Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Self-Disclosure of God and Me -- # I

What could describing God, and describing me, have in common? Actually, the effort to properly disclose either -- presents extremely similar problems.

I think of one very significant difference: God has nothing to be ashamed of, not even the creation of people.

But that feeling of shame, which is suffered-by, or chronically threatening, most all of us -- is also relevant to God's self-disclosure; it's a major obstacle to people clearly seeing themselves, seeing other people, or seeing God either.

Neither God, nor I, nor any human being, can be completely disclosed here, not in one post, not in a whole series. Indeed, with such subjects, even trying to approach them too directly might prove counterproductive. This leaves me free to take my time, not worry about finishing, hope to make a little progress.

Either topic will involve us in secular human psychology.

We know, for example, how human beings develop in infancy; and we know what conditions favor good, well-functioning human development, contrasted with the sort of conditions that impede & impair. The conditions that God provides, for the raising of SHis children in this age, are a screaming disaster. How come?

Gabor Mate, who is a medical doctor and a mensch, uses his own life as an illustration of the kind of childhood misfortunes that can result in ADD and/or in addictive behavior. That is, he was born Jewish in Budapest, shortly before the Nazis took over Hungary; and the situation imposed unimaginable stress on his mother. At one point, she felt that she needed, in order to save his life, to hand her baby over to a complete stranger. When they were reunited a few weeks afterwards, he responded by totally shunning her -- a typical infant response, he says, to a mother absent for any significant length of time.

Years later, Mate -- a brilliant workaholic -- had made it through medical school, was married & raising a family, was serving as a compassionate, dedicated doctor, writing a newspaper medical column on the side -- when one of his colleagues suggested he investigate and do a few columns about ADD. Looking into the literature, he immediately recognized the chaotic lack of discipline in his life, the emotional turmoil, the addictive compulsions at work in his otherwise-harmless hoarding of classical cds -- realized that this was producing ADD symptoms in his children, disrupting emotional relations with his wife... His impairments hadn't rendered him a twitching illiterate, as in the common stereotype, but other doctors soon confirmed his self-diagnosis.

If you intended to produce a smoothly-functioning human being, one who easily 'got along with' others and comfortably enjoyed his life, this isn't how you would treat a baby. But if you'd wanted someone to grow up able to recognize and sympathize with the common humanity of people we typically despise and shun -- drug addicts, for example -- suffering can sometimes, somehow, produce a better person. I don't recommend making people suffer; I just observe that God does it and the results can be remarkable...

Sometimes, bleh, the results are simply mixed... I myself didn't turn out to be a doctor; and my compassion could use a tune-up. What I can do -- is to relate to what Mate says about the flailings and interpersonal disasters all too familiar to anyone whose mind has a mind of its own.

My persistent estrangement from mother and father, despite their obvious efforts to make the best of continual quarrels with a difficult son... I vaguely remember, extremely early, lying in a hospital bed, missing them a great deal. There were several times this might have been; a favorite aunt used to talk about how I'd been when she'd first met me, but then when I'd just come back from the hospital one time, she said, "You just kept wringing your hands." People have suffered more; people have suffered less; the thing about this kind of suffering, with a child of the right age... is that one doesn't grow up with reasonable emotional 'control'; our emotions overwhelm or they hide altogether."Work habits?" One is obsessed about a subject, or one just can't squeeze it into one's mind.

I can sometimes envy other people's more conventional lives... but when I think about it, no, this life I was intended to be has been a marvelous gift, exactly as it is.

Quoting Rabbi Arthur Waskow: "...in the Talmud—that extraordinary collection of Rabbinic wisdom over five centuries and a few thousand miles of separation — there is an ongoing discussion on the Torah passage in Genesis that says, 'God created humankind in God’s own Image.' B’tselem elohim.

"So one of the rabbis asks, 'What does this mean, "In God’s image?” ' And another rabbi answers, 'When Caesar puts his image on a coin, all the coins come out identical. When that One Who is beyond rulers puts the Divine Image on a coin, all the coins come out unique.' ”

So, today. A little about me, a little about God and how SHe works.


Barb said...

and so perhaps bumbling along trying to be helpful to others isn't that far off track after all...

olivia said...

yes, bumbling, flailing, failing...

still -- or even more so - on track than if we'd had our "druthers"?

then -- Can do! I can accomplish that! ha Thanks, Forrest.