Confrontation with Satan : Book 1 - Accounting : Chapter 1 - Solomon's Judgement
Solomon found himself in a darkened room, laying on an uncomfortable bed . He did not recognize his surroundings, nor did he recognize the face of the man who stared down at him, the form barely visible but the idealized Nordic facial features being visible enough. His voice resonated and struck fear in Solomon's heart: "You're dead, Solomon. Or at least, you are as good as dead. You've been judged. I think you're on your way to an eternity in Hell."
The voice chuckled, but there was no laughter from Solomon; only silence. He was paralyzed with fear. "Hell?" he thought. "Why? I tried my best. I know I screwed up in life, but Hell? I thought I was forgiven. I thought if I made a sincere effort, I would end up in Heaven or maybe some outskirts of Heaven or some suburbia equivalent of a Divine City, but Hell? This can't ..."
"Oh but it is, Solomon. You don't think you deserve that outcome? Let me prove to you otherwise." The dark form expanded into a velvet darkness, making the entire room pitch black. Solomon could only feel shivers on his body, from both fear and an unnatural cold that caused his skin to pimple goosebumps. His lungs shrank, as if the darkness was choking him with the worst elements that belief in an afterlife could spawn.
Filling his view, stretching from periphery to periphery, his life flashed before his eyes. It was every bit of a cliché that he had heard from those who claimed to have experienced a near-death experience. It unfolded like a movie, beginning with his first memory and ending with his last memory. It would be brief to an onlooker, but Solomon felt it as an eternity. By the end, he could only mutter, "I'm sorry," before bursting into tears. His heart sank, as he slowly accepted the idea that he was dead.
Yet, Solomon's heart palpitated at the thought of Hell. "Hell doesn't exist. This can't be real. This is all a lie! Why the fuck am I here? This is total bullshit!" As he went to wipe the tears from his eyes, he found his arms were immobile. He tried to move his legs. Same. His head, fingers, toes, mouth, and eyes could not move. His entire body felt frozen; his only ability was looking straight ahead, eyes wide open, and his mind screaming what his mouth could not.
"You just apologized. Was that not an admission of guilt? Your own words not enough evidence for you?" asked the voice, quixotically. "Perhaps you need another look at your life? We can go through it in slow motion, if you like? Come to think about it, I think it would be more in the spirit of Hell if we just went through the worst parts of your life in slow motion. You can forget whatever good you did in life. Good deeds count for nothing in Hell."
Solomon saw his memories begin to unfold again, and he cried in agony, again. Though his tears streamed, he could not blink or close his eyes. The images of his memory pierced whatever blur that would have been caused by his tears. The experience was unnatural, as unnatural as Hell.
After it was done, golden eyes glinted at Solomon from a curtain of darkness. "Now, just one more time. Third time is a charm, and I'll make it hurt extra." It begun again, but this time, the worst and most painful memories were shown. They were the memories that made Solomon scream the loudest. They were the ones that confirmed his evil and affirmed to him that maybe, he did deserve to go to Hell.
After mulling over the idea quietly for a long while, I've decided to write a story that has the fallen angel, Lucifer, as an antagonist where various Baha'i teachings are cast allegorically. After all, if...
- CS Lewis can use magic wardrobes, talking lions, and evil witches as allegorical vehicles to convey Christian teachings,
- Stephanie Meyer can use vampires and werewolves in situations of complete fantasy to allegorically teach about Mormon values,
- Milton can write a whole book about Lucifer's expulsion from Heaven and the Fall of Man in Paradise Lost, and
- Islam and Sufi can recast the nature of Lucifer's pride from wanting to be better than God to loving God so much that he couldn't bring himself to prostrate before humanity...
So what would my writing be? Fiction! That's it. Just plain fiction. There's nothing about my writing to which I can claim any new fact or canonical interpretation that is either scientific or metaphysical. Like a sand mandala, this story is an expressive endeavor that is spiritual in nature, intended to be shared with others, but eventually to be deconstructed such that its purpose, from a religious or spiritual standpoint, is no more. I really mean that - anybody, Baha'i or otherwise, that would take my writing farther by ascribing hidden subtext, official interpretation, dissident motives, or new revelation is taking my writing out of context.
