A grassy lot inspires a vision of what can be when a community cares for itself.
When I take the bus to church in the morning, I normally get off at the closest stop, walk three blocks north and one block east. At the corner where I turn is a vacant lot. I don’t know who owns it. In months past, it has typically been heavily littered.
One morning not long ago, as I approached that lot, I saw that it had been cleaned. I saw this from fifty feet away. The way things are around here, that little bit of beauty nearly knocked me down. It took my breath away. It lifted my spirits.
A tiny bit of beauty can powerfully affect one’s mood. A mere glimpse of a pretty face can make one’s whole day.
I reflected: harmony is the essence of beauty, exemplified in the orderliness of the clean lot as contrasted with the chaos of its previous litter. I reflected on the relatednesses among light, love, harmony, order and prosperity, on the one hand; and darkness, strife, chaos and need, on the other. What does it take to begin to establish harmony? I concluded that perhaps love, or self-love, is the beginning of creation.
What if the whole community cared for itself as someone cared for that lot?
The origins of chaos
Genesis 1:1-2a reads, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
2And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.”
The Hebrew term underlying “without form” is tohu, denoting “chaos.” Qabalah says this indicates God’s creation of a whole universe — of Chaos — prior to our present one.
The defining trait of Chaos: the creatures who lived there were all “takers,” not “makers.” Although God continually bestowed on them all the same blessings as God does on us; they all regarded these blessings with contempt, refusing to use them to create anything good for oneself, let alone one another.
Therefore they were all in a state of constant, dire need, and found relief or pleasure only in taking God’s blessings away from others. It was a world not of cooperation, but of predation; not of harmony, but of strife — strife that rent the very fabric of existence, so that that world disintegrated into nothingness.
From the wastes, God fashioned a new universe, our present one, of tikkun — denoting “order,” “harmony,” “rectification.” Here, most sentient creatures are “makers,” not “takers.” They are prone to honor God’s blessings, using them to create good things for oneself and finally for others as well. As in any harmonious system, the various elements reinforce and strengthen one another. Through cooperation (synergy), they create even more blessings together than they all possibly could do individually.
All human advancement has come through these means.
Chaos nonetheless persists in many places in this world.
Chaos is where:
• As you walk down the street, every person you meet asks you for money or a cigarette.
• You dare not show your cash. Ever. If you do, someone is sure to take it.
• You dare not give anyone a cigarette where others can see; or else half a dozen people will come up to you and demand one for themselves.
• You have to “watch your back,” literally: you learn to turn your head slightly left and right with every step you take, so that your peripheral vision constantly scans 360° — for possible human predators.
Many readers cannot imagine such a world. Many other readers cannot imagine any other.
The beginnings of creation …
… may pertain less to what God creates, than what we create.
Either tohu, Chaos, or tikkun, Harmony.
How will you regard God’s blessings?
God’s very first blessing to you — is — you. You, yourself, are God’s first gift to you. You deserve to honor this gift. To love yourself. To take pleasure in yourself, in being who and what you are. This appears to me to be the beginning of creation.
To establish a positive bond between you and yourself; to be connected, to be linked; is the beginning of establishing harmony or order in your being; which done, one can begin establishing order and harmony in one’s surroundings, one’s circumstances, one’s relations with other people.
On which basis, one may begin to prosper.
A graphic example:
One of the greatest blessings God’s given poor people like me, is food stamps. Yet many people use their food stamps chaotically, so that they run out at mid-month every month, month after month, and one has no clue where one’s resources have gone. One can establish order in one’s spending, by making a spending plan. One may still run out, but at least one will know where it’s gone, and have some foresight as to what emergency resources one will need, and when.
The creation of harmony can apply to other features of life. By extension, one can obtain harmonious relationships. Children can succeed in school if they’re not losing sleep over “fussing” that goes on between the adults in the home; if they have peace and quiet in the evenings so they can do homework; if the man in the house tonight is the same one who was there last night, and the night before that, even possibly one who’s committed himself to be there for life. People can live in the same residence for years. People can keep the same phone numbers for years. People can put out their trash in the right place on the right day.
Objectionable behaviors will fall away: self-loving people don’t use obscenities.
Our streets can be safe.
It all begins with loving God’s first blessing to you; that is, loving yourself.
The image of God
How do we move “takers” to become “makers?”
Didactic exhortation has its place — Lots of education is available for people who have never met the notion of a spending plan, or have never considered the possibility of self-love. — but will not, in itself, persuade anyone to create tikkun instead of tohu.
Instead, those who would be change agents for harmony need consistently to show forth the desired attributes in their emotions, words and actions. In effect, one must live as the image of God (Genesis 1:27).
I don’t voluntarily watch film noir. It entices me to think and feel the worst about other human beings. Television commercials likewise consistently appeal to, or seek to evoke, various emotions; whether lust, or the desire to be envied, or warm fuzzies.
In human interactions, people normally respond to you consistent with what you show forth. Showing forth love for oneself and thus love for others, is likely to evoke love for oneself and thus love for others, from those with whom one interacts. One wants to appeal to the best, the very best, the other person can offer; to show forth, and thus appeal to and evoke, the image of God.
In Chaos, people seldom get to enjoy the fruits of their own labors. As a result, there is great ambivalence about the prospect of ever working toward a goal, and whether anyone deserves to enjoy what one has earned. What mainstream people perceive as “laziness” among the poor is actually disbelief that one can ever accomplish any thing. I must confess that, at this writing, I am trapped in such disbelief myself.
Let me assert that anyone has a right to enjoy the fruits of one’s own labors.
And creating the kingdom of God in our midst will take work.
|When we have created what for us will be a veritable heaven on earth, a loving home in which children of all ages can grow up, we will have the right to enjoy what we have created. We need not change the world. It is enough that we will have done|
the best we can do.
Related: Victory is mine.