Friday, November 23, 2012
The Beatitudes- Blessed are the poor in spirit
Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Mathew 5, The Holy Bible) - I understand this to mean that if I am enjoying the garden of eden externally I can't really appreciate the real garden of eden internally. When I'm wholly fulfilled in the outer world, having sex, eating, basking in the praise of colleagues, appreciating the adulation of an audience, getting money, working desperately on a deadline, saving my life in a life crisis, saving another's life, being happy and cozy with family and friends - well all these 'worldly' things are fulfilling in themselves. There's no wrong in that either. Life is not to be shunned by enjoyed as Jesus enjoyed the wedding celebrations and walking, talking, eating and boating with his friends. The areligionist Spinoza celebrated nature. He encouraged we glory in the reality of the day and moment. He celebrated the material. In the celebration of the material we are fulfilled in and by the material. But when our 'innocence' is lost, when the 'world' fails to fulfill our expectations of it, when we experience loss or failure, when we become jaded by the very limitations of nature, then we are in a position to reflect on what is the ocean versus what is the wave. This is all transient. Only God is permanent. I never get over how buying something at the dollar store lifts me up for that moment but not long after this 'fix' in consumer world terms, is gone. It's like sex or eating or running a race. Not long after an orgasm I would like another. Sometimes I can hardly wait for my next meal. I love a cup of coffee and often have two. The reason 'pacman' was so popular was because it imitated reality. Even those high culture moments when I experience the bliss of love (see C.S. Lewis - the 4 loves) or cherish a grand performance, the 'feeling' and 'memory' linger on but over time there's a desire for more. Trungpa the great Buddhist teacher described westerners as 'spiritual consumers' and cautioned us against approaching the spiritual as a 'smorgasbord' to pick and choose from. Jesus said that " For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven." "Righteousness" was the all encompassing word that referred to all aspects of our person and life. There were to be no secrets from God and we were not to be 'good' in the church and then have 'sharp' business practices or 'lie' when convenient in love, or any number of slippery slope ideas and actions. There was no place for 'cherry picking' in the gospels despite the tendency of this sort of activity in courts today and all to often in the "soundbite' media, especially the entertainment industry called "news". Everything was in context. Everything is the message. That is central to spirituality, the inclusivity of the very idea. We also can't rest on our laurels. Today is the summation of ourselves and how we are spiritually today is what is most important. Those who are blessed are poor in spirit today and know that the kingdom of heaven is nigh. It can refer also to the elderly or sick because then our spirit is naturally low compared to the very young whose spirit burns bright with zest and energy for life. In this sense spirit refers to 'life force'. This is something the scientists really still don't know. The word 'depression' gets a corner of the idea. To the ancients though it was a well understood term. To Jesus's listeners as opposed to us today the word 'spirit' was as clearly understood as the word 'blood' would be to us today. Kingdom of Heaven was another phrase that the listeners of Jesus understood in a way we might understand the term 'aeroplane'. The listeners of Jesus were raised in pious communities. There was spirituality in community and activities. Life and death were all about them. They were not aloof and apart like so many today protected in their high rise apartments with all manner of antiseptics and only friends of their own age with little experience of death or ideas different from their own. Life in Jesus's day was like a village or marketplace with countryside and animals and chickens underfoot. There was no deodorant and iPhones. Today in our cities we don't even see where our food comes from and don't know how many people died to build an airstrip. We are ignorant of the world and ignorant to a large degree of nature and spirit. Our knowledge is of the intellect, the ego. and the computer. Much of our days are lived in cartoon worlds. It's a thin slice of reality yet we have little humility, ego needing so little to puff itself up. In truth, I'm insignificantly significant and significantly insignificant. In the eyes of God I'm a son and a creation and God's love is infinite. That is the wonder of Grace. Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. That is a message of supreme hope and deliverance.