The a/c leak has been stopped. At least, seems to be. A fan is drying the carpet in the bedroom. We’re waiting on an adjuster to call about our water heater problem and the damage it caused. Still waiting on word when my mom’s surgery is. I am thinking through the way I deal with my children so that I exemplify love and fulfill my duties as parent as best I can. It is an on-going analysis that requires constant correction. In a word, I struggle.
Having just finished the post about the evil one I am reminded of the verse in Ephesians that says we “wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers of the dark world.” Something like that. Look it up if you want. Are the struggles I have purely my own doing? Or not?
Screwball Christian religious people tend to see bad things as an “attack from satan.” Yeah, right. “Shit happens,” like Gump says. Today’s delicious meal is tomorrow’s… well… you get the message. There’s a good and a bad side to living, a pretty and an ugly, a happy and a sad. Ecclesiastes Three, right? So, again, is all this crap going on from the devil? Is it the devil I struggle against? Probably not. Won’t rule it completely out but I doubt it.
What I will admit to is that there is a thread of evil in this world that twists around all the natural events when the natural world mixes with the human world. Earthquakes are not evil. Volcanoes are not evil. It’s not evil for a turtle to eat a bug or a dog to eat a turtle or a lion to eat a dog. This is the way of the world. It’s not evil for sediment and acidic minerals to eat away at the inside of a water heater until it starts leaking. It wasn’t evil water that flooded our house. It was just water. Chemistry, pressure and gravity. Nothing more.
It’s not evil in my children’s heart that keeps them from doing as they’re told. It’s not evil in my heart that makes me want to discipline them and make them obey. There are many factors involved but at the point where these problems begin there is no evil influence. It’s something else. But evil does exist.
Evil comes into play in our reaction to natural events or in how we react to other people. Fear, anger, frustration, blame, these are the cues that evil takes, they’re the doors we open for bad things to happen. The challenge for us is recognizing where our self paves the way for natural events or the attitudes of others to morph into an evil self creates. If our entire lives are focussed on self we become vulnerable to the evil in the world, the entity called the devil, who can and does push himself upon us if we allow selfishness to rule the day.
The number one way self plays into the hands of evil is by telling us that this world we live in matters. These finite, flabby bodies, self says, are all we’ll ever know and preserving them, pleasing them, tending to them is most important. This thinking will shove us into getting mad at the natural world when it seems to interfere with our plans. This thinking is what pushes us to make demands of children we are responsible for because we believe they have to learn how to “make it in this world,” as in, survive and preserve their bodies. This thinking plants crappy attitudes that lead us to be rude and unkind, to place blame, to get angry at our kid for no reason just because we’re in a crap mood. And it is right there that others are shoved away by evil whose goal is to divide and destroy.
We must not buy into this stuff. We must recognize that all we do on this earth really IS futile when it comes to the physical world. All that we are as HUMANS will be gone and will matter not at all within years or less after our body dies. Our molecules will blend with the earth from whence they came.
Our soul, that which is the real “us,” has infinite existence. So does the soul of every human. Our duty is not to feed our senses, please our body, make our self happy. Our duty is to be responsible souls, not humans. As parents our duty is to teach our children how to be responsible souls, not self-preserving humans. When we fail to understand this truth, conflict arises.
Gautama taught a “middle way.” He learned that neither hedonism nor total self-denial accomplishes anything. Both are roads to suffering. Suffering is what hinders us from reaching our goal of being selfless. The Buddha did not and could not know the absolute reason we should be selfless. Jesus had to come and tell us that. The Buddha followed his heart to enlightenment. Jesus came from God to explain what enlightenment is for. The “middle way” in living is choosing a lifestyle that will not destroy our body and will not make it useless. This is not an easy path. It is the most appropriate path.
The Buddha taught strict standards: no alcohol, no promiscuous sex, no hating or anger, nothing that would cause the body to suffer. Causing the body to suffer also causes the mind to suffer and the heart to suffer. An end to suffering was the sole purpose of The Buddha’s life. Jesus’ teachings are different. He was as adamant as Gautama about hate and anger. But he associated with people who drank, with prostitutes, with crooks. There’s no indication he participated in their excess behaviors but he did not condemn them outright, either. Where the Buddha focussed entirely on maintaining our body so that we maintain our spirit, Jesus focussed completely on maintaining our spirit so that we can best maintain our body. There is purity in the path that exists between these two, the Son of God who called himself the Son of Man and a true son of man whose heart was filled with the knowledge of God.
