Being Human: finding God in human life: the human predicament
A book excerpt from the Iconoclast Press online library.
I wonder now if life only asks of us what we ask of life, if life only wants from us what we want from life, and if life only gives to us what we give to life. It must be so, for the whole of life is the quintessence of intimacy, the epitome of reflection, and the paradigm of reciprocity. There is no separation. Show me separation, and I will show you bonds as thick as the universe itself. We are in and through and of this great, incomprehensible madness born in the womb of our own disbelief.
And I wonder if God asks only of us what we ask of God. For though there is gain in serving God, to be sure, there is certainly also loss. And so in serving God one must accept loss. For how can one give of themselves without having something taken away? To choose one path is to kill an infinity of other paths. This is the agony of intent, and also its power.
I had to realize that if I did not accept that there is loss in life, huge, gut-wrenching, tear-your-hair-out-in-chunks loss, as well as heart-breaking missed opportunities, irrevocable blunders, torturous failures, manifold griefs, agonies, and sorrows- if I did not see and accept that this is as obvious and incorrigible as the sun, I was sure to be crushed under the weight of life’s failings, instead of being lifted up by its miracles.
To think of the number of times I watched a lover walking away from me, or realized that a chance of inspiration or growth had passed right in front of me and then out of reach, is enough to bury me beneath a sea of sorrow as deep as the ocean blue. But I could not let loss win. I had to accept loss, and all the bitter thoughts that came with it. I had to learn to turn aside from every avenue which I could not take, and to not curse at my limited dominion. I had to come to terms with what it means to make a decision, one decision, and to understand why the root of the word decide, means ‘to kill’. For just as suicide is to kill the self, and homicide is to kill another, to decide is to kill the infinity of possibilities which will not be chosen but only missed, and mourned, because to decide is to look in one direction, and to never look back, and to know that this is necessary and unavoidable, because without making a decision and holding to it, life is filled not only with missed opportunities, but also with woe and ennui.
In and through the roundabout, fantastic, labyrinth of this cosmic tangle, I lost far more than I care to relate, but in that losing I found the one thing worth finding- my own eternal Spirit.
Along the way I roared because I had to roar, I danced because I had to dance, and I wept because I had to weep. Because I was also caught in being, and I hated it, loved it, wondered at it, and suffered it to the fullest completion of my soul. I dove into the deepest darkness I could bear, and flew to the highest summit on which I could stand.
But in order to serve my own existence, I had to destroy, to disorganize, and to go mad, for there was no other way to complete the necessity of my being, within the claustrophobic structure avowed to our life.
And so I became what it is only possible to become when the opposites of contempt and mercy, thought and feeling, and anger and succor come to exist with equal intensity within an individual- when a person comes to fully disdain life, and yet praise it as glory, without ever contradicting the One. Which is to say I became ...a human. And I became such for no special reason but that I began to care ...with ruthless love.
For a human knows how to stand alone in the midst of a lie. A human knows how to laugh when others are weeping, and to weep when others are laughing. A human knows how to believe in no one but him or herself, and so to believe in all people. A human knows how to forgive him or herself, and all others, and so to finally be capable of forgiving ...God.
A human knows how to accept and reject, how to affirm and deny, how to be different and indifferent, how to fight and how to surrender, how to dive to the deepest depths to retrieve a retrievable soul, and how to let another drown.
And a human knows how to be a man and a woman; to be whole; to descend into, occupy, inhabit, and become the rose of their own life and flesh. To be and to not-be, and thus to be two in one and finally free; to let the receptive, concavity of their being unvex the sublime pleroma, and to bring forth His convexity only in order to protect Her.
It is through this sublime androgyny that the circle becomes complete as the soul and spirit unite in splendor.
This sort of metaphysical tripe is not exactly the type of pretentious pedantry that I care to write about, but I have little option, having chosen to say it like it is, and let the critics have their banquet.
You see, I could do not but rise up from this punishing plane. And man I rose up like a phoenix scared out of its wings. I rose up, bold and mad from the challenge, the need, the impossibility of it all, and went forth into the dark and the terrible, with nothing but hunger and breath to carry me through.
I rose up not because I wanted to, nor because I knew where I was going, but because, beyond my wildest imaginings, I saw a truly horrible vision- I saw that nothing would change unless ...unless I changed it. It was up to me. No one could save me but myself.