The story is supposed to be a form of philosophical entertainment, a kind of spiritual junk-food, if you will. Glut yourself on junk food and you'll feel ill. Every now and then a sweet is fine, if you recognize it for what it is. I feel the need to write such a statement because people have a bad habit of ignoring context. If you want something to read that tells you how to live your life, go read some sacred religious texts.
Will I be taking liberties with theological or metaphysical constructs? Will I be entertaining ideas that might be considered blasphemous or heresy? At times, will it seem like I am seeding doubt about religion and faith? The answer is probably. If you don't read the whole story, then you could easily come away that impression.
An important theme of how I intend to write this story will not be its packaging of concepts like Heaven and Hell, sin and redemption, orthodoxy and heresy, submission and disobedience, life and afterlife, or even God and Satan. If there's anything to pay attention to, it will be how the protagonist deals with the existence that he is thrust into and how he struggles to reconcile what he experiences now with what he has believed or understood of his past.
I already know in my head how I plan to structure the story. My brain has hatched the beginning, middle, and ending already. I just need to write it. I plan to write it episodically, organically if you will. This represents an interesting challenge, as I don't want to retcon the plot or rewrite prior chapters. In some sense, writing the story in this way will be inasmuch as journey for me as it will be for my fictional protagonist. Ultimately the story may simply be a catharsis for my need to express myself religiously and spiritually in a different way.
Two friends often shared their lunch together. One often insisted that grace be said before the meal, which went like this: O Lord, thank you for this bounty before us and we thank Thee that You are our God.
The other friend never objected to the prayer, but he remained silent during its recitation. This went on for some time, until one day he asked, "Why thank God for being our God?"
The praying friend replied, "Well, because. There are many false gods, worshipped by others. I pray to the one True God, creator of the universe; He that is omnipotent and omniscient, epitome of justice and mercy. I am thankful that He is our God and that I'm not worshipping somebody else's false god."
The other friend suggested, "Your God is omniscient, so it follows that He knows that you are addressing Him. He knows your willingness and desire to pray to Him. I think the last part of the prayer is superfluous. There's an elegance in not saying. Next time your recite it, skip saying that last part and think it. Think the meaning of it. Try to unravel the meaning of those words in their fullest. We cannot possibly understand it in a few minutes discussion here, but we can understand it in our silence.
The next day, the friend recited the modified prayer before their lunch: O Lord, thank you for this bounty before us. Silence followed. This went on for a while. The first few days were awkward, but he learned that when hunger called, that is when the silence should end. However, as the days passed the length of silence grew. Each day, his understanding of the statement grew. Many days latter, during the silence. He began to weep."
"Why the tears?" the friend of silence asked.
"Because. He is our God. He is everybody's God, whether we realize it or not. Followers of other religions may not know it, but they're worshipping Him. To Him all virtue is ascribed. If they sincerely worship the creator that is all powerful, all knowing, just, and merciful, then they are worshipping Him. God is merciful. I cannot believe that he would punish them for ignorance that is of no fault of their own. If those other gods actually exist, God will surely destroy them for leading others astray."
A few days passed and the friend of silence said, "I think the last part of the prayer is unnecessary. We come here every day and thank Him for the meal. Well of course, we're thanking Him for the meal. The food is before us. The context needs no explanation to a wise and omniscient God. Why not just address God and lead into silence where we might be mindful of the full extent of His bounty?"
The next day, the friend simply said, "O Lord" and began their meditative silence. Immediately his understanding grew. On some days, he varied his invocation, stretching it over a long exhaled breath or through singing. Some time later, he began weeping again. "Why the tears?' the friend of silence asked.
Because the bounty of God is everywhere. I am humbled and saddened and overwhelmed and joyful and many other feelings all at the same time. To think I thanked God for the food for so many years. I am almost ashamed that I did not thank Him for everything else. My wife. My kids. My job. My life. Everything. Even this park bench on which we sit. Somebody made this so we could sit on it, somebody who probably worships God. Even you, your friendship."