What does any of this have to do with a busted water heater, parenting, and evil? Everything. All that is good and important we learn from Gautama and Jesus. Both of them tell us, for different reasons, that our bodies and this finite world in which they dwell is not the end and is, in fact, a futile existence to be overcome, not wallowed in as an end in itself. The evil in this world is an entity that wants you to believe there’s nothing but this life. If it can get you to buy into the idea that this world really matters nothing else needs to be done. You’re hooked. Your service to God and usefulness in his Kingdom is nullified.
If this world matters then a busted water-heater is bad. It is costly, troublesome, destructive, and interferes with me making my life what I want it to be. Because it does I get angry. I feed my mind on unkind thoughts. I develop a bad attitude. The door is open. Guess who drops by?
A water heater costs money I don’t have. It interferes with plans. I am frustrated so anything anybody does makes me snap. I am rude and unkind. Maybe even mean. I hurt the feelings of those who love me. I do this because I don’t love them? No, I do it because I am so obsessed with “self” and the world self lives in that I do not think about them, I think only of what I am loosing by that damned water heater being broken.
Here’s a little story. When I was a kid, maybe nine or ten, I found a big beetle in the yard. I played with it and brought it into the house. My older brother, being mischievous, tossed it on my older sister. She got angry. She threw water on my brother and got his bed wet. That made my mom mad. An argument ensued that became one of the worst arguments ever in my childhood. My mom wound up on the floor hyperventilating while my older sister was threatening to leave and … it was horrible. The fuse was lit. Our family self-destructed after that. Nothing was ever the same.
Was I evil for having the bug? Maybe the bug was evil? Was my brother evil for his silly boyish prank? I blamed myself, of course, all the time I was growing up. If I’d left the bug alone….. etc. But really, where did evil show his ugly head? Perhaps in my brother who teased my sister. Probably not. I would suggest the cue for evil in this situation was my sister’s reaction. Not that her action was caused by evil, it just opened the door. She took the position that this world is all there is. She got angry. She retaliated. She caused damage to the bed. Mom, then, also took up the idea that this world matters. She got angry. A fight ensued. When the family bought into the importance of this non-important world all hell broke loose. The devil, that evil one, just sat back and had a good chuckle. He didn’t have to do anything.
This world is not our permanent home. Don’t put its importance above that of our soul and the souls of others. It IS important. It is where we live. We must not abuse the world or our bodies, we need them both. They are gifts from our Creator. We should be thankful. But we should not obsess, either. The Middle Way, that is our calling. Choose not to allow natural events to be catalysts for evil. Learn to take preventative measures, do the best that can be done to prevent disaster, and accept the inevitable when it comes.
I put in a new water heater. We’ll get the mess cleaned up and hopefully insurance will help buy new flooring. A/C problem is fixed. Carpet will dry. Whatever expenses we have had, we’ll deal with them.
The kid thing is more challenging. Relationships are not worked out in a day. What I have to do is learn how to be more compassionate without loosing authority or failing in my duty as a parent. It’s fine line. The way I’ll figure out what to do is by seeking out the middle path, the path between preserving self at all costs and destroying self by denying it altogether. What I learn I live and I teach.
Some day we’ll be united in the next world, the one where futility ends and eternity continues. Between now and then we’ll all live the middle way, respect each other (hopefully) and make the most of this finite world while it lasts.
And where is evil? It’s there, like a bad penny. It lurks. It waits for any and every opportunity to step into someone’s life and interfere. Sometimes it finds doors wide open and just takes over in someone’s life. Admit or deny, the evil one exists. The way we combat the evil one is not by staring him down but by turning our back not just on its existence but on everything that can push us towards evil, including an obsession with self. If we buy into the importance of self and the world we’ll not only endanger ourselves but we project a persona that can and does shove people–including the people we love–towards evil and away from God.
I choose not to shove. I choose to accept, to deal with life’s little problems.
What about you?
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