Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Noblesse Oblige of Godliness

Devotion to a good God can only mean a safe, healthy and wholesome attitude towards life.   Godliness irrespective of the religious persuasion in which it is practised, obliges noble responsibilites toward a world that is balanced and pacific.  A world where everyone can fall-in-love, be welcome at weddings across orthodox religious borders because of a friendship that cannot be denied, build a family and live prosperously, raise children in a community of free peoples, live happily ever after with generations upon generations of rambunctious grand-children.  For me, this peaceable world is my favorite prophet Isaiah's prophecy incarnate and I quote:

    The wolf will live with the lamb,
          the leopard will lie down with the goat,
    the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
          and a child will lead them.
    The cow will feed with the bear,
          their young will lie down together,
          and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
    The infant will play near the cobra's den,
          and the young child will put its hand into the viper's nest.
    They will neither harm nor destroy
          on all my holy mountain,
     for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord
          as the waters cover the sea.

The Archimedian point on which the burden of proof for Isaiah's illogical utopia rests with PAYAK.  Piety that is truly goodly and Godly is a powerful virtue in the hands of a humble person.  PAYAK abides by the faith that one is created in the image of God and is therefore omnipotent - the bold and daring potency to ease the suffering of the vulnerable wherever one encounters them, to help fulfill the promise of dreams and talents in a system of equal access to resources like education, health and gainful employment, to aspire for a society where everyone can exercise their right to excel and to be relevant, to promote a culture of life for the young and the old - this is true power.  What would it be like if everyone is free to exercise one's Faith devotionals, to avail of bread and water without putting one's life on the line, for children to play under a clear and benevolent sky without fear?   What would it be like to be altogether fear-free; to dwell in an anxiety-free space?  What would it be like to sleep through a quiet night, unafraid of violence, harassment or abuse of any kind?  What would it be like if the market place allows everyone to live up to a hard work ethic in a harm-free environment and be remunerated accordingly?  Throughout history religion has been maligned, used and manipulated to underwrite violence to the human spirit - using God's name in vain a million times over.    How can bloodbath be Godly?  How can unkindness towards another, gross or subtle, be of God?  How can curtailing the freedoms of another, which we desire and cherish for our own, be Godly?  Is not the God of all religions the same goodly God who has given everyone ~ i.e. of all creeds and races, of all sexual orientations, of all ages and phenotypes ( e.g. visual attributes), of all socio-economic strata ~ inalienable rights for a tranquil and full life?  From my unscholarly and simple perspective of matters religious and political, I can only conclude that it is not the religion but the practitioner of the religion who is at the crux of ill will - the unforunate misreading and misinterpretation of the dogma and the doctrine of the religion, calculatingly using these misconstructions to rationalize burning-at-stakes, holocausts, killing fields, oppressions, repressions, segregation, prejudices, caste systems and all forms of social immobility.

This book would not have been if Moshe and Noya excluded me from attending Ari and Menuha's Chareidi wedding by reason of my I-am-ness - I am Christian among other differences.  They could have used myriad perfectly acceptable excuses to un-include me.  In the early days whenever they invite me to their family's many milestones, Moshe teased me, saying:  "We love you even if you're Catholic!"  LOVE.  Perhaps after all has been said and done, this is what it is that binds us as friends all these years.  All my encounters with them, lovingly jeweled with beauty and with wisdom, have always been predicated on a staunch friendship which anteceded everything that has to do with religion.  Otherwise how does one explain all that is happily recorded within the pages of this book - the wonder of a true, enduring friendship that defies categorical explanations.  Humanity and compassion trump all else. It would have been desperately sad if we allowed anything to confine that which is so rich and exquisite and freeing.   I also trust that neither of us will do anything to harm the sanctity of this friendship no matter where God takes us and no matter how God puts it to the test.  Because of our "differences" we do not carelessly take anything for granted - we are esteemably respectful of each others's sensibilities.

Since I have lived it, I wish everyone the capacity for hospitable openness to people, places, and events one may deem different from what is familiar.  By this I mean zero pre-conceived notion.  One of the uncanny sequelae of this life-altering event is that I have become a deeper seeker into my own religion just as much as I exult in their progress in their own religion.  How true what my Dad used to say - The New Testament is concealed in the Old Testament and the Old Testament is revealed in the NewTestament.  I feel a sense of security when Moshe and Noya respond to my request for prayer at the Qottel; and I meditate on their prayer requests to me as fervently as if I was meditating for my own.  Maybe because I do not intellectualize the religion, I feel God with such ardent enchantment in our friendship.  Or maybe it is as simple as practising without equivocation basic decency toward and respect of the other.  When we are together, we are in what Pre-Celtic (i.e. pagan charism) Mythology calls a "Thin Place" - a sacred space where we are with God just like being under the chupa.  Whatever it is, I wish all of us the humility to enter into the salt of an exquisite friendship like I enjoy with Moshe and Noya,  and bask in its life-giving Light.

Introduction: Who is PAYAK?

Payak is a Tagalog word which in its direct and literal translation to English means the adjective "simple".  When it describes a person, it also connotes humility which is how I use it in this small book.

Payak is a person who is humble, unassuming, plainspoken, still, and true.  Payak accepts one's strengths and limitations, each of which are reverentially referred to a providential Creator and so there is no accommodation for defense of nor desire to prove one's self.  It is unconflicted in one's spirit that all is of God therefore one can only be grateful, forgiving and patient with one's self.  Because one is secure in the brave specifications of one's divine purpose as a unique creation of a good God, one can afford the same measure of gentleness toward one's fellow human beings who can be great one moment then flawed in another.  One has the capacity to exult a heroic deed and to forgive a destructive one.   Payak instantly invokes a safe milieu of honesty whenever and wherever one is present and with whomever one is.   There is never an aspect of dissimulation aware that any form of dissembling is the beginning of violence.  One sees reality for what it is, addresses it dispassionately and appropriately recognizing that every one, thing and event is perfect in God's world and timing.  Payak believes that standing down is more often the best part of valor if doing so will assure the greater good, as such always in an attitude of forgiving.  Payak can immerse in any substrate and absorb it without judgment because there is no anarchy of needs to be other than one  is.  Payak thrives in obscure equanimity yet actively acquits one's being by the effects of one's actions on a larger world.  It is the soothing effect of how Payak achieves what one must that marks one's presence.  Payak is everything and is nothing.  One owns everything and one owns nothing; nothing can be added or subtracted from Payak.  Payak is whole and integral.  Payak is fearless.  And such is the sheer crystal-clarity afforded by humility - the freedom to be one's self, inclusive of the magnificent dignity "self"  implies.  And the precious corollary to this is - the humble person cannot but hallow the freedoms of another human being as a matter of course.  This is what I meant by PAYAK -  a person who incarnates the humility to be free to be one's self and by dint of one's nature as such, the gift of freeing others to be and to become who they are.  PAYAK promotes endless, fecund possibilities for peace in one's self, in one's locality and in the world and therefore is productive of healthful fruits that reverberate creatively to infinity.