Spirit and Tragedyabracad, · Categories: in the news, spirituality
The world is witnessing natural disasters at an increasing rate and evermore devastating scale, eg the December 2004 Asian tsunami, China, Haiti, Pakistan, and most recently the shocking earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis in Japan - to name but a few. Meanwhile war and political crises throw many societies into turmoil.
Please consider donating towards the Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami disaster relief efforts
Phenomena which bring death and destruction on such a massive scale and cause such suffering for so many survivors cause us to question the nature and very existence of God. More locally, the same questions are asked by those whose loved ones suffer or pass through accident or illness.
Those brought up in many religious faiths are taught that God is all powerful, and that He is all good. We are also told that He is our Father. But what kind of father would allow his children to endure such pain? What kind of father would deny his children the right to live out their natural lives? Such a father seems either not very good, or not powerful enough to prevent the cause of the misery.
But could the resolution of this paradox lie in the true nature of God and of our existence in this world?
The term Spirit refers to the totality of all existence. I believe this totality of Spirit to be synonymous with God. The purpose of Spirit is to strive ever forwards towards some unattainable perfection. Perfection is unattainable because whatever heights are reached it is always possible to climb higher. The physical universe is a particular manifestation of Spirit. We, as incarnate life, are individuated manifestations of Spirit. The more developed the life form, the greater the individuation. We remain part of Spirit, part of the whole, but possess uniqueness.
Why does Spirit manifest physically, and individuate through incarnation? In order to satisfy its thirst for experience and growth.
Life is not always easy, though it undoubtedly has its pleasures. But life is not meant to be easy. As we survey our personal pasts we realize that our greatest lessons are learned under the most difficult conditions. The sweet moments exist to help us endure the inevitable hurdles, but they are not the reason for our existence. Imagine a lottery winner who chose to spend his time lazing on the beach, eating the finest food and sipping champagne. It might be fun for a time, but the novelty would soon wear off with the realization of the utter futility of such an existence. The lottery winner would soon be seeking new challenges through which he could learn and grow.
Putting this life, this world, into perspective we find it is but a tiny (infinitesimally tiny) and ultimately insignificant part of all existence. Those that pass to Spirit are not lost, they merely return home. Those that remain to suffer do so for a reason, though the reason isn’t usually apparent and that is why life can sometimes appear so cruel.
Reflection upon Spirit and our own spiritual nature allows us to make greater sense of the fickle nature of our current existence and to live more purposefully.
It is often heartening to observe others’ reaction to tragedy, eg the massive global response to the relief efforts in the wake of disasters, or the rallying around of family and friends in times of trouble. The feelings of sympathy which arise are natural and spontaneous, unlike those of violence and hatred which nave to be carefully cultivated by warmongering leaders. Perhaps our fundamental kinship comes from feelings of “there but for the grace of God...”, but more likely from the subtle recognition that we are all part of the one Spirit.
There are those pessimists who interpret the current wave of tragedy as some kind of sign that the end of the world is nigh. Personally I prefer to interpret the turbulent events as marking a change towards a less selfish more holistic existence of greater cooperation among individuals and nations.
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