The Muddle of the Future with the Present

Each of us has our own way of pulling ourself through hard times.

One of my main methods used to be: “There is an end to this. Things will be better.” This doesn’t really work now that I’ve been sick for over a decade and facing an illness that may kill me sooner than later.

Sometimes when I’m in bed, and the pain is bad, I’ll think about “How do I keep going?” Over the past ten years my answer has been to throw a hook into the future and use that as my lifeline.

For example, I find something that intensely interests me and then commit to it. My latest lifeline has been teaching a seminar on leadership this fall. I deeply believe that the way we do leadership in today’s world is really messed up. Leadership seems to be more about power and control than understanding and help. But many of the models I’ve seen, even of servant leadership, where the leader is supposed to be the servant, don’t really put understanding as primary. [You can’t truly lead people if you don’t understand them first.]

Lately I’ve started to see my energy wane, my pain increase substantially, and my future horizons seem much less sure. My old way of pulling myself through hard times, with an anchor into the future, isn’t working as well anymore.

This is not a crisis of faith. My faith in God is stronger than ever.

I am facing a crisis of not knowing. Not knowing how much longer my body can hold on. Not knowing what the true diagnosis of my ailment is, not knowing if I’m going to make it to the end of the year or the end of the decade. Not knowing if my next trip to the doctor’s will help me or hurt me.

This crisis of not knowing is not a terrible thing, but it is a very human thing.

Would knowing that I only have a few months to live be any easier? No. It would just be a different type of crisis. The one I am facing now still needs a lifeline to pull me through, it just needs a different one.

As I ponder this issue, I feel joy.

Figuring out how to pull myself through this moment and these times is a living problem. That is, it’s the recurrent issue all of us face in life. It’s just that now it’s presenting a different set of challenges.

For me this crisis boils down to two questions:

  1. How do I find joy?
  2. How do I grow ever closer to God?

For me, working on these two questions, in and of itself, brings me joy. At heart I’m a scientist and a Rabbi. As a scientist it is the search for answers, not the answers themselves that is the work. As a Rabbi, the work is to help others along their pass towards God. As a Rabbi, this blog is part of my work.

 

Death and Faith

Had a long day of tests yesterday. The test results had me considering my mortality once again.

What if my end comes soon?

I find myself surprisingly unfazed. Why aren’t I upset by the thought of dying?

Upon deep introspection I find that it just doesn’t feel like dying will be the end of me, as I know me.

I do not have a belief in heaven with angels singing and me sitting with God. It’s just that every time I looked deeply into the nature of reality, the universe, and God, I continue to be amazed at the awesome complexity and at the same time amazing coherence and unity. Out of the complexity is a simple – more.

I know skeptics who feel that this is all there is. For them, the results seem to be an emotional dissipation coupled with an indistinct desire for society to improve over time.

For me, everywhere I look there is more. There is more to life than just me. There’s more to the universe than we know. There’s more beauty, more of love, more honesty than I have ever touched or even can imagine. With my science and mathematics background I know that this universe is just part of something much bigger. With my mystic faith I can feel the vibrations of the more.

The one thing I am sure of is that this universe, this life, is filled with more.

If the universe is based upon/created through this more, and since I am part of this universe, then I am part of this more.

This more-ness feels true.

If I am right, or if I am wrong doesn’t really matter to this moment. My orientation towards the more has made me a better and wiser person. I have lost nothing by my belief and I have gained a marvelous life.

Within this more I can find no definitive reason not to believe that “I” will continue. It’s possible. It makes me a better person. It feels true.

The Guest House

The Guest House
by Rumi

This being human is a guesthouse.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture.
Still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
Meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
Because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.