Archive for December, 2008

Love Is Not Limited By Kind or Degree-Its All Around Us

December 27, 2008

Not only Is God In Individual Moments, Individual Moments Are In God Also—The Relationship Is Reciprocal

Kabbalah Conversation Continued

“I think I know what your boyfriend is talking about,” I replied. “It’s kind of like what I believe. Maybe Robert is right! Maybe he and I do believe in the same God. The idea of ‘continuous creation’ completely changes the way we see things. Mystics around the world tell us that if we could only see past our ignorance, we would discover ultimate reality. In fact, as we speak, it is as if God is holding us in His very hand. We are simply a measure of that relationship, a communing relationship with God. The bottom line is that we are not alone in the universe. God fills every moment, and that is true for both sides; God is there for us and we are there for God, — the relationship is reciprocal. The creator and creation unfolds simultaneously. Nothing is separate. Everything is interconnected. I know this sounds strange, and it is strange, but seeing things in this light is not isolated to Jewish mysticism, the Sufis, the mystical arm of Islam, as well as other mystical traditions, understand divinity in a similar way. You just have to give it time to sink in, that’s all. Is this any help?”

“Maybe a little,” responded Michelle, “but its still hard to understand. That’s not what I’m taught in class; I’m taught biblical injunctions, laws, and Jewish rituals. And, I might add, I’m actually OK with becoming Jewish. I have had no trouble getting to know what is kosher, and what is not. I like Jewish culture, but this Kabbalah stuff is just too weird. Not knowing what to accept or reject makes it hard to believe anything, or worse, what’s the point if everything is already as it should be?”

“Well, I wouldn’t go quite that far,” I replied. “There’s always room for improvement. Has your boyfriend tried to explain it to you; I mean really tried?”

“Sure, but when I get confused, Robert always says it’s the spirit of the law, not the letter of the law, and then he reverts back to the same old line—the Kabbalah treats everything as a code, as a message that must be decoded before it can be understood—and that usually ends the conversation.”

“Things will get better,” I said.

“I hope so,” replied Michelle, “I really do love him. When it was just the two of us, everything was much easier. Every breath I take isn’t connected to the universe like it is with him. It’s Robert’s love that makes me whole, not some so-called love essence. I mean I love God as much as anybody, but love is really real when I’m with Robert. Somehow I feel cheated; I mean I don’t really know what I feel. Why has everything changed so? What should I do?”

“I would like to help, but some things just take time,” I said, “especially when so much is at stake. I will say this, though; love is not limited by kind or degree. It’s all around us. There’s romantic love, paternal love, maternal love, and so on and so forth. I love everything from ice cream to the stuff I don’t even know I love. I suppose everything that stands out and makes a difference is deserving of some kind of love. There is a special love, however. It’s a love that flourishes in unity and wholeness, an all-inclusive love, a kind of love of love. Not many have experienced it, but it’s probably worth waiting for. You just have to be patient and give it time.”

“You make it sound so easy,” said Michelle, “or are you talking in some kind of code also?”

“Tell me more about this code. Maybe things aren’t quite so complicated as that,” I replied. “Going beyond superficial meanings is good, but a little reflection usually gets you there. Are you sure Robert isn’t saying that you need to reflect a bit in order to get into the nitty-gritty of an issue?”

“No, that’s not what he means,” responded Michelle, “the Kabbalist sees everything as a code. In fact, they used to keep that knowledge secret. In the past, students were selected very carefully. It was forbidden to speak Kabbalist knowledge to anyone who was not ready to receive it, and that meant you had to be at least forty years old. But, according to Martin, everything is more relaxed now. Come to think of it, maybe the old way was better. Our children would be almost grown by Robert’s fortieth birthday.”

“So what you’re telling me is that there’s magic formula that produces knowledge?” I said, “that only certain people have this formula, and with the formula they can read my mind?”

“Why do you say that?”

“Because, according to you, they know all about the God that I believe in without me telling them?”

“No, I didn’t say that,” Michelle replied. “They know about God because God is everywhere. You said it yourself just a moment ago.”

“”Well, if that’s the case, then why would anybody want to keep that a secret?”

“You tell me,” Michelle responded, “I don’t know. But I can give you a for instance. It’s in the creation story—the Adam and Eve Garden of Eden story; they don’t understand it the way I learned it in Sunday school.”