The next day, the friend came to their usual place and found the friend of silence there, already in silence. Rather than invoke God, he joined in silence and understood. Time passed where the meal was opened with solemn silence as they pondered the simple meaning of that invocation. Eventually, the friend began to weep again. "It's too much. I am so humbled. I cannot contain these feelings but I cannot express it either. It is beyond words. To think I could explain this would be a form of sacrilege," and he wept and wept the most cleansing tears of joy. The friend of silence hugged and consoled his friend, in silence as he listened to the ramblings and mutterings wrapped in the futile hope of trying to express all that he felt and thought.
The next day, the two met for lunch. As the friend prepared himself for silence, the other friend, the friend of silence recited, "O Lord, thank you for this bounty before us and we thank Thee that you are our God."
Knowledge is not your problem, but it is your key. Continue to learn and explore the wonders that call to you. In doing so, you will find yourself doing those other that must also be done. Your challenge is to find the right balance, which is determined by your context.
Cause me to rise so that I might serve Thee.
I have shackled my hands with idle living, O Lord.
Free me from myself for your yoke is lighter.
I smell the shit with which I have toyed, O Lord.
Cleanse me in Thy purfumed ocean of forgiveness.
I taste the poison of bitter words and deads, O Lord.
Cause me to taste Thy wine of divine utterances and love.
I have deafened my ears with heedlessness, O Lord.
Cause me to hear Thy wondrous call.
I have blinded my eyes with distraction, O Lord.
Cause me to see Thy love in this world.
Oh how we struggle to climb the highest mountains on this Earth, O Lord, yet such efforts are but a fraction of the effort to rise to the summits of the holiness you have ordained for us. The majesty and loftiness of our earthly summits are nothing compared to Thee. The beauty we behold with our earthly eyes are but grayscale shadows in comparison to Thy beauty.
This is my praise of Thee, O Lord. My prayer was earlier this evening, but this is my own expression of my Remembrance of Thee. I bow and mean no disrespect. I beg of Thee to not take offense. My body may lay in this bed, but my spirit is bent at both knees. I rejoice that I know of Thee, O Lord. I weep that I know Thee not. I feel exalted that you might grant me this feeling. I am humbled that you even bother.
The wheels and cogs of this cosmos turn, and I with it. Where my place is, I do not know. The complexity and grandeur are beyond my ken, the scope and breadth wider than my vision. What you have ordained for me, I know not. I only feel humility in knowing that I experience such things.
I have gone and returned, left and come back, visited and revisited. Time and time again, lessons learned, then unlearned and then relearned again. There is infinite minutia in Thy Law, and I am overwhelmed by it all, yet determined like a migratory bird to reach its destination. Each journey is the same in search of home, yet each journey is different, wrought with new challenges and contexts.
Divine utterances inspire me. The wine of Thy love inebriates me. The ocean of Thy mercy cleanses me. You have set me aflame, O Lord. For but a brief moment, I feel a joy of connectedness, yet no tears this time. Is this a glimpse of bliss?
I desire sleep, O Lord. Nay, I need sleep for I must wake tomorrow. Yet you do all this. Why not bestow sleep? To what end do You inspire these thoughts? Why burden me with such private madness to feel such things? Even if my wife were awake, this inspiration is of no use to her. For that matter, it is of no use to anybody else, save me. So why? What additional certainty are You bestowing upon me? Have I doubted you? I know I have my share of recent disappointments. Why bestow this, in light of such things? Is it simply because I tried to praise you as my last conscious thoughts before I drifted off to sleep?
I mean no offense, O Lord. I wish not to be the ungrateful, spoiled child in receipt of every gift his parents' resources can allow. All of this is simply unexpected, unwarranted, like winning a lottery where the prize is but a moment' of being worth more than my lifetime, so far. I would have been content with simply knowing that I tried to praise You, as I lost consciousness. I did so without expectations, O Lord. I did so without expectations.
