Truth & Beauty: Belief
I found this post on a blog that I have been reading lately. I have not given in to the current trend (a good one, though) of Christians and even secular Westerners learning about all things Muslim because I was never hooked by anything that interested me beyond E.M Forster's A Passage to India. Every course, lecture or discussion that I have been offered has been a listing of facts: something to file away until I need the information to understand context in a new situation. Not something to study because it is interesting.
This blog has been that hook and is the medium that I chosen to learn from. Baraka writes with beauty, insight and candor. I am interested because she is interested. Like your best professor in college, who was the best because he/she loved the topic. I am also interested because she seems to share a process for thinking about the world with me. It always helps to feel a kinship.
I link to this post because most of my readers are from Judeo-Christian backgrounds, just like me. She has written an essay that is believable in its sincerity and is almost identical to other essays that I've read from Christian writers. However, she did not write this because she wanted to prove that beliefs across faiths feel the same. She is writing for an almsot entirely Muslim audience, if the people that respond to her blog could be considered a cross-section. She didn't have an agenda in writing this post other than to simply sort out her own feelings and that makes it even more powerful.
In addition to this blog, I have been reading Don Miller's book Searching for God Knows What. Although I do not normally read Christian literature, I really liked his other book, Blue Like Jazz, so thought I'd give this a try. It's different from the first, but I like it. He is basically arguing that our faiths should be less about the formulas that we should follow to be saved or the lessons of Jesus that can be followed step by step to make our difficult lives feel better. He says that when Adam and Eve betrayed God (and most of us know what real betrayal feels like and it cannot compare to what God must have felt), they lost the crucial ingredient for happiness: total knowledge of the identity that God had been giving them. Since they were so close to God, they had no choice but to know that He loved them, like they knew that water tasted good when they were thirsty. But when they sinned, they lost that absolute knowledge and since we were created to be creatures who needed to be told that they are loved, we've been searching for that ever since. We want our parents to love us as completely as God loves us, we want friends and lovers and the mailman and our bosses and the dog to replace that sense of knowledge that we used to get from God. This explains almost every bad behavior that we commit. It's a pretty comprehensive personality theory and I'm not doing it justice here. It's worth reading.
But I bring this up because this is at the end of Baraka's essay on belief:
"And that’s ok, for as humans we are ultimately alone. We can never fully reveal ourselves to or fully know another. If satiation was possible in this world it would quench the restlessness that keeps us questioning, seeking & striving, that keeps us engaged in the lifelong search for the ultimate Unity."
Another inadvertent powerful statement for its universal message. She and Don Miller agree.
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