Friday, July 18, 2008

Rami: Response to Mike's 7/18 Post

Ah, the old “nature versus nurture” gambit. I agree this is a dead horse argument. Indeed, I'm not sure nature and nurture are the opposites we claim them to be. Doesn’t the way we nurture reflect our nature? So we are in agreement here.

I also agree with you that people would invent divisions if the ones we have already invented disappeared. You mentioned The Once and Future King, and I’m thinking of Dr. Seuss’ The Butter Battle Book where the Yooks and the Zooks go to war over which side bread should be buttered on. This is just part of human nature.

I may have mentioned this before, but in Judaism we speak of the two inclinations at the core of human nature: Yetzer haTov, our inclination toward altruism, and Yetzer haRah, our inclination toward selfishness. Both are necessary, and each must be informed by the other in order to operate to the benefit of the person as a whole. So there is no way we can create a society that is totally good or totally evil. And yet…

If you put a Palestinian baby in a room with an Israeli baby the two don’t go to war. Sure one may push the other over to get a toy, but it is the desire for the toy that motivates them and not some ontological hatred of the other as other. That level of hatred and fear has to be feed to them over long periods of time. So while I agree that without the divisions we have now the world would not be perfect, it still might be a lot less violent.

I think the image of wholeheartedness is very important. Moving from a divided heart to a whole heart is key to understanding both Judaism and Jesus. When in Matthew 22:37-40 the Pharisees ask Jesus to name the most important mizvot (divine commandments) Jesus quotes the two central texts of the Jewish religion: Deuteronomy 6:5, Love YHVH your God with a whole heart, and Leviticus 19:18, Love your neighbor as yourself. When you love God with a whole heart, which means you direct both Yetzer haRah and Yetzer haTov “Godward” toward acts of compassion and justice, you realize the nonduality of all life in, with, and as God, and naturally love your neighbor as yourself.

Just imagine a religious school devoted to making hearts whole! Rather than learning creeds and traditions, kids learn how to live whole and holy lives. With a focus on wholeheartedness we could share traditions and contemplative practices from our respective religions as means for cultivating wholeness. No religion would be right or wrong, true or false, as long as it worked toward wholeheartedness. Fantastic!

In fact I think we should start this school right here in Murfreesboro. I would call it the Dr. Michael Smith Academy for Spiritual Whole-heartedness. Of course since your name is on the program, you will have to fund it. I assume the check is in the mail.

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