I recently wrote a friend and provided an example of somebody being on the bad end of Ruhi. The individual in question was on the receiving end of a rude individual's accusations on the individual's spirituality and character for not doing Ruhi. The irony was that the individual on the receiving end was in fact taking Ruhi classes; this individual had simply chosen a different teacher. I sense the student received some certitude for their choice when they received intimidation from a potential teacher.
It's not my intent to discredit Ruhi. I'm not suggesting that rude behavior is common-place. I'm not even speculating that a fatal concentration of such behavior exists in the Baha'i Faith. Not having gone through Ruhi, I cannot judge it. I can only understand my feelings and set some expectations for myself so that when I do go through Ruhi, the experience is objective-driven. This journal entry is my latest thinking on Ruhi. It will make for an interesting reflection to compare what I thought and expected with what I experience.
I sense the fear and anxiety, expressed by some long time Baha'is, is that Ruhi leads down the path to rote expressions of faith and negative kinds of group-think that we associated with more clergied religion. In many ways, I agree that Ruhi has the potential to evolve into that, as evidenced by the behavior of some individuals whose zeal enables them to levy old religion tactics of guilt and accusation against people who don't conform as they do.
My biggest fear of Ruhi is that it will lead to codification of interpretation on things that are more esoteric and abstract. To start with, the name itself, means spirit or spiritual. It seems plausible that as Ruhi evolves that people might suggest to add books that codify abstract aspects of theology, metaphysics, and spiritual life. I admit the possibility of this being appropriate, but I sense humanity will need to have evolved quite a bit for that type of outcome to seem appropriate.
Part of the beauty of spirituality is experiencing the epiphanies and realizations first hand. Spirituality cannot be taught in the same way most knowledge can be taught. Spirituality is fundamentally a personal experience. What can be taught are fundamental assumptions and methodologies that allow people to piece together what they read or ponder so that it can be applied in action.
Most of my spiritual progress comes from trying to understand esoteric and abstract concepts. It stems from the idea if I can understand these advanced concepts and learn to incorporate them into my own life, then I'll eventually become a better person. Many established mystical traditions (Buddhism, Sufi, Christian monastic life, etc.) often emphasize a disciplined process of detachment and reflection. This process of enlightenment makes one more spiritual, that is - more mindful of his relationship to God, to himself, and to all other things in this world (friends, families, enemies, animals, etc.), resulting in a character that behaves compassionately and justly. Mystics understand the abstract because of this process.
The problem is most mystical traditions are wholly impractical for dealing with the human condition on a massive scale. They are escapist traditions because one learns to escape or minimize the effects of the human condition on himself. A mystic learns to exist with love for the world despite its failings and his actions will reflect his conscience. Unfortunately, what can happen is that a mystic might never come down from his mountain of understanding. Such people find the infinite expanse of knowledge in these abstracts and they get stuck there, pondering many wonders.
Isolation from the world has value for some, perchance to develop one's certitude for one's self, to cement that one's convictions are held as his own private testament to God. Eventually one must arrive at conclusion to stay on the mountain and ponder more or to go down and test all that he has pondered. A bird that soars high towards Heavenly knowledge shows one glory, but greater is that bird that then descends to assist those that they might know, too. Charity isn't good solely for charity's sake. It's good because it removes a roadblock that might otherwise prevent somebody from being able to understand God for himself.
I realize I levy oversimplified judgment on mystics, but I'm simply trying to highlight the potential problems of mysticism. I say "tends" because some have learned to practice a more practical form of mysticism. I fully understand that mystics often begin with practical lessons; it is just that the lessons can tend to evolve into dealing with the esoteric problems of an individual's "being" or the detachment process can appear more dogmatic in its institutionalized forms because a lot of people have a difficulty understanding how to apply mystical knowledge. I do not fault these traditions for their view - they just came before a time when they could effectively deal with the problems of massive populations.
Things are different now. Many people are empowered with information and information is growing exponentially. Education is becoming more widespread. Technology is available to work things that would have been miraculous in the past. We don't need a clergy. We don't need shaykhs, priests, or monks to interpret the Word of God for us. We don't need them to exemplify good living. Many of us know through our own eyes and have a conscience that demands submission.
