Monday, March 21, 2016

Honoring the other

Great Kiskadee
Dzbilchaltun, Yucatan, Mexico
Photograph by the author

When I undertake the prayer, Lord Jesus Christ, through your glory, grace, and mercy, help me to honor and obey, I find it quite interesting to remind myself to explore what it means to honor and obey actively, within a specific moment in life. That is to say, when confronted with my day-to-day existence and moment to moment activity, I make an effort to ask myself what it would mean to honor and obey right now, in this moment.

The question of honoring becomes at once a question of honoring not just Christ, but the other person, who in each case is an embodiment of God—just as I am. 

How do I honor that?

 I'm reminded once again of Christ's admonition, Love one another as I have loved you. 

Measuring the depth of Christ's love, perhaps it's worth remembering the utmost expression which he uttered on the cross: forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do. This is a love that does not engage in compromise the way I do. In point of fact, my experience of God's glory, grace, and mercy consistently leaves me with the deepest spiritual impression of that uncompromising love, which is absolutely incomprehensible to me. That incomprehensibility is what causes me to fall to my knees in awe and humility, recognizing how impossible it is for me to approach that love, and how unworthy I am of its unconditionality. I'm unable to love in that way; this is a fact. Yet in an effort to honor Christ and his teachings, I’m called to discover the potential — if not the capacity, which is always lacking — for such a love in my day-to-day life. 

Now, my day-to-day life is a desert without any of that green grass growing in it; yet it's possible to insert a tiny seed of life and love into my daily interaction, into those dry, mechanical, and often petty and destructive processes that emerge from my ego. That seed — which, through grace and with a little water, might produce a bit of grass — is the question. My teacher Betty Brown used to point out that the question, the real question, is, "what is the truth of this moment?” I think that question is quite real and exactly right, yet it needs to be expanded into this question of honor and obedience. Betty called it intelligence and obedience, yet I think honor and obedience is essentially the same thing, merely reconfigured by my own experience. To honor is intelligent, and intelligence is honorable, so there is an equivalence here. In any event, it is this seeing — that is, a knowing — combined with an insight, an inward sight, of perceiving the meaning— that is, an understanding — and the combination of the two, the receiving of the moment and the intuition of meaning within the moment, that creates a whole response.

In this context, one might say that honoring is to know, whereas obeying is to understand. Knowing the other person is not enough; I have to make an effort to understand them. Love consists not of a single action, but of both of these actions combined. 

It requires that I bring more of myself to the present moment than I usually do; and that is  closely related to Gurdjieff's idea of three-centered work.


Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

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