Maybe it was just a coincidence and what happened today had nothing to do with my conversation with God this morning.
“I don’t do coincidence,” God says.
OK, so maybe it wasn’t a coincidence. Anyway, here’s my journey.
I started out with agape, the Greek word for love. Biblical scholars translate it as love (correct, in my view) or charity (close, but misleadingly wrong.) I wrote about it earlier here. I looked it up agape today in Wikipedia here.
From there, I saw a link to Chesed, a Hebrew word given the association of kindness and love. So I went there.
Why did I go there? I’m not quite sure.
“I am,” God says.
In its positive sense, the word is used of kindness or love between people, of piety of people towards God as well as of love or mercy of God towards humanity. It is frequently used in Psalms in the latter sense, where it is traditionally translated “lovingkindness” in English translations.
Lovingkindness is the goal of metta meditation.
In Jewish theology it is likewise used of God’s love for the Children of Israel, and in Jewish ethics, it is used for love or charity between people. Chesed in this latter sense of “charity” is considered a virtue on its own, and also for its contribution to tikkun olam (repairing the world).
I’d never learned about chesed or tikkun olam, but I remember reading about tikkun olam in Scott Alexander’s book, UNSONG.
So onward I went to learn about tikkun olam.
tikkun olam is the idea that Jews bear responsibility not only for their own moral, spiritual, and material welfare but also for the welfare of society at large.
I had absorbed that idea through my skin. That’s what I wrote about in Mortality 101, and in What matters?
That’s my goal. To do as much as I can to make a better world.
I never thought that being one of the Chosen People ™ gave me special privileges. It gave me special responsibilities—which, to be honest, I failed to live up to. (Sorry God. And sorry for ending a sentence with a preposition.)
“Your first apology accepted,” says God. “As to the second, stop paying attention to Grammar Nazis.”
“You ended that sentence with two prepositions, not just one,” said a Grammar Nazi. I took God’s advice and ignored it.
Some Jews believe that performing mitzvot will create a model society among the Jewish people, which will in turn influence the rest of the world. By perfecting themselves, their local Jewish community or the state of Israel, the Jews set an example for the rest of the world.
So here’s my take. That plan didn’t work. The world was not repaired.
So God tried again. “Look,” I imagine God saying. “I gave you some rules to follow, and you’re doing a crap job of following them. So let me give you an example of the way I’d like you to behave. I’m not going to provide you with a mere example. I’m going to provide you with a completely over-the-top you-can-never do this example of a good human being.
“If people would just act the way that Jesus did (What would Jesus do, anyone?) that would set an example, and the world would be repaired.”
“That’s pretty much what I was thinking,” God says.
When I went through my Christian Science phase, I took some of their ideas as my own. Jesus is not the only Son of God. ™ I am too. And that doesn’t make me special. We are all sons and daughters of God. Of course, the Lord’s Prayer ™ tells us that. It’s not addressed to “Jesus’s Father,” but “Our Father.”
It’s not egotistical. It’s not “give me this day my daily bread” But “give us.” Not “forgive me,” but “forgive us.” Not “lead me not,” but “lead us not.”
Are people taught to pray that way? I wasn’t. “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep.” Not ours. Mine. Mine. No wonder things are fucked up.
“I ignore all selfish prayers,” God says. “You’d think people would figure that out based on how often I grant them. And you’d think that having given an example of a proper prayer, people would get how to do it.
“So far Plan J has not worked,” I say to God.
“It hasn’t,” God says.
From here I went on to music.
I hadn’t even realized it was Passover.
That’s the subject of another post.