Like mysticism, Ruhi seems to want to develop an individual's spirituality, but it seems to do so by focusing on the practical. It focuses on practical aspects of "Baha'i culture and Baha'i life"... basic worldview assumptions, how to act nicely, how to teach your kids, the history of the faith, how to teach, how to establish good families, etc. etc. Each Ruhi book seems to starts with a small number of basic/fundamental concepts and encourages the seeker to understand how to incorporate those concepts into living a life purposed with improving the human condition for himself and those around him. From what I've seen of excerpted Ruhi material online, only the most basic of metaphysical and spiritual assumptions and concepts are stated as fact. These ideas are communicated through a basic lexicon, embodied inherently through the language of the Scripture. It's a practical necessity to ground everybody on basic concepts and lexicon. Without them you have no uniform way of communicating or discussing more advanced spiritual concepts. A common lexicon for basic concepts also helps to cement some form of unity that is the shared spiritual and religious identity of being a Baha'i.
Like numerous mystical traditions, Ruhi has teachers. Teachers are not an absolute necessity to develop spirituality, but it certainly helps to have one. I believe that a student chooses his teacher. The teacher is afforded respect because the student gives it. Just because a teacher has students means that the teacher will be any good for a particular individual. At some point, the student graduates. He may still defer to his teacher, but that is still a choice, granted out of love and respect, rather than obligation and any sense of perceived station. In essence, he defers for the same reason as he did when he was a student!
I sense the best type of Ruhi teacher, for me, is one who will empower more with questions rather than answers. I acknowledge this as an aspect of my character. If any answer is provided with certainty, it would be standalone text from the Sacred Writings. Text from the Master, the Guardian, or the Universal House of Justice is used to confirm or question my interpretation. Deference to any other opinion is done by choice because I sense alignment with Scripture.
If there is any teacher that I do not wish to have, it is one who expects conformity with their interpretation, their way of thinking, or their understanding of how knowledge should be applied in action. Such people expect deference from me because of how they see themselves. They are the kind of people who assign motive to others, levy accusations of apostacy, and make a point to exalt their own behavior. They are the kind of people who believe they can measure their spiritual self worth in terms of the number of completed Ruhi courses. These types of behaviors are asinine, but that's exactly how you get the kind of dogmas that have caused dissatisfaction with old world religions.
Ruhi is not given to us in the same way that the Sacred Writings are given, so it doesn't strike me as something eternal. I sense it is more temporal, with great purpose and function during this time of Entry by Troops, which I suspect is going to be our condition for a while. How Ruhi adapts to meet future challenges is somewhat up to us, but improper application can lead to it becoming dogmatic.
If Ruhi starts to deal with less practical problems, or if lessons used for example purposes are turned into idealized paths or examples, of if Ruhi becomes the standard manual for describing spiritual growth, or if it becomes an indicator for measuring one's worth, then it is a sign of it being dogmatic. I sense Ruhi is an effective methodology for communicating examples of practical spirituality, with the intent that people will find their own way to express faith and contribute to the improvement of the human condition. I sense it's a way to direct the course of many by identifying principles and best known methods so that people can learn how to include spirituality into how they deal with the practical problems of their daily lives. That said, problems are experienced and understood differently for different people based on their context (culture, geology, race, gender, nationality, etc.). It's impossible to have a codification that is universal in this manner. It has to be localized, and even then, focused more on the practical lives of the audience. In essence, if there isn't a means by which an individual can find a "genuine" way to express his understanding (either through words or deed) the lesson is simply rote.
I'm not suggesting that all expressions of faith must be unique. I'm sure many of us employ solutions to our lives' challenges that have similarities. What makes the expression genuine is something internal and private with God, a kind of certitude or conviction that you are doing the right thing, that you're not doing whatever it is that you're doing because somebody is standing over your shoulder ready to judge you. You're doing it for the right reason; you're doing it for the right motive. Motive can rarely be judged by anybody. At best, we can only judge the outward aspects of the deeds and outcome.
