Chapter 15: The Power of Ideas

Down the Rabbit HoleOver two decades ago, I took up reading the works of Khalil Gibran, the Lebanese poet. I had read his works when I was quite young but did not really connect with his words. Later on, as a mature adult, I took up his works again but this time found in them great inspiration and a personal connection. I was able to affirm the perception in his profound words, in some instances, in very intimate detail because they spoke exactly of an ongoing innate knowledge or experience that I had.

From this perspective we can see that a message like Gibran's can truly be real and timeless because it has the power to move another human being; his message has the power to change the course of a life. Consider that some of the distant stars we see, when we gaze at the night sky, may have already perished; however, their light continues to travel through space to reach our eyes. Because the distance is so great, the light of a star can still be traveling across space, long after the death of that star. In the same way, the light of Gibran's poetry, his history and his message, continues to shine through to me and to many others through countless decades after his death. Gibran lived and died some thirty or forty years before me but his words had an impact on my life. This man, whom I have never known in person, became very real to me and made an everlasting impact upon my private life. He left an everlasting impression on me and affected me in ways that many of my friends or relatives, who are alive and often sit next to me at the dinner table, do not. From the perspective of my inner world, Gibran in death is more real to me than some individuals who are alive and walking on the face of this earth. This demonstrates the power of connections or relationships, illustrates their timeless nature and leads us to the question: What do we mean when we say that something is real? This asserts the fact that time and space are illusions in context of the reality that springs forth from within us. This idea is echoed in the Gospels as well. In Matthew 12:46 we read: “While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, ‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.’”

Perhaps the greatest mystery or wonder in the Virgin Birth is the way in which God became human. Not only did God give birth to his creation but God also became His own creation. It is in this mystery that the Creator becomes the Created. This miracle is played out also with artists or anyone who creates something new. Artists often speak of experiences where they are changed by their own creation. Gibran said of his greatest work, The Prophet, that while he was writing The Prophet, The Prophet was also writing him. That which the artist conceives changes him. The artist's work somehow can transform him, because his work is in fact a meditation or self-examination. The artist's communion is the way in which the Vitality of life informs humanity and this is the way it has been with many societies prior to Jesus, often revealed through shamans, mystics and the like. There is an important passage related to this topic in the Gospel of Thomas, one of the many Gnostic Gospels. The Gnostic Gospels are a collection of manuscripts much of which was discovered in Egypt in 1945. These Gospels were separate from the mainstream Gospels and were followed by a number of early Christians who were condemned as heretics at the outset of Christianity. These Gospels are vaguely similar to the traditional Gospels and contain many of the same passages; however reveal the mind of Jesus in an entirely different light. The papyrus manuscripts date back to around 350 – 400 AD; however, scholars believe that the texts were written as early as the first century. That date is still debatable today. Although the Gospel of Thomas is not one of the orthodox gospels, I think it expresses eloquently the point at hand. In passage 70, Jesus says: "If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you."

Many artists often speak of "giving birth" to their creation and this metaphor is a perfect description. A child is not "made" by his parents. A child comes through the mother and will lead her own life. The miracle in Jesus' birth is that he was not simply a repeated pattern, unconsciously taking on and repeating his parents' traditions and conflicts like most humans do. Rather Jesus was born with a creative force that transcends repeating patterns without awareness. The Virgin Birth and being the Son of God are symbols of the breaking of the chain of unconscious patterns. And just like artists, we are in the most profound sense co-creators of our own lives, living out of that unique impulse within us. This is true only if we live not out of ignorance but of awareness. In that sense, our life is our creation, a divine play; those who realize this truth are enacting the primordial ritual, the creative process. The poet's ultimate desire really is to become the poem. The musician's ultimate goal is to become the music. Likewise, the sage's entire life is a meditation. And he becomes that meditation. As we know very well, a great work may or may not be recognized for its value in its day. This holds perfectly true for the story of Jesus. Even today, the story is not widely recognized for its depth and power and richness, which are leaps and bounds beyond any traditional or orthodox understanding. Many great artists die in poverty and loneliness, only to be recognized many years later for their worth, because their work was ahead of its time. The challenge for the artist then becomes how best to connect his vision with the world in which he lives without selling out or becoming cynical. That was Jesus’ challenge as well.

We see then that everything is divine play. Metaphorically speaking, God is in love with His creation and He is constantly playing the part of the created. The poet William Blake has a fitting line: "Eternity is in love with the productions of time." That is to say, there is a constant interplay between the temporal and the eternal, between life and death. New life emerges from desolation; birth comes from death and the cycle regenerates. Even science echoes this thought by showing us that the Universe is full subatomic particles constantly popping in and out of existence. Jesus' crucifixion is truly a passion. Jesus, hanging on a cross, is fulfilling the ultimate divine play. From this desolation, this death, new life emerges. In John 12:24, Jesus says: "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." Jesus realized this dance between life and death, this interplay between the temporal and the eternal, between the light and the dark in his life; he realized that he was in a divine play, living out a passion on the stage of life. His crucifixion became the burning point, the pinnacle moment of his life. As mentioned earlier, one could argue that Jesus' crucifixion in the end was carried out for himself as much as it was for others. His crucifixion gave his life meaning and purpose. In embracing his fate on the cross and fulfilling his life's destiny, he also opened the door to the rest of humanity by evoking suffering and compassion. This is possible with every human being.

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