PARADOXICAL

The faith chronicles

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

 

Born again


Jesus stood up and commanded the wind, “Be quiet!” and he said to the waves, “Be still!” the wind died down, and there was a great calm.

But they were terribly afraid and began to say to one another, “Who is this man? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” (Mark 4:39, 41)


Let’s start with atoms and molecules, he said, the building blocks of the universe. Atoms are considered inanimate creatures, but as chemists and physicists would point out, there is a movement going on within these atoms, and the nature of the underlying forces are yet to be fully understood.

Welcome to the world of the non-living. In this world, entities exist without life despite their movement; they exist without the ability to self-propagate, without feelings, without intellect, and without the capability to love. but nonetheless they’ve got a world of their own. The concrete structures around us, the rocks, the pavement, the wind, the rain, they all belong to this world.

For an atom to enter the realm of life, it must leave its past world behind; it must undergo some “processing”; to die in its present state, it must be born again.

To get ready for the next level, an atom or a group of atoms, which are called molecules, may follow a diverse number of paths. They may first get started as members of a replicating protein, a DNA, or they may proceed as integral members of a virus, or a bacterium, or an alga, which is the simplest form of plant life. Alternatively, they may be absorbed by the roots of the grass. Fully assimilated in the plant’s system, they may become building blocks of plant cells and tissues.

The atoms, thus being born into life, cease from behaving like they used to. As an integral part of the living world of plants, they have to assume new roles. The most exciting role may be that of being part of a chlorophyll, the cellular pigment that exploits solar energy to help manufacture food. Oh, life is so exciting, an atom must have remarked, if only it can, seeing that there’s so much work to do, noting how vital its role is in sustaining life.

But the group of atoms, which by now has assumed a new identity, being part of a simple plant – grass – finds that there is more to life than just being alive, self-nourishing, growing, and propagating. The grass says it wants to have feelings, like the ones exhibited by member of the animal kingdom. In the plant kingdom, there are just no feelings, making existence a rather drab one.

But it is not easy to acquire feelings, the grass realizes. It must cease becoming a plant for it to enter the realm of a new world. First, it must be uprooted, chewed and regurgitated, digested and assimilated in the body of an animal. It must die in order that it might be born anew in a cow, for instance.

Entering another higher kingdom, what has been grass once now becomes a part of a more exciting, animated world, a world of feelings and basic instincts. The old grass won’t surely have any regrets for, in this new world, it will have acquired more freedom, having bid goodbye to the old, almost-stationary, non-feeling life.

But notwithstanding that, animals realize that theirs is not the zenith of existence either. Theirs is not the peak of life after all. Because for all their pleasant attributes, they see some things in humans that set the latter apart. They see that humans are not animals at all, owing to their possession of this thing called intellect or wisdom and the ability to love. They’ve got a world of their own – the sapient world.

Alas the poor animal has to first accept that which, by now, is a recurrent thing in the universe: that it needs to die before it is born again, this time into the human world. For it to become consumed into our world and thus become a part of humanity, the cow learns, it must as well go through an extremely painful, blood-shedding transition. It must die just as the atom “died” to make up a grass, and just as the grass literally died to make up a cow.

The cow, now fully assimilated in a human being, experiences an inexplicable amount of joy in the “sapient life.” The world of animals, it finds, is so restricted compared to the boundless possibilities of the human mind. Animals have no idea what they are missing. In the world of humans, there is such a thing as a show of concern for one another. It’s indeed a whole new world, a far more comforting one! No wonder there need to be so great a sacrifice, to the extent of shedding blood.

And now, about us humans: Does our world stop here? Don’t we realize that we too are bound to follow the same course in the universe, just as the atom is born into the plant world? Don’t we have an inner self which says that we don’t really belong here? Don’t we have the inner yearning to enter a higher realm, because we are not merely flesh and blood? That we have a soul and we are created as spirits? That deep inside, we are yearning to truly go home, to dwell in the eternal kingdom of God?

But are we ready to die and be born again? Surely, ready or not, everyone eventually passes through physical death. But in anticipation of the promised life after our earthly death, are we willing to accept the condition: to die in ourselves so that Christ may dwell in us even now?

Are we ready to suffer, the preacher asked? A great part of the suffering has already been borne by a great and loving savior; are we willing to carry our own daily cross? Are we ready to shed all our attachments with the world, our pride, greed, lust, envy, resentment, malice?

Do we want to enter the kingdom of God?, he was being blunt now. Are we willing to bear his light even now? Are we willing to be born again?


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