Reading by the light of the divine spark -- Leonard Cohen, Shalom.
For reasons that are not entirely clear to me, in the
last few years I found myself drawn to his life and work. The man lived at a rhythm that deeply resonates
with me. Cohen seems to have found some sort of sustainable equipoise, a
stance between morality and spirit, a balance within uncertainty, and a
marriage between reason, Judaism , and Buddhism that draws me in. There
is something here I need to take on board in some way. Perhaps you will find something there too.
I'll start with his poem/song "Anthem" -- 'forget
your perfect offering, there is a crack in everything, that's how the
light gets in."
It is, I believe, evocative of an old Jewish creation
story (also found in Quaker belief, I think) that posits the existence
of a divine light in all things, revealed to us not in spite of our
imperfections, but because of them. The story comes from a 16th century rabbi, Isaac Luria.
The powerful thing about it for me -- an agnostic -- is that it isn't simply a cosmology, an attempt to explain the existence of the universe and the human race. Rather, it imbricates human beings directly into the divine project as actors, by calling upon us to seek out the divine light in all things and all acts, and to engage in tikkun olam, the mending and repair of the world. There is no end to this process, and no reward really (no heaven, hell, etc). It is, rather, our telos. It is how we are to write the book of our common lives.
As Wallace Stevens once wrote, "the imperfect is our paradise." Interestingly, Pope Francis expressed a similar sense a year or so ago, though obviously giving expression to a different faith tradition. In an interview, Francis posited the blessedness of imperfection and uncertainty:
In this quest to seek and find God in all things there is
still an area of uncertainty. There must be. If a person says that he
met God with total certainty and is not touched by a margin of
uncertainty, then this is not good. For me, this is an important key. If
one has the answers to all the questions—that is the proof that God is
not with him. It means that he is a false prophet using religion for
himself. The great leaders of the people of God, like Moses, have always
left room for doubt. You must leave room for the Lord, not for our
certainties; we must be humble. Uncertainty is in every true discernment
that is open to finding confirmation in spiritual consolation.
Our life is not given to us like an opera libretto, in which all is
written down; but it means going, walking, doing, searching, seeing … We
must enter into the adventure of the quest for meeting God; we must let
God search and encounter us.
Don't look for perfection, measure ourselves and others by it, or expect it. It is in the imperfect where we find the divine light -- or love, if you prefer. As Cohen puts it, "every heart to love will come, like a refugee."
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