…
This exercise begins and ends with our conversation with children. In the middle, it is a conversation among adults who aspire to become wise children themselves. Some of the conversation is captured on pages posted here and on the Policy Think Site and others are resident in my personal notes.
ABOUT THE CHILD WHO ASKS “WHY?”
Someday you may be called to answer a child. It will be one of those big “Why?” questions.
This will be your moment to alter the course of history. The following is my personal take (see the footnote below). What can you say?
A Sample Dialogue (A Beginning point for your Own)
Who is God?
God is the Mysterious Beloved who is inside and outside everything, the Holy One Whom we love and the One Who will always love us.
Why do so many bad things happen if God really loves us?
The world is unfinished. We are supposed to work with God to make the world better. God needs us and we need God.
Why do we die?
We come into the world; we live to find God; and we leave the world to find God. It’s like a relay race. God wants us to hand-off the precious stuff to the next runners, just as it was handed to us.
But why do we die?
In the cycle of nature everything is born, lives and dies. Everything of earth dies on earth. When we die we die only to the world but not to God. Remember that God is still busy making the world better, and we are needed to help. If nothing died, the world would fill up with old things until there was no room left for new things. There would be no room for kids, puppies or anything new.
It there heaven and hell?
Yes. But we aren’t smart enough yet to know what those words really mean. When God talked to the Old Ones (who wrote the holy books and told the holy stories), it was mostly in pictures and stories. Even to us adults, God still seems like a riddle maker. This is because we aren’t very smart yet. I think that heaven is when you know you are close to God. And hell is when you believe you are so far away from God that you think you will never get back. But God lives forever and can find you wherever you go – even when you die.
What is evil?
Such a good question; adults have a lot of trouble answering it. But the first question is, “What is good?” Good is the God who loves you because God loves life and God loves you being awake and you being smart, and God loves you being creative because God sees part of him/herself in you. To be good is to love God and love the things that God loves. Bad is moving away from these good things. Think of God and the things that God loves as light. Think of turning to the bad as going into the dark.
Evil is the total darkness.
Most of us love the good most of the time, but sometimes we are mean or confused and move into the dark for a while. That just means that we can be bad, but bad is not the same as evil. No, evil is a very, very rare thing. And real evil is very, very scary. That kind of true evil is when someone hates life, hates being awake and being smart and happy, and hates being creative and wants to take all those things away from everyone else. If being bad is going into the dark, evil is going into the blackness and trying to drag others in with you and planning to lock the door. And sometimes evil is very hard to notice, because evil can be a trickster. God needs us to be smart enough to see evil, even in the dark. And God needs us to stand up against evil. Yes, sometimes this is hard.
So God needs us to be brave. And sometimes we must be very, very brave. But God will never leave you.
My answers to a child’s “WHY?” questions may not be yours, but the questions themselves tend to be the same. By the way: Children have extraordinary olfactory equipment – they can smell spiritual and ethical hypocrisy, phoniness and – especially — hollowness like a dog can smell fear. No catechism or other moral and spiritual instruction can pass the “smell test” without some authenticity of spirit. Many adults stumble over a threshold problem — too few of us live the integrity or morality we preach. Of course, no one of us leads a perfect life. But if we adults don’t attempt to provide moral and spiritual guidance to the next generation, who will? The point of this exercise to be ready when a child asks you “WHY?”. Better to get heartfelt instruction from a humble, damaged and imperfect believer than to hear platitudes from a hollow soul…