I believe with much conviction that Ruhi is spiritual in nature, but the creation of undesirable religious dogma often starts with a spiritual premise. If Ruhi becomes a platform for understanding more advanced or abstract concepts, it should do so because their is a practical need for it - that there exists a societal problem that necessitates such things, and even then, the lessons taught must be for example purposes. My personal belief is that advanced or abstract concepts don't need examples. Once you understand the basics, the more esoteric things will make sense to the individual at an appropriate time.
What I hope to find in Ruhi is that the spirituality is not written on paper. It might be that spirituality is that thing experienced when what's learned is applied, or that "ah ha!" feeling associated with realization, but those are certainly not the only ways to experience spirituality. I sense, if applied correctly, Ruhi may be what is missing in many mystic traditions. I sense that it's a systematic grounding in the earthly human condition, in addition to being a teaching vehicle that can bind believers in dimensions not attained from typical fellowship.
For me, the litmus test for whether I like Ruhi is whether it empowers the individual to discover God by intentionally leaving the more abstract questions unanswered. For now, I believe that Ruhi needs to be optional. If it ever becomes mandatory, it will be a sign that we've achieved a greatness for mankind unseen in human history (e.g. the roteness of such elementary lessons will be necessary in dealing with greater problems of being on a wide scale), or it is a sign that we are to suffer the same fate as the old world religions. Mankind's hubris has a tendency of proving the latter, but assessing the future is a merely an intellectual exercise, with limited value... and well, we're bound to get another Manifestation at some point to correct any mistakes we may have made for ourselves. But for the near future, I sense that uncoerced submission to this type of instutionalized teaching is an important goal. I sense the kind of fruit yielded from motives induced by coercion or judgment is going to be sour.
The human condition is dynamic, and the problems that we solve tomorrow will be replaced by aspects of our life today that we didn't realize were problems. Codification of methodology has a place for dealing with practical and temporal aspects of the human condition. Very few things of the human condition are eternal. If Ruhi becomes a go-to manual for "how to be a good or minimally good Baha'i", I sense it will become stale and dogmatic
An old friend told me that Ruhi describes three levels of understanding of the writings, and through an intellectual reaction to the statement, I came to accept an understanding of self.
Knowing and understanding the writings are rarely my weaknesses. This isn't some self proclaimed exaltation of my intelligence or my being. Rather, it's part of a setup that leads to a rather damning indictment. Inspiration from a year ago forbade me from reading the 7 Valleys & the 4 Valleys until I after I had read through the Aqdas and the Iqan (again). I innately understood the reason why then but clarity of such self-advisement became abundantly clear today.
My problem is not knowing. It's never been knowing. It's never been understanding. I've always been able to read and process esoteric information, to discern patterns, to test theories on my own, and to understand how one can apply that knowledge in practical, daily life. It's a natural consequence of having read philosophy and religion on my own as an independent student since the 8th grade.
There's also cognitive knowledge and understanding and then there's knowing with certitude. Even the latter has not been my problem. I vaguely remember a conversation (at university roughly 10 years ago) with a person of faith, who expressed polite jealously that God proved Himself to me multiple times. He pointed out that God usually doesn't indulge arrogant challenges of "if God exists, then God will do xyz to prove to me He exists"... which is true for most. Not me. I stopped counting, but it was roughly one to two handfuls of disparate events. I have no excuse. Even moreso is the regularity with which I experienced those moments of spiritual extascy and joy, that flood of overwhelming knowledge/awakening/understanding that serves to inspire one to better himself and transforms belief into true faith of conviction and certitude. Knowledge and understanding are not my weaknesses.