To be concluded…


Is The Kabbalah Anti Love, I Asked

December 20, 2008
Angel Wings

His God Is Also My God And Your God Too-That’s Part Of The Problem-God Is Not Just The God Of Moses Anymore, God Is There For Everyone

Kabbalah Conversation

Aug. 4 ‘82

Michelle and I have been together now for six days. Over the last five days we have become, more or less, familiar with each other’s situation. She comes from an upper class family and, as far as I can tell, this bicycle trip and her behavior in general, represent a revolt against the values she grew up with. She is definitely the type of person I would be inclined to take a romantic risk with; however, that scenario is highly improbable since she has vigilantly protected her space right from the start. In fact, she has pulled it off so well that I am now wondering if I have discovered a flaw in her otherwise lovely personality. This observation may not be warranted, but speaking from personal experience and preference, whenever I engage in a relationship with another person, the moment a “value” is exchanged-shared in common, emotional warmth is also exchanged. After spending five days of joy and happiness with Michelle, it just seems to me that some of that warmth could have been exchanged between the two of us without compromising her responsibility and loyalty to her boyfriend. Perhaps it is not possible for her to share that kind of warmth. That said, however, I am grateful for one exchange that took place just a couple nights ago, and for that I have Michelle’s absentee boyfriend to thank.

Early in the evening, while sitting at a picnic table, we were enjoying our after dinner coffee, when Michelle began to voice her concerns about getting married to her Jewish boyfriend. In order to marry him, she had to convert to Judaism. The marriage date had not yet been set, but she figured it would take place as soon as she completed her classes in Judaism. I listened with a sympathetic ear, but not to sympathetic because I couldn’t help but think (I guess I wanted to think) that marrying into the Jewish religion was just another form of Michelle’s rebellion. What really interested me, though, was the conflicting religious values that, apparently, she and her boyfriend were struggling with. Her boyfriend’s religious convictions, it seemed to me, were moving him (not her) away from Jewish orthodoxy towards a more liberal interpretation of Jewish religion. Actually, finding out that Michelle was going through some uncertainty concerning her boyfriend surprised me, and, reciprocally, she was shocked to find out that I thought she was perfectly okay with her decision to marry into the Jewish faith.

“It’s not as good as you think,” said Michelle, “in fact, I’m using this bicycle trip to sort things out.”

“What’s the problem,” I said, “is it him or his religion? I mean do you love him?”

“Sure I love him, and I really don’t mind converting to Judaism. I don’t really know what the problem is,” she said, “and that is the problem. Maybe I’m just getting cold feet. That’s normal before marriage, isn’t it?”

“Sure,” I replied, “but does he love you?”

“Of course he does,” said Michelle. “Well, I think he does. I mean, yes, he loves me, but it’s different than it used to be. It’s not the same. He’s changed.”

“What do you mean he’s changed?” I said.

“Things have changed,” she said. “Almost a year ago, his brother returned from New York City and he brought with him those damn new ideas. That’s when the arguments started—not with me, with Robert, my boyfriend. His brother, Martin, spent two years learning the Kabbalah, Jewish mystical teachings. At first Robert argued back, but then the arguing stopped, and that’s when our problems began. My Jewish classes were teaching me one thing, but I was hearing something different from both Robert and Martin.”

“Is the Kabbalah anti love?” I said.

“No. That’s not the problem,” Michelle replied. “Love is a priority in the Kabbalah, but it’s all about God love.”

“Oh, I see,” I said, “his God was squeezing you out of the relationship, right?”

“Not exactly,” she replied. “His God is my God, and your God too. That’s the problem! God is not the God of Abraham and Moses anymore, God is there for everyone.”

“How can that be? Is that Jewish?”

“According to Martin it is. At least according to the mystical teachings of Kabbalah,” Michelle responded.

“Tell me more about this God,” I replied.

“I don’t understand it very well, but I’ll try,” Michelle said. “God is everywhere, both inside and outside of everything, and that means God is pretty important because every time you turn around there He is. The forces of the universe are constantly tugging and pulling at each other—light/dark, give/take, life/death, —and likewise with God. He is both transcendent and immanent, so He expresses a kind of duality, and, according to Martin, even the duality of good and evil is a necessary part of God’s creation.”

“Wait, how can that be?” I said. “If evil is a necessary how can there be reward and punishment? What about justice? Doesn’t that contradict the Jewish law of measure for measure, and an eye for an eye?”

