Sunday morning I began attending a 6 part adult education series (free, of course) on the Book of Job being held at All Souls Church at Lexington Avenue and East 80th Street here in Manhattan. The first question posed by Minister David Robb was “Why be good?”, but there seems to be a pre-question, “What is Good?” Is Good the same as moral or ethical or correct or polite or something else? maybe natural or appropriate or desirable? Growing up I was taught that being good meant obeying the 10 Commandments, to love–not just honor–your parents and to be polite. Whatever these requirements or guidelines might be called, the Book of Job clearly depicts a deity not acting in accordance with them. This set me to noticing what for most people is obvious, that animals and oceans, winds and electricity–most humans in fact–don’t act in accordance with the Commandments or Precepts or any other concepts beyond what might be called their own nature. But back to God…
How much human misery has resulted from people expecting God to obey the laws God had made only for humans and then being regularly disappointed at the reality that such is simply not the case?
While the Abrahamic faiths all label people as good or evil as they guide their lives by the Commandments, Buddhists and Taoists–Taoists particularly–emphasize following one’s human nature and simply fitting into the grand scheme of things as being the desired style of living. The Tao Te Ching says we know the truth of this by looking inside ourselves. This means looking past all the beliefs, opinions and feelings we’ve accumulated–the ego–to what others have called “God within” or our “Buddha Nature.” Some might talk about uncovering the “real me,” but that, I suspect, easily turns into the “me I want to be” and sticks me back in the ego trap.
Retirement has taken me from a “senior” position in which I was expected to know and control a great deal and the ego to support that responsibility to one in which I am free to just respond to whatever comes along without having an assigned or defined relationship to it. Relaxed, I don’t have to have opinions or any other habits of thought or behavior that must be brought out in reaction to the world as it presents itself.
Will this bring me closer to revealing that Original Mind, that Soul, that Real Me waiting under 70 years of accumulation? Maybe. I do know that there’s an increasing ease of living, a new joy each morning in discovering myself awake with a new day ahead. Less concern–I avoid the word “anxiety” here–with what I’ve done and what to do next. There’s certainly less self-criticism for the variety of emotions–lust and anger come to mind–which come up unbidden then, usually, pass unrealized. More music, more flavors and sights find themselves in the “delightful” category each day. More options are not only acceptable, but actually exciting in their potential to take me somewhere new. More spontaneous “Aahhh” and “Thanks!” and “Wow!”
All of this ties together. Good, God, God within, fitting in, freedom, gratitude, delight and the rest of the list.
What do you think? Please leave a comment.