And lest ye think I'm self-aggrandizing. I'm not trying to. I'm not claiming that I know everything or that I understand everything. I'm not suggesting I've unraveled any special knowledge. There's a simplicity to spiritual divine knowledge - it really is as simple as the first few of The Hidden Words suggest - pure, kind and radiant heart, knowing justice, and knowing God. Everything else is a kind of elaboration, an unfolding of very simple, elegant principles. The beauty about enlightenment is that there's always more minutia, subtley, and beauty to uncover in such basic principles. The intersection of the basics and their derivatives lead to an exponentially infinite number of derivatives of understanding. I'm still unraveling and with great humility I can say with certainty that I am far from knowing and understanding the infinite expanse that is enlightenment.
Furthermore, I know I can do. Don't get me wrong. I have my insecurities and weaknesses that manifest in failures to manifest spirituality in action. However, I can breathe. I can move. I can talk. I can see, hear, feel. I have many abilities that most of us are blessed with. I have some unique talents, too, as we all have different talents. Fundamentally, I know I can do because I do everyday... just that I'm not always doing what I ought to be doing or doing it to the extent my conscience demands of me.
What I am claiming though is that God has blessed me with the knowledge with which I can better myself, the intelligence to understand that knowledge and apply it in a diversity of contexts, the spiritual experiences that provide the certitude to know when I'm avoiding my true responsibilities and obligations and when I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing, and the simple capability of being able to plan and follow through on self improvement. I'm sure I'm not alone, and there's nothing unique here for people who have an active and demanding conscience. I am unbelievably blessed.
The damning indictment is that I'm not "being"... I've never gone through Ruhi but I expect it makes a distinction between "knowing", "doing", and "being". I have the first two down... the last part is my weakness. Perhaps "being" is the wrong word. Unfettered? Pure in heart and motive? The "true" in "true seeker"?
In its most fundamental form, my lack of being manifests as the part of me that doesn't want to exist. It just wants complete obliteration of the soul, bordering on being unmade. I know such an outcome is not metaphysically available, and I'm cognitively aware that's just my lesser being whispering and using guilt and shame to its advantage.
What is an option is annihilation of the self, a level of existence where I exist in harmony with what God expects of me. It's an existence with no doubt - just joy in knowing that all that I am and all that I do is His Will, etc. etc. I know I've tasted fleeting bits of that, as that what drives my certitude. Yet with all that I know, all that I experience and feel, I lack the motivation to want that goal for the right reasons. I'm wanting it because it's what I can get... not because it's the best thing in the universe that anybody could ask for.
This is a terrible insult towards God - to suggest that I'm settling for enlightenment and salvation, as if they were a 2nd place prize. Yet, what I want is something more, more than what I am entitled to as a human. It's fundamentally Luciferan. It's the desire to be more and have more than what God bestows. Knowing that I am denied it, I hear the whisper that calls for the soul's oblivion: why bother serving in Heaven, if you're not going to get what you really want? I'm ashamed of this and I've known of it, but I am starting to understand just how unbelievably damning this is.
It wouldn't surprise me if this is one of the reasons the most seemingly holy of people can find themselves barred from nearness to Him at the moment of their death - even suggesting that one is entitled to anything from God because it's promised in scripture smacks of a terrible arrogance. Likewise, the seemingly most undeserving person, with humble and pure intent, can theoretically find themselves awakened by His Grace and attain the everlasting life as His humble servant, doing what He so commands and experiencing the constant awakening of life as He breathes love into one's soul. How such a person serves God may be different than somebody who has consistently served Him, but it doesn't really matter, does it? God overflows one's cup... the arrogant and the prideful care about the size of that cup. The humble and the pure graciously accept it for what it is and are able to drink more deeply, but still - their cups will overflow, as a constant reminder of just how limited they are. And perhaps with time, God might surprise one with an expression of grace, a new cup that is larger.