“Now you’re getting the picture,” replied Michelle. “Do you see why I’m
so confused! And I’m going to marry Robert, — contradictions and all.”

“So how does he, Robert, deal with the contradiction?” I said.

“He’s got an answer,” replied Michelle, “but I don’t understand it. It’s got something to do with being present in the moment. He says that if it weren’t for evil we wouldn’t be allowed to embrace the good. In fact, he says something similar about reward and punishment, too. The good/bad duality is not just related to individual decisions; it is a product of the collective history of creation. Actions, especially good ones, are not simply for the individual, but for the whole of humankind—the community of all beings. Ultimately, he says, “selflessness” is the goal, and when that happens, God becomes transparent in everything that gets done. According to Robert, we are all moving toward God, but God is/was here from the beginning. Go figure!”

To be continued….

A Human Being, Wrote Einstein, Is A Part Of The Whole

December 13, 2008
blackboard Einstien

We Experience Our Thoughts And Feelings Alone—Our Task Must Be To Free Ourselves From This Prison By Widening Our Circle Of Compassion To Embrace All Living Creatures And The Whole Nature In Its Beauty

Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia

Aug. 3, ‘82

I was in a very different mood after we left the festival. I think it had something to do with the quiet after so much excitement. I can’t put that mood into words, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Michelle likes to stop a lot. This practice is okay, particularly since I enjoy the bits of history that I pick up along the way. Also, we get to share these experiences together, and sharing with an intelligent and pretty woman makes for a very special experience indeed. In the vicinity of the town of Middleton, there was a museum that was exceptionally nice. Maybe the place was less a museum and more a historic site. I’m not sure. Anyway, on the top floor there was a room full of books. I walked over to the shelf on the far side of the room from where two women were cataloging books, and took the book entitled Einstein down from the shelf. When I opened it, a newspaper clipping fell out. I found a quote taken from one of Einstein’s letters in it. It was an incredible quote, so I wrote it down:

“An ordained Rabbi had written explaining that he had sought to comfort his 19-year-old daughter over the death of her sister, ‘a sinless, beautiful, 16-year-old child.’ The surviving daughter found no comfort ‘based on traditional religious grounds,’ the Rabbi said, but had told her mother that perhaps a scientist could help.

‘A human being,’ wrote Einstein in reply, ‘is a part of the whole, called by us ‘Universe,’ a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, and his thoughts, and feelings as something separated from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security.’”

I have had exceptional good fortune. I have had a wonderful and beautiful trip. I even have a T-shirt and a cup that I prize as souvenirs from Nova Scotia, but the discovery of this quote, which essentially states the philosophy that I believe in, and have struggled to express for two years, coming form the man I admire most, is a prize beyond compare.

Aug. 4,

Here I am on a beautiful morning, eating cinnamon donuts and drinking hot coffee. Michelle is still sleeping. I expect she will be rising before long. I used her stove to heat up this water.

Yesterday, after a long day of riding and stopping, we arrived in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia. We checked out the youth hostel and were welcomed with an $8.00 per bed greeting. Even though we were too tired to look for a freebee campsite, Michelle took the lead and we got back on our bikes. We didn’t have far to go. Down by the bay, we passed by a bearded artisan who was quick to strike up a conversation. He was cleaning up after painting the outside of his art gallery. After hearing our story, he happily gave us permission to put our tents up in his backyard. The very friendly French Canadian left soon after that, and Michelle rolled out her sleeping bag. The moon was full and there was a fishing wharf not far from the gallery, so I forced myself to go check it out. At the end of the pier, in the middle of the ocean, I savored the seclusion, moon, and salty air. I just had to. The moon had pretty much traversed the sky when I finally crawled into my sleeping bag.

Freedom Is Measured Out In An Environment Of Obstacles

December 6, 2008
M and music

Luck Is A Product Of Judgment And Opportunity

Nova Scotia Bluegrass Festival

Aug. 1, ‘82

Bruce suggested I stay an extra day because of the rain, and I spent much of it (after the rain quit) at the Citadel, a large fortress built by the British to defend Halifax. I was still feeling the affect of last night’s hangover, so I spent part of the afternoon sleeping on the pristine greens that surrounded the Citadel. After that I went back to the Video Art Center where Bruce had his studio. He wasn’t there, but a lot of friendly people were, which made it easy for me to find a comfortable place to read my book. Bruce finally showed up and gave me the key to his apartment. With key in hand, I left with Major, his dog, leading the way.

