There are gods and there is God. There are words and there is the Word. There is strength and there is strength.
I will praise thee with my whole heart: before the gods will I sing praise unto thee.
I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.
In the day when I cried thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul.
In our material lives we live in the flesh, solid and “real”, we direct our gazes upon the bright and shiny and our ears upon the brash and the loud. This is our survival instinct, we do it to survive. And we look for the symmetrical and are drawn to this beauty, and listen for the soothing and are drawn to this comfort. This, too, is instinct, we do it to thrive. All instinct is geared toward pleasure, the material comforts of life, the pleasing sensations of flesh. And when this goal is achieved and we thrive successfully, we remember our choices, like patterns, and follow those patterns repetitively expecting the same results. Being all human, when we follow the same patterns, those markers, those things chosen stand out as things to be much sought after, much desired, as things worth sacrifice in order to have. We set them up like gods. They bring out division among us, jealousy from within us, yielding strife, discord, wars. Appease the gods of materialism, the gods of greed, the gods of lust, prostate your dignity before the temples of sex and money and receive the demigods’ rewards. We are willing to pay the price because we don’t know the cost.
What is human dignity? Is it the absence of embarrassment? And, therefore, is it the presence of pride and honor? If one does not have material wealth, material beauty, material health, if one does not have independence, attraction, or any physical strength, is that person undignified? What if someone steals prescriptions from her own father or child in order to feel less overwhelmed by anxiety and more focused on things that need to be done in order to survive? Is she not simply appeasing the gods? What if someone dresses alluringly and uses the talents of her body to gain protection or promotion and prestige? Is she not merely another worshiper practicing the rites? What if someone beats or maims or murders in order that his life may look bright and shiny and his whims of pleasure answered or so that he may gain protection or promotion and prestige? Isn’t he just surviving and thriving, praising the desirable goals as he puts an end to whoever stands between him and the gods? Should these people not be considered role models and heroes?
We often measure strength by the ability to move one’s body in desirable ways, to push things out of one’s way, or to forcibly get one’s way. We look at the physical. And seriously, what else are we supposed to look at? With our eyes we can only see what can be seen with our eyes. Objects of beauty, comfort and praise are visible. Words of guidance, comfort and praise are audible with our ears – for what are we supposed to hear except for what can be heard with our ears? And we embrace and hold onto the material, as well – for our muscles for grasping are physical. So we have gods, and words, and strength… But we have not holiness. Holiness – the quality of a true God, and therefore of true worship – is “other”. It is not something that we see in ourselves with our eyes, nor hear in ourselves with our ears, nor hold close to ourselves with our bodies. Holiness is other than. Other than mere survival. Other than animal instinct. Other than material wealth. Other than physical health that is physical strength or even aesthetic beauty. Other than worldly prestige, honor and praise. Holiness is other than independence.
What is “real” is what comes from ultimate reality. Ultimate reality is about being, while what we call “real” is about forms. We think that if we cannot see it, hear it, smell it, taste it, or touch it, then it isn’t real. Even love, which causes many to wax poetic and is the subject of much romantic sentiment and ideals, even love is easily reduced to forms. Love has pieces and parts and is reduced to the sum of its parts: instincts of attraction, protection, attachment caused by brain chemicals and hormones; hugs and kisses; formulaic words; gifts of tribute and sacrifices as proof – for love itself is just another little god, and our instinctive or conditioned worship is to seek the little god’s blessing, reward that is felt in the flesh and that dies with the flesh. Though the truly successful, whether they worship love or wealth or control of others, are deemed successful if they are remembered after their bodies are buried in the dirt. If some words can be written down about them, in poems or history books or on the sides of stone buildings, or, at the very least, in newspaper eulogies and on tombstones – if these words exist, then this is all that we can know of eternity. Certainly, it is all that we can know in the flesh.
What of the word that is other…? The wordless Word that is not uttered with a mouth or written in any form. The Holy Word. The Word that is ultimate reality, that is being itself, that is the source of all forms and yet not contained within any of them. The Word that is irreducible and imperishable and, therefore, stronger than strength – actually eternal. The Word that we can only see with our eyes shut, the Word that we can only hear in silence – that which cannot be seen, heard, tasted, smelled, or touched. The Word that can only be communicated through a communion… The Word that can only be received without possession. The wordless Word of the one, true living God who is Ultimate Reality, who is what always was, what is, and what always will be.
And… if this Word were to assume our human nature, were to take on our human flesh… well, then, and only then, through this divine initiation of communion, could we be able to experience Ultimate Reality in forms and come to know holiness, and truly worship with true dignity, true praise, and true strength for all the days of living – days beyond forms, the day eternal.