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September 2007

2007, An-Nahar, Articles

The ‘I’ and the ‘Other’ / 22-09-2007

You either encounter the Others in love, or you bring them back to yourself, your centrality and your desire. Whenever you overdo in this [second possibility], then in reality you deny and eliminate the Others. Pascal, the great, had called the self-centered ‘I’ detestable and in his language:  le moi est haïssable. You, as God has designed you, are a beloved person and this is of your essence. However, your person is existent in its individuality, since the individual [person] encounters the individual [person] with all its personhood and existence.

Through asceticism you might put the ‘I’, which takes hold of the ‘Other’, to death as possible, while the surrendering self endows you and others through you with life. However, your ‘I’ and the ‘I’ of the Other would not meet, unless you could perceive the Other as essential for you, even to breathe. I said essential and not only helpful, since I have realized that you do not exist without bountiful love, to which the loved one might reciprocate or might not. Nevertheless, in most cases, love calls upon love since it exists in every soul in its divine image.

I do not exist alone. I exist whenever another loves me and whenever he/[she] is liberated from the ‘I’ which takes hold [of another] or is been taken hold of. However, in order that you might not take hold of the Other and might not be taken hold of, there must be One who embraces both of you, One who liberates both and that is God. For a unity there must be always a triad, and I am speaking humanly. All human beings together are in the image of divine Love, which whenever falls exterminates the drastic ‘I’, i.e. destructive of itself and the Other self, and then God fails to be present.

The presentiment of the self is to help the Other, and helping means that you desire for the Other what God wants from him/[her] and that you remind the Other of the truth and not of what he/[she] thinks is useful. This might cause a shock and the Other might not feel your love whenever he/[she] considers his/[her] own benefits and pleasures which exterminate him/[her], while you want to move the Other into God. This is pictured in the family, where the father or the mother does not comply with the demands of the child, who might want that which harms him/[her] or aggrandize his/[her] desire to posses. Thus, the parents might think that deprivation could help. Similarly, the watchful state, which cares about the true welfare of its citizens, it complies with their just claims, and it does not fulfill their unjust demands. Whenever the government is good and hale, it strives for the rising of the whole state, with giving preference to the underprivileged regions over the sumptuous ones. This is the interim service, since the government and the guardianship is to serve all. This is similar to the shepherd who shepherds a hundred sheep. Whenever one of them goes astray on the mountains, he leaves the ninety-nine and goes to bring the lost one back. This is the inclusive [universal] love. The spiritual care is similar to this. The responsible, first takes care of the one, whose whims had distracted him/[her], since the rest are still within right guidance.

Such is the case with engagement in thought. You are in confrontation with another, who has thought, not to dictate on him/[her] your convictions but to give and take at the same time. This is dialogue. You confront different stances whenever you dialogue for reaching at the right thing, which you might defend or your opponent might defend (in thought), since you are a seeker of truth, which descends upon you and upon the one whom you are dialoguing.

Truth, or part of it, descends upon you, and truth, or part of it, descends upon another. Thus you take the truth wherever it is revealed, since you do not necessarily want triumph for you position. You rectify what you have said and you throw away the wickedness or the fault that you had and became conscious of. You get enriched with the rightness that your opponent had, and you make him/[her] a brother/[sister] to you. You hold fast only to that which seems to be words of divine inspiration, regardless whether this inspiration has come to you or to the Other.

In the religious domain, do not disapprove the belief of the Other and he/[she] should not disapprove yours, otherwise you would fall into controversy, while controversy has been discarded in the modern mindset. Rather, you inquire into the Other’s belief and you clarify what you believe in to the Other. Then, you leave to God the right to enlighten whoever God wills. This would not be realized without a peaceful meeting together and without the right of all people to claim whatever they think is true. This is the condition for freedom, whether for you or for the Other; otherwise you and the Other would fall into a system of oppression, if we should not say fighting.

The condition of such peace is that God guides whomever God wills. To accept this divine Mystery is the condition of your entry into dialogue, since the condition for freedom is peace. Whenever you commit yourself to dialogue, you do not pursue to bring anyone coercively into what you believe in, rather you seek the light that God throws into the heart, as ̓Imām Al- Ghazālī says. You do not liberate any human being; rather the Truth sets us all free. In Sūrat al-Kāfirūn it says: “You have your religion and I have mine.” (Sūrat al-Kāfirūn [The Unbelievers]: 6) I understand this statement as claiming the freedom of both of us, you and me, which does not prevent that I discuss with you about some points or details, without asking you to renounce what is authentic in you. Further, I hope that I can help you to find out your and my origins. The condition for such praiseworthy communication is that I love you and you love me, since this is peace. Further, the [final] purpose is that I do not embarrass you and you do not embarrass me and that we meet in all that we consider divine manifestations. Thus, I respect what you say and you respect what I say in order that we reach an understanding in this world and God reveals Godself on the Last Day.

