Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Rami: Response to Mike's 5/5 Post

Before we move on, Mike, I want to revisit the narrow way issue. My intent with the Kafka connection was to suggest that the Way itself isn’t narrow, only that we imagine it to be so. Reality is just wide enough for each of us pass through—alone. This is what "narrow" suggests to me--that we must each find our way in and enter alone, and that no two people can share the same point of entry.

The radical individualism of the Way makes it difficult for us to follow. We humans are social creatures, pack animals if you like, and we follow the herd. We imagine that if most people are flocking to something it must be something worth flocking to. Our entire civilization and culture rests on this herd instinct. Kafka and Jesus are telling us something else.

The Way is narrow. It is your way only. Judaism teaches that each of us is a unique expression of God, and that imitating the ways of others is a kind of idolatry. This is why, or so the rabbis teach, Jews always pray to the "God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob" rather than to the more succinct "God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." The repetition of the phrase “the God of” reminds us that each of us comes to God in our own way.

This works well with the parable of the Prodigal Son. He came to God (his father) in his own way. Had he not left home, had he not squandered his fortune, had he not hit rock bottom, he would never have been ready to accept the radical nature of his father’s love. It was only when he realized he was unworthy of that love that he could accept it as the freely given gift it was (and still is).

If I am on the right track, what then to make of Jesus’ call to “Follow me”? In this I would say Jesus isn’t referring to himself as a person but to his actions. In other words, to follow Jesus is to do what Jesus did: to live the Kingdom in the face of oppression. Jesus is revealing a paradigm to be lived rather than a creed to be believed. When we make Jesus an object of worship we excuse ourselves from having to live the Kingdom—all we have to do is believe in it. Metanoia isn't really repentence but a literal getting beyond the egoic mind and putting on the mind of Christ— seeing the world as Jesus saw it, living in the world as Jesus lived in it, and dying for the Kingdom as Jesus died for it.

The narrow Way is the way of living the Kingdom. The wide way is the way of conforming to beliefs about the kingdom. I realize, of course, that such a view runs counter to everything many Christians believe Christianity stands for, but then, not being a Christian, this may not be surprising.

I imagine you have much to say on this point, and I look forward to hearing from you.

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