Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Purity



"What happens when life breaks down?
When there is systemic contradiction?
My name symbolized all that was corrupt to society.
His name symbolized all that was pure.
And I was being held in the embrace of a man who was pure.
And these inviolable sanctities were preserved in those ten words.
And it is the desacralization of all of these.
That has put us in the mess that we find ourselves.
Isn't it true, alas it is much worse;
A person may end up believing in anything?
Think of what it is when God Himself puts his arms around you and says 'Welcome home'."

- Ravi Zacharia, excerpt from his sermon on the Book of Hosea


Found this fascinating bit of insight off a Youtube video, which can spawn multiple perspectives depending on which way you wish to look at it. From a typically orthodox viewpoint, this goes to say that there is a God, one who is pure, from whom our corrupt and impure human selves lay in contrast to. We should believe in him since he provides a necessary anchor and guiding light, and also since he's ready to embrace us insofar as we are willing to accept him. Fair enough.

Another way to look at it (which admittedly was how I immediately saw it first) is that there is a "God" in all of us, not in the self-grandiose sense that we think highly of ourselves, but that there is a pure and uncorrupt way to live that each and everyone of us can mentally conceive of and are also capable of. We can choose to walk its path, or not. Perhaps the nature of man is such that this pure side of us needs to be personified in the form of a "God" in order to comprehend it. But for those of us who can do without the notion of a God, it is still possible to walk in the light of goodness, and embrace and accept that which is good.

From an orthodox point of view, there is one and only one God, which is as much as to say that there is only one way to be good. Indeed, goodness is a unifying force; there are a few universal ways that people can be good, such as by being kind, generous, knowledgeable, honest, and whatnot. Yet the ways of being bad manifest in countless divergent forms.

It comes as no surprise that Buddhist/Taoist practices strive to overcome humanly desires, because it had been deduced a long time ago that most of our human needs are expressions of the impure. Logically, then, that by suppressing, overcoming, or letting go of humanly desires, do we find enlightenment, which doesn't sound so much different from getting in touch with one's pure inner self, or God.

-------------------------

I once took a political philosophy class and had a professor who had many interesting philosophical parables to tell that were also at once magnificent, and there was this one story that has stuck in my head ever since. In his story, a boy asked God for an apple. So God lowered an apple down from the heavens, and handed the apple to the boy. There happened to be a worm on the apple, and it also had a few blemishes on the skin. The boy asked God, "Why isn't the apple perfect?" And God replies, "It is inevitable that whatever gets put into your world becomes imperfect."

I'm probably not recounting this story as magnificently as my professor did, but the basic insights remain. Put anything pure in the hands of humans, and you will naturally corrupt it over time. Take for example any well-intentioned ideology. Ideologies are by nature pure concepts. Any mature ideology proposes a perfect solution towards how human life should unfold and how society should be structured. Everything from capitalism to communism to democracy blows its own horn for having the utopian answer to everlasting fairness, peace, and happiness, and that isn't wrong; the idealistic end game of all of these ideologies are theoretically possible. However, impose perfect ideology on imperfect humans, and we find that we can never run the show the way we want it to.

Is that a good or bad thing? I'm agnostic about it for now, but I think that's how it is for humanity. It'll always be a constant struggle both on a macro scale (humanity's struggle with war, corruption, and peace) and a micro scale (each person's internal struggle between his own good and evil). Realizing this though at least gets us on the right foot forward, if we're so inclined to make things better.