In order that I might become what I am, and you what you are, I do not covet what you have and you do not covet what I have, otherwise I would not stay myself. God has provided me with my wants and has provided you with yours. All these are the belongings of the world while we are free from the world and all that is in it. You might long only for divine grace, which descends upon us. Hence, each of us might grow in his/[her] gifts and we might hope for the spiritual gifts that the Other has, since these are God’s gifts for all. Therefore, I long for your virtues in order that my inner reality might embellish. Thus, if you were deified and you have moved in tenderness toward me, I, in my turn, move and become deified. This is the deep communion between us, which makes us each imitate the Other since we both seek deification. We become one through divine passion that is in us. According to our spiritual books, a man knocked the door of heaven and he heard from inside someone asking, ‘who is the knocker?’ He said ‘I am’. The door was not opened for him. Then, he knocked again and he was asked ‘who is the knocker?’ He said ‘I am’. It was not opened, until he knocked for the third time, and he was asked again ‘who is the knocker?’ He said: ‘You are’. Then, the door of heaven was opened for him. The message is that whenever one unites oneself with God, he/[she] enters the Kingdom.

Accordingly, you unite your ‘I’ with another ‘I’ and you become one, with maintaining forever the person and the individuality [of each] as independent and enduring, however in interpenetration with the Other ‘I’. We do not dissolve in the Other, since this is pantheism. Nevertheless, the person would be eliminated without it being contiguous, in will and heart, with the Other person, yet without confusion.

There is no relationship without a dyad, but with no separation, since God sees you one in intimacy and intimacy would not be faultless whenever it does not share divine intimacy to every human being. God does not eliminate diversity, but God eliminates discord. Hence, the mystery of your unity resembles Divine unity. We are different persons in our longing to unity. Thus, I respect your dispositions and you respect mine, although each of us might attempt to guide the Other on this level. I might be impulsive and you might be less spontaneous. You might be great in sensitivity and I might be weak in it. Nevertheless, depending on your psychological formation, you attempt to accept me and I attempt to accept you. The origins of our dispositions do not change, yet, through acknowledging the creative affection [of the Other], one embellishes and becomes more pleasant. You endeavor, with whatever you have, to reach at the most sublime, however within the context of your human reality. This endeavor does not distinguish among people, whenever one is consciously aware, i.e. whenever one’s mind and soul is widened to embrace the Other.

Only the embraced one [truly] lives. Thus, you become a mother for all, begetting the Others within the Divine reality whenever you train yourself not to give anything other than God. You clarify your inclinations, but you do not impose them. You open yourself, but you do not disperse it by replicating the Other. You are unique even though you become bountiful. Generosity alone does not threaten a human being, and it does not dissolve him/[her]. You are unique and no other resembles you, but you are not one, since you meet another. That is the poured ‘I’, the purified one, which strives to purify itself and the Other, thus, it and the Other exist.

Translated by Sylvie Avakian-Maamarbashi

Original Text: “الأنا والآخر” –An Nahar- 22-09-2007

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2007, An-Nahar, Articles

The Vertical and Horizontal Dimension / 15.09.07

The Lord is the only light that shines in the darkness of this world. All else is but misery and pastime. I can see why Man thinks that he expands himself with his pastime and that he falls back on himself due to his anguish; this is due to Man, in his shallowness, regarding himself as the center of his own existence, and extending himself horizontally in order to ease himself from the tension in his life.

And so Man is subject to his present predicament, an offspring of his illness and sorrow; he is created by the times he lives in because he believes that nothing exists outside of time and space. He lives within the confines of his body and those of his memories and hopes, that nourish the body and imagination, or he lives only through another person and revels in a slavery that deprives him of the effort of transcending himself, his entourage and his clan.

And the predicament could be a grave one like the possibility of war, poorness or war-like calamities. And no doubt also that Man is the victim of his own ignorance, poorness, richness or the conflicts in his life. And due to that or part of it, Man realizes his own depravity; he also can become miserable due to his ignorance of it. That is why the Bible calls the above situation “the valley of Baca (Tears)” where there is no end to pain, debility and the loss of dear ones.

All that evil is a part of life and it befalls the righteous as well as the evil ones. And the person who is not in touch with the Lord resorts to pleasures that lose their ability to gratify once they are experienced. Man seeks after pleasures with which he thinks he can cure his sense of alienation or heal his bitterness. He might remain the slave of his bodily pleasures if he loses the light of the Lord. Thus, while Man is waiting for the disappearance of the events that afflict him, he only finds that new calamities as painful as the former take place and are so depraving that they lead him to despair. This means that he creates his own hell, and few are those who find a way to leave this hell. I am not exaggerating when using this term because I have heard hundreds of times from the mouths of those who have chosen to describe a crisis in their family life: “my life has become hell and I do not know how to get out of it”.