But today, I have a better understanding of my greatest weakness... it's almost as if Baha'u'llah dragged me out of bed, sat me down, and said, "Look. Get with the program. Here's a laundry list. You can do it. Get to it. Quit complaining. Forget what you did. I'm judging you on what you'll do. And quit worrying about how you screwed up. You're in line for Heaven. That's what counts. Don't complain about others being ahead of you in line, and don't complain about what you'll get when pass those gates. You lost your place in line before and that was your choice, but you're in line now. Get it? I know you do. You perceive the sea of misery that is the human condition... many are those who don't even know of this line to Heaven even exists. Many are just content to do it their way or the old way, and you see how it can sometimes compound their personal misery even with the best of intentions, contributing to the overall human condition that is so often plagued by misery. You sense the complexity. You understand the simplicity of the answer and the difficulty and magnitude of the solution. You understand with humility how small a role you play in the larger scheme of things. You've glimpsed all of this and you turned away because you couldn't bear its sight. How many times have I inspired you to do something, and you chose not to for whatever excuse you came up with. I know that you know. Don't worry, though. I'll make you into one who can brave it, though. When I'm done with you, you won't care about the weight or complexity or your inferiorities and weakness, because you'll have grown. It won't matter because you'll be doing what I tell you. You know suffering. You know because you know separation. You were my adversary, knowingly. Most do it to rebel out of ignorance. But you did it with knowledge and out of spite, and you've paid for it and will continue pay for it to deal with natural consequences for some time. I know that you know. But how blessed are you that you know separation first hand. You can appreciate such plight with such certainty. Most don't even know they're suffering. I've given you so much, but you still shuffle your feet and frown. Others would trade all that they have to get your place here. Are you not thankful? Are you going to spit in my face a third time? Do you dare demand more of Me? I bring you to the path leading to Heaven, offer forgiveness, instruct you, give you certitude, and you can't even bring yourself to want it for the right reason. You're like the lover that can't bring himself to say 'I love you' to the girl he loves, even though she's the most wonderful and loving person in his life. You're the guy that is more than willing to say 'I care about you a lot'. Don't worry, though. I know why you are this way, even if you don't fully understand. I know you'll come around, eventually. In the meantime, get to it. I'll tolerate you doing it for the wrong reason because I love you. That's how much God loves you. Follow through and the change that you so desperately seek will happen. I know that you know."
This year I bothered to actually print out a sunrise/sunset calendar. Funny how information can actually make things easier. In prior years, I always used darkness as the indicator... as in, I essentially fasted from the end of morning twilight to the beginning of evening twilight. So much to my surprise, fasting might be a bit easier this year... provided health doesn't impede things.
I spent my lunch hour praying. I'm looking forward to using The Fast as a vehicle to getting me back on a schedule resembling things before my back surgery. It might just work... although I'm not terribly happy about this massive sore throat and horrible nasal/respiratory problems. I'm not sure I really care if I'm permitted to break fast to heal... because well, these types of health problems have been my ongoing excuse. If my body fails me, I will have transgressed limits, and I'll have the certainty to know that I trangressed. Until then, I'm going to do my best to make it through all 19 days.
That said, I enjoyed today. I mean, there's nothing about my day that I can say was truly stellar from an employee perspective. It's a bit odd... almost like a joyful calm bordering on melancholy mood without pity or sadness.
There's a certain irony in having an online journal and not sharing. There are actually quite a few journal entries written since my last entry, but they take the form of private letters and it would be inappropriate to share. There's a certain sense of safety that comes from having a mostly anonymous Internet. Combine that with the catharsis that comes from public expression, it's no wonder that blogs are so popular.
Still my heart is content in knowing that what I've done is sufficient. There's so much that I need to do, and daily challenges and personal weakness still get in the way of pursuing a more rigorous prayer practice. There's a certain je ne sais quoi about my lack of discipline now that I sense I need to explore... as if, I'm being given then chance to understand how to exercise a disciplined form of enlightenment that lacks the more visible forms of outward structure.
Don't get me wrong - it's not like I've stopped praying or have missed numerous days of obligatories and allah-u-abhas. Much to the contrary, I'm praying quite often... often times, holding my daughter so that she might be accustomed to hearing prayer and not thinking it's entirely weird. My record isn't perfect, but I'm content with it.
Life is a storm right now... not as frightening as a hurricane, but numerous uncertainties exist. Amidst all of it is the one certainty of God. I know I can navigate these challenges with a zen-like efficiency... now I just need to find that zen gear on my motor.