Friday, November 26, 2010

Hafiz Said So

There is a difference, and this difference defines us, between having a responsibility to someone and owing them something, not that they're mutually exclusive. We all need to recognize our responsibilities to each other and ignore what we owe one another.

This shows itself vitally in our lateral relationships, it may be even more important in our vertical relationships. To paraphrase Samuel Johnson, "the most important measure of a person is how he or she treats someone who can do them absolutely no good." The flipside is that how we think of those on whom we depend indicates just as much about us. Specifically, I am considering the responsibilities between God, us and our stories.

It has been asked who [we are] that God should be mindful of us. With all due respect, this sort of thinking is bunk, one with a rich tradition in hymnals everywhere ("that saved a wretch like me"). A more accurate thinking would suggest that God in fact has a great responsibility toward us if He created us (which I believe he did). The problem with this thinking is it doesn't honor the relationship humanity has with the Almighty, for He does think of us and if he only does what's right then it's self-debasing to conjecture otherwise.

The purpose of the relationship, giving meaning through the stories of our lives, is ignored by such thinking. Seeing God as responsible to us further suggests and validates the idea of a responsibility to Him.

This is all well and good, but I say it carries over to what humans create. I read a book recently that explored the illusions of happiness and the joy of truth and in it a hallucination pleaded with the dreamer, saying, "I need you." I wondered why.

The realization to which I arrived is that, while I find meaning in the framing narrative of Christ, our stories find meaning from us. For example, a friend of mine pointed out that to the Greeks, Pandora finding hope at the bottom of her urn was the worst of all, because it was false.

As you know, we use this story as one to comfort us and these two meanings seem to be at odds. I argue that we have every right to take from our stories what helps us explain our world and give our stories meaning and purpose (which is why they were told in the first place).

My friend maintained that meaning could not be divorced from original intent. This has, even in the last century and throughout history, been proven patently wrong. People always take meaning from stories when they need a meaning. Like in Northern Exposure when Chris said "Casey at the Bat" was about the Cold War. It's what we need sometimes.

Mr. Gorbachev, strike out this wall!

Our stories need us because without us, they would happen anyway: we'd still have hopes and memories. But when we work for our stories, read and consider them, we make them and us into something more. We have that responsibility and it teaches us how to relate to each other.

Which is good,
since the most important relationships are lateral ones.