From the time you attain citizenship of this world, you must struggle with your own frailties to stand upright, as a human being was meant to stand.
From the time you yearn to reach higher, you must engage the animal that comes dressed within this meat and bones, to carry it up with you. You must play its own game on its own turf, speak to it in its own language, meditate upon those matters that can inspire it, bear with it until you can bring it to the side of peace.
You must descend to a place of chaos and madness to redeem yourself from there.
And so this battle plays out not only in the spiritual arena of meditation and prayer, but also in the very human world of eating your meal, of raising a family, of worldly pursuits, infiltrating that world so as to conquer it, to rip away its veil and reveal the G-dly sparks it contains, as Jacob dressed in the clothes of Esau, wrestling with his angel on the cold, sodden earth of a night to which he does not belong.
Yet at all times and in every situation you retain access to a point of perfect oneness within, a place where there is no opposition to fight, no choices that could be made, no existence at all, nothing other than “the Creator of all things to whom I am bound as one.”
It is not the battle that defines you, nor the role in which you must invest yourself, nor the opponent with whom you fight. You are none of these. You are that point of peace within.
And so, even your battle is in peace.
—based on the Rebbe’s discourse on the verse “He has rescued my soul in peace,” 5739
-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“War and Peace”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
The struggle with chaos and madness is very much how I see “the human condition” and particularly my own role in humanity, both in the world outside and the one inside of me. Over the past several days, I’ve engaged in a series of “battles” in this “meditation” venue with the various “religious wars” that spike during the month of December. It’s not pleasant to confront other people who have the same basic viewpoint on life and God as you do and to realize that you and they are still light years apart. It’s also dismaying to see people who claim to be speaking for God or at least of God, and to read words, not of encouragement, but of disdain and criticism disguised as “truth”.
But let me change the subject.
Some part of me likes science, particularly astronomy and physics. Alas, I don’t have a brain that likes math, and so a career in these fields was never an option for me, but I still like following news on these subjects. You probably have heard of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and particularly of its use in the recent search for the Higgs Boson particle (sometimes referred to as the “God” particle) which current science says must exist in order for anything to have mass. I found the following quote from the New Scientist article very interesting.
If our ideas about the Higgs boson turn out to be correct, then everything we see is a kind of window dressing based on an underlying fabric of reality in which we shouldn’t exist. The particles that make us up – which bind together to form protons, neutrons, nuclei and ultimately atoms – have mass. Without the Higgs, these particles would be massless, like photons.
Let’s take a closer look at part of that quote:
…then everything we see is a kind of window dressing based on an underlying fabric of reality in which we shouldn’t exist.
A reality in which we shouldn’t exist. Interesting. Now take a moment to notice your physical existence. Look in the mirror. Yep, you’re still there. Snap your fingers. Do a few jumping jacks. Still feel like you exist? Good. But if we discover that Higgs isn’t real, then we shouldn’t exist at all, at least if how we currently conceptualize the universe is in any way accurate.
Go back and revisit the quote from Rabbi Freeman and then re-read the New Scientist quote again. Existence, both physically and spiritually seems so complicated, confusing, and messy. There are all of these details we keep running up against that don’t quite fit together in our puzzle when we try to build what we think Creation looks and acts like. It’s like the Biosphere2 experiment in Arizona where people tried to create a completely self-contained biosphere, isolated from our actual environment, that would be totally self-sustaining. In essense, we tried to build a little Earth inside of a bubble that would work just like the big Earth that God created.
It failed miserably. In fact, back in the early 1990s, Bioshpere2 was involved in a huge scandal where the project managers secretly bled out CO2 from inside the dome because the “natural processes” inside weren’t getting rid of the stuff (kind of like how climate scientists today describe the global warming process). We just don’t know enough about how Earth’s biosphere works to be able to recreate it in an enclosed environment. We just don’t know enough about long-term weather and climate patterns and systems to be able to accurately predict whether or not it will rain next week or next month or next year, let alone how to make effective and beneficial changes in Earth’s climate over the next several decades. We don’t know why things have mass and what really happened in the first few thousandths of a millisecond after the Big Bang when physics were really haywire.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t pursue the answers. God gave us a universe that runs by a system of rules and laws (which we don’t always understand) and I think that system is observable and understandable in the long haul, at least for the most part.
What if we allow ourselves to turn all that stuff off just once and awhile. I think it’s why God sanctified the Seventh Day back in Genesis 2 and I think it’s why the Jewish people (and arguably the rest of the world) should observe the Shabbat. It’s a time when we can turn it all off, all the machines, all of the head-scratching puzzles, all of the mysteries and mazes, and just accept God’s invitation to join Him and to be at a point of peace.
The friendly looking guy offering his hand to you in the photo at the top of today’s “meditation” is a friend of mine who, in spite of the amazing challenges he and his wife face, continues to pursue God’s peace. His name is Joe Hendricks and both he and his wife Heidi are actively undergoing cancer treatment. God has given both of them the personalities and the spirits to be encouraging and to approach life with a zeal for living when people like you or I would want to just hide under our beds and curl up into a ball. Peace isn’t just emotional state.
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. -Philippians 4:11-13
Peace is a way of life, like pursuing the Spirit, like pursuing God. We find what we look for and we are looking all our lives.
To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen. -Philippians 4:20