The people described above have placed themselves in the horizontal dimension and know nothing about the vertical dimension which is the power that ties them to God. As for those who know God, they live in tranquility even in times of war. They are at peace whether they are in health or in sickness, whether their circumstance is stable or shaky; they do not consider a misfortune or a sickness as the end of the world because they dwell in God and God dwells in them.

I know people who take refuge in God, whether they are in ease or adversity because they know that God is their strength and help; these have transcended their physical existence and already dwell in the “heavens”. The believer, whether rich or poor, finds his all in the Lord and does not consider anything as important in his himself. You ask the Creator-Savior to come to you and you receive Him as one who is “all your life” as [St.] Paul says: “It is not I who live, but Christ lives in me” See Ga.2, 20.

You cannot rid yourself of its pain if you “borrow” consolation from this world, because the world does not supply you with truth. Pleasure is no substitute for pleasure and no fun is more entertaining than the one you are in now; it is all the same because all pleasure and fun is in itself empty. It makes you forget your worries only for a while because you draw your consolation from this world that you have made yourself its center. But if you choose the Lord to be the center of your life, you free yourself from being a slave to ill-health or persecution or oppression or crisis whether in your immediate family or in your country.

You cannot escape the weight of the situation in which you live, whether political or economic. This world is, as we perceive, full of wars and it is up to you to aspire for peace. But we see that wars are endless, and disease has no end and that one sin, when committed, leads to another; and that brings inner pain if your conscience is still alive to admonish you; only “monsters” would stifle their conscience to the end.

And if you decide to hold on to your horizontal dimension, that is to say, if you accept to live in a superficial manner, you are dead inside. You may perhaps keep in mind and believe in certain values, but these values in their depth come from the Faith even though some have tried to make of these values a philosophical entity, a god in itself. Why substitute God with cultural understandings. You can live only through God. Fatih in God is active in Man’s heart to change it and to heal it. That gives you a personal relation with God who pours His life in you; philosophy cannot do that. God alone has life, and the rest are ideas which your mind can accept yet they cannot give your life.

I do not want to dwell on the suffering that you endure because of your sins, illness or crises in the country and the world and I’m not trying to insinuate that they are the only way God uses to draw us closer to Him. Yes, many verses in Scripture call the sufferer to seek help because God wants to heal us; in that David said: “From the depths I cry to Thee, O Lord” (Ps. 129.1) and in saying “depths” he speaks of the affliction in which we throw ourselves. But the righteous lift their hearts up to God because they rejoice in Him who Himself is the source of their joy. As such they dwell in the intimacy of invoking Him and not only in that of asking for his help.

And when we Christians talk about the cross on which each of us is crucified, we request that it be taken off our shoulders, because of the suffering it represents; yet we believe that our cross is our way to the resurrection, not only the Resurrection of the last day, but the one brought about in this present life through our relationship with Christ who is our life and resurrection. Our present sufferings, when accepted with contentment, gratitude and hope, give us consolation for we know that the Lord “remembers” us and “visits” as the saints say. We also know that if we believe, the Lord will dwell in us whether we are in pain or in sin lifting its burden away from us so that our hearts will be purified.

Afflictions befall us because things are like that in a fallen world like this is. The world is like that and we do not always understand it. God heals Man; He converses with him, admonishes him, chastises him and loves him so that bitterness leaves him as peace flows in him. And with that inner peace, he lives with war, with hunger, with the tribulations and psychological difficulties. Physical healing might happen permanently because of God’s mercy; but Peace is your cure even if the disease persists, and with that you can live through any situation. We do not call for heroism in Christianity, but we call for patience. And patience is not a defeat before reality but an active reliance on God who cures you the way He wishes pointing put to you that the greatest crisis in you is sin which you confront with repentance or in other words with the presence of God in you.

God does not cancel human history or even your personal history but He accompanies you as you live your times during which He consoles you if you are patient. As such, Heaven will dwell in you before you get to dwell in It on the last day. So God does not rid you of the horizontal dimension of your earthly life, but He grants you mercy through the vertical dimension and He watches over you in guarding that vertical dimension.

This God is not an abstract thought. He is Truth, Reality, Joy and Happiness. With that God you look at the world and its tribulations. All this is accomplished by believing that God is the One longed and sought for and that He is a Spring of giving that does not cease.

Translated by Riad Mofarej

Original Text:  – “البعد الأفقي والبعد العامودي”15.09.07

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