Thursday, September 21, 2006

For He spoke and they came into being

During break fast, Bro. Juniper was musing about Psalm 148, which I do think was prompted by his predawn desert walk, which I admit, put me too in the same frame of mind. First he questioned just how does the wind, or a cloud praise God? How does a tree praise God? How does the rain, or how does a rock praise God? As you can imagine, the break fast table remained silent, awaiting Bro. Juniper's "punch line" which was, each creation gives praise by its being itself. A tree is a tree and by being a tree it shouts to the universe, a tree I am, just so. But then Bro. Clarence questioned humans, can a human give praise to God just by being itself? He thought not, for of all creation, only humans can choose to be not what they are to be. Which Bro. Sedwick thought gave whole new meaning to Hamlet's "To be, or not to be." With that we heard shouts from outside, break fast was over, there is work to be done, yes, another chance to be human, another chance to praise God.
Bro. Bartleby

Psalm 148
Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens! Praise Him on high!
Praise Him, all His angels! Praise Him, all His army!
Praise Him, sun and moon! Praise Him, all you shining stars!
Praise Him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens!
Let them praise the name of the Lord! For He spoke and they came into being.
He has made them last forever and ever. He has set a Law which will not pass away.
Praise the Lord from the earth, you large sea animals and all seas, fire and hail, snow and clouds, and wind storms, obeying His Word.
Praise the Lord, you mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all tall trees, wild animals and all cattle, small animals that move on the ground and birds that fly, kings of the earth and all people, princes and all leaders of the earth, both young men and women who have never had men, and old men and children.
Let them praise the name of the Lord. For His name alone is honored. His shining-greatness is above earth and heaven.
He has raised up a horn for His people, praise for all who belong to Him, for the people of Israel, who are near to Him. Praise the Lord!


Lifewish said...

He thought not, for of all creation, only humans can choose to be not what they are to be.

But are our choices themselves a representation of who we are?

Bro. Bartleby said...

At noon time meal I presented this to Bro. Clarence and with a tuna sandwich in hand, he began to wave it in air until he thought better of it, so after a rather large bite, he spoke (with his mouth full), "A tiger is a tiger is a tiger, it wants not to be but a tiger, but you? You are not simply adaptable, or malleable, but free will allows self directed transformation into ... into who you are! You alone! A human is not a human is not a human. We have choices in these matters, the tiger doesn't."

Lifewish said...

And yet who we will be is a product of who we are. Can people really change, or do we just shift freely between different ways of being ourselves?

I'm not actually sure how one would go about ceasing to be a human, a member of the species homo sapiens. Presumably Bro. Clarence is talking about some sort of mental transformation - but who knows what goes on inside the mind of a tiger?

Bro. Bartleby said...

"Presumably Bro. Clarence is talking about some sort of mental transformation"

Yes, he told me this morning, humans can drive their direction with free will, whereas a tiger, when confronting a lame gazelle, cannot will itself to play nursemaid to the injured animal, for a tiger is a tiger.

Lifewish said...

How can he be so sure of that? How many tigers has he confronted with lame gazelles?

It's true that (in general) hungry tigers won't nursemaid a gazelle, but then it's also true that (in general) neither will hungry tribal humans. Is free will, then, merely a product of resource availability?

Bro. Bartleby said...

"How can he be so sure of that? How many tigers has he confronted with lame gazelles?"

That brought a hearty laugh from Bro. Clarence, he countered that I should warn my friend that he may be an excellent candidate for the Darwin Award. And he admitted that he hasn't observed many tigers and lame gazelles, but around the monastery, and I can attest to this, he has observed many mojave rattlesnakes, which are similiar to the diamondback rattlesnake, and he has yet to observe one nursemaiding any lizard, mouse, or rabbit, in all instances, he swallows them whole.

Lifewish said...

OK, I think he wins that point on principle there :)

The point about resources still stands, though. It's Maszlow's hierarchy of needs all over again - the desire to behave in a way that doesn't improve one's survival chances appears to me to only exist once the urgency of survival is overcome.

Once that need is gone, cats and dogs will quite happily lie down together (not quite lion and lamb, but close enough). Heck, I've heard of cats and hamsters getting quite friendly. And stories of true animal altruism are fairly common - for example, a friend's dog once saved the life of an elderly woman. She'd had a stroke and rolled under her car as she fell. The dog noticed her and barked and refused to move on. That sort of thing is not that uncommon.