As far as I knew, Bill was still with his girlfriend, but after I phoned him from the apartment, I found I was a bit misinformed. “I haven’t the faintest idea where Bill might be,” the girl on the other end of the phone said. Bill finally called me late in the evening. He didn’t stay with the girl he left the bar with. Instead, he met two other ladies and took them out for drinks and dinner. Eighty dollars latter, apparently, he was invited to spend the night with one of them. Budget wise, Bill and I were worlds apart, and that bothered me some. On the phone, we made arrangements to meet and leave town in the morning.

Over breakfast, Bill and I disagreed on routes. He wanted to bicycle the south shore, a continuation of the beautiful scenery we had been traveling through, while I wanted to take the valley route, which both Bruce and another person I met on PEI (who lived in the valley) said was a “must see.” The distance to Yarmouth was the same in either case, so we agreed to go our separate ways and meet in four days. We would meet on the Yarmouth docks, and together board the ferry bound for Maine. Our decision was a good one, but a couple of hours out of Halifax I met Michelle, a female bicyclist out of Winnipeg, Manitoba. She was also biking the Maritimes and was heading down the valley. There was a mutual attraction between us, so we agreed to travel together.

Bicycling was good, a little breezy, but not overly difficult. Last night, when it came time to camp, we agreed to share the price of a campground, but before we could find one, we came to a sign that read the 11th annual Nova Scotia Bluegrass Festival. Michelle was not too excited about it until I regaled her with stories about the Wheatland Traditional Music Festival that I attended almost annually. She still was a little hesitant, but she agreed to give it try. We spent the night listening to some excellent music, some fair music, and some not so good music, but Michelle didn’t care. As far as I could tell, she had an excellent time, and that was what I hoped would happen. There is still two more days of music and we are planning to catch most of it before we head out on Sunday.

Aug 2

According to my belief system, we are free to direct and determine many aspects of our lives. However, life being what it is—part of a much larger whole, that freedom is restricted. It is measured out in an environment of obstacles. Becoming familiar with the terrain makes it easier to make good decisions. In other words, as individuals, we either ignore or utilize the opportunities that are presented to us and, for me, spending time with Michelle was an opportunity of the most inviting sort. In fact, this entire trip has been an incredible opportunity that in almost every case has produced positive results. I can’t explain it, but I certainly do appreciate it. Things keep getting better and better and better. True, this luck, in many ways, is a product of both judgment and opportunity, but I find the way it continues to expand absolutely overwhelming. I sent a message to Bill wishing him well on his bicycle trip home.

Yesterday, Michelle and I spent the day in the hot sun listening to excellent music. Joy and happiness were infectious at this festival. After listening to the Jarvis Bennoit Quartet, which might be the best band I have heard, exception taken for the Paul Winter Consort, we met Earl. He and his friends were camping in the beautiful pine forest next to us. After introductions, he said, “If we like you, you’re family, and we like you.” Being family meant free access to all the alcohol we could drink (Michelle didn’t like to drink, so I practiced some abstinence—less than a six pack the entire time), and a dinner of the best chowder I’ve ever tasted—potatoes, onions, haddock and lobster. Donnie, the black fisherman out of Yarmouth, who everybody admired for his excellent guitar playing and cordial nature, cooked up the chowder. Dessert came when Donnie picked up his guitar and played the hell out of the Jamaican song Marianne. Billy, the banker, and Vern, the septuagenarian, accompanied him on the fiddle, while Elto kept the music together and flowing on percussion. We had just as much fun at our campsite as we did down at main stage.

As I write this, Donnie has already informed me that breakfast will be ready shortly. Last night, after the last set of music finished on the main stage, Micelle and I toured the campsites. We enjoyed the many different musicians we found jamming together. It was a great evening and, for us, it came to an end around 3 am. In fact, Michelle is still in her tent sleeping. It’s too bad that she has a boyfriend. I know we could have shared even more if she would have let her guard down even a little. I was okay with that, though. It’s just that there’s always a desire for more, especially when boy likes girl and vice versa. The romantic in me, however, still believes that Michelle, like this entire trip, is a gift, and perhaps, just perhaps, if Michelle is willing, our chance acquaintance might yet turn into something more meaningful and las