I had realized that I could depend on no one but myself. And, still more so, that I was weakened by mere association with most others; that if I, of my own accord and volition, did not step out of the tide of mankind’s folly, if I did not look hard inside and find out who I was, and why I was born onto this earth; if I did not with all my might seize this improbable miracle, I was doomed to never be nor know what was intended for me.
The only one who could save me was myself, and for that a gigantic, relentless effort was needed. I saw this fully. I breathed in, swallowed hard, and quivered only for the briefest of moments at this burdening realization, and after a single instant of masochistic acceptance, all equivocation vanished; invigorated by the impossibility of our tangled predicament, I grew strong, turned my eyes irrevocably into myself, and without courage or fear fixed hard that stare which would never again blink, nor weary, nor die, for I had chosen to hold and to make my own ground, to find and be myself in the hurricane of our ubiquitous confusion. I was on my way.
Originally, you see, I had found an entrance and mistook it for my home; I confused the doorway with the castle, and lived wretchedly in the foyer of mankind’s interpretations. Then one day- by grace it was- I found a hammer, lifted it with my tired arms, and went forth savagely into the pain, the lies, and the folly, and I have not yet stopped from smashing. Wherever there is a wall, there is open space behind it.
The only way I found to break through was to learn to feel. The only way to feel was to kill the mind; to weep, to laugh, to scream, to punch, whatever it took. If the mind continued to hold the reins, the battle was over, and it was an easy battle to lose because when a man’s heart is finally levered open by the jaws-of-life, the first thing he feels is the pain of all he has lost up until that point- lost without knowing how badly it had hurt him. The next thing he feels is the wretched sorrow and contrition within himself for all the pain he has caused others without knowing it. And it is these first two acts in the inaugural opening of the heart which often wreck a man who has never before allowed himself to feel, for the feeling which comes first, if ever it does, is a deluge of all the pain that has been repressed throughout life, in an initial torrent which will not abate until he has felt it all and transmuted it into acceptance. And that can be a great deal longer than a mere forty days and forty nights in a tempest.
Though were life suffering and nothing but, I would easily have remained apart, and never sought to descend. And yet I could do not but come down. Fall and rise, rise and fall, forever grasping through the thorns for the roses.
That there are roses in this painful life, and that I, like all others, try, but can rarely grasp them, that is our torture and folly.
And yet we come down only so as to find what roses we can and then rise back up again, up from the profane, through the mythological, to the divine- from the linear contextual, to the symbolic contextual, to the acontextual- transformations through which we gather and disperse our fragments in a wholly unpredictable way. And so, by contracting and expanding our living nothingness …we become the all.
We all start at the center, and we either explode or fizzle out. If we think or care too much we are finished. Which is why I say it is time for us to dis-solve, to forget ourselves into stillness, to suffer neither knowledge, nor judgment. It is time for us to become innocent again, to go mad, to live without knowing what it is to live. It is time for us to seek nothing, find nothing, run free; time for us to be kids again, to play in the dream of life.
It was in this way that I became Life, but it was a wild and unconventional path I walked, learning that every real decision was left up to me, and to me alone: to spit in the face of absurdity, to live completely in the freedom of the day, and to find my own true being. For in the end there was one Law, and one Law only to which I was bound, and that Law was ...to be Myself.
It had been a splendid metaphysical intoxication which had hemmed me earlier into being, an unharnessable freedom which roamed about my cage. And then finally, through that dynamic haze ensconcing every moment, I found myself dancing- yes dancing- in wild, blind ecstasy, through the mad and drunken night, to the rhythm which I alone heard, and which no other heard above their own.
Dancing the dance called life. The beat and love rushed through me, the flesh gushed pain and joy from the memory of the untameable soul.
You see, it was essential that I find a way for myself out of the agony of time, and the only way to do that was to find the rhythm of eternity within myself, where neither past nor present nor plans held sway, but only the peace and ambitionless miracle, swaying gently in the warm breeze on the farther shore, a shore towards which I swam with desperate abandon, into that thundering chaos of beauty and delight.
I was filled beyond repair, and emptied for the heart to heal despair. The rules had been erased, the truth was long deceased, now it was my turn to fuel the fire of madness and release. I was returning to the land of rapture and awe, lifted out of life, away from the term of our exile, by the very force which had sent me there. I was going home.
(excerpted from Roots and Wings: adventures of a spirit on earth, by Jack Haas)
Books by Jack Haas: Autobiography, Memoir, Spirituality, Mysticism, Comparative Religion, Poetry, Art, Photography.