*Brian Wilcox. 'Love in the hands'
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A devotee said to the Sage, "I'm living in the hope of going to heaven. I'm sure you have the same hope." "No," the Sage answered, "I'm not interested in hoping for heaven." Startled, the devotee spoke, "Then, what motivates you?" "Love for the Truth," said the Sage. "Then," asked the devotee, "if you don't hope for heaven, do you fear hell?" "No, since love for Truth fills my heart, there's no room for either hope for a heaven or fear of a hell."
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The Muslim Sufi mystic Imam el-Ghazali (b. 1058) tells of a story from the life of Isa ibn Maryam. Isa saw some people sitting miserably on a wall by the road. He asked, "What's your affliction?" They said, "We've become like this through fear of hell."
Isa continued traveling, and he saw a group of persons gathered gloomily in various postures by the way. He asked, "What's your affliction?" They answered, "Desire for Paradise has made us this way."
Isa traveled on until he saw a third group of people. They looked like persons who had endured much, but their faces were aglow with joy. Isa asked, "What has made you like this?" They said, "The Spirit of Truth. We have seen Reality, and this has made us oblivious of all lesser goals."
Isa said, "These are the people who attain. On the Day of Accounting, these are the ones who will enjoy the Presence of God."
And now, always now, is the Day of Accounting.
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I was born within a religious community wherein getting to heaven and avoiding hell was primary to the faith, central to life. Two kinds of persons filled the world, those going to the Christian heaven or going to damnation. Those not Christian, old enough to choose Jesus, were damned.
In walking the Way, such hope and fear drop away, for the heart fills with Love. How does such fall away? Love dissolves all else but Love. One might believe in some continuance of life after the death-of-body; yet, in-God there is only now. The spiritual contemplative leaves what others call the afterlife to those who talk of an afterlife.
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The Sage speaks of loving Truth. What is this Truth? First, the Truth is the Absolute, is God. Any adoration of truths is loving the Truth. Scientists, for example, in a passion for science, are lovers of Truth as much as any spiritual teacher. Also, the Truth is reality. One lives with Life through the details of his or her life. I cannot say no to the minutiae of life and, at the same time, say yes to God. In the details, painful and pleasurable, God communes with us, and we commune with God.
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This love of the everyday and ordinary, Mary Oliver shares in her poem, "Why I Wake Early."
Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who make the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and crotchety–
best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light–
good morning, good morning, good morning.
Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.
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©️ Brian Wilcox, 2020
*Brian can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org; his book, An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, is available through major online booksellers, including Amazon and Books-A-Million, or via the publisher, AuthorHouse.