Friday, November 25, 2005

"Who we thank"- breaking the legs of miracle workers

One of my relatives yesterday said, in a voice that indicated a bit of resentment, that it would be "interesting" to see "who we would thank" and who my guests would thank yesterday.

I was really surprised that one of my relatives would say such a thing.

People who are mindful and seek to understand how and why and that things are cannot but of appreciate things. I'd say it's the very definition of appreciation, in fact.

And I would have to say that if one thinks somebody else needs a deity that is removed, or external to the situation to do that -which is the quintessence of insisting that only their deity will suffice, I would say that the degree of appreciation cannot but suffer, because one's mind is distracted elsewhere, and thus there must be a moral objection to the insistence and "evangelization" of that deity. You cannot serve two masters, said one religious figure; and I say you cannot thank a deity and be truly thankful for something at the same time. It's like thinking about Los Angeles and Chicago at the same time. It can only be done by abstracting the two cities to the point where you're actually not thinking about either city specifically- in isolation from each other. There is a viewpoint at which the two cities are the same, certainly, they are not separate from that viewpoint, say, from some place in Andromeda (and I just did it to any number of places therein). But to return to my point, even if you believe in a deity, it's not possible, I think, to thank it apart from its permeation into that which is thanked. But it seems extra to me then. Just thank.

This, for no particular reason at first got me thinking: some folks say their deity performs miracles, which is the same word we use if we say Eminem performs or Penn and Teller perform.

Performance is demonstrative. They don't say their deity commits miracles, nor enacts them, nor delegates them, nor simply does them.

Like an exhibitionist, the miracle worker in this case commits his miracles to be seen. Ostensibly this is demonstration is made to demonstrate "love" or "power" or "authority" from the deity.

Yet the miracle must remain a rare event, else it loses its special privileged position for those who are in the know about the particular deity. Or so it seems.

These rare event miracles are appreciated by the devotees of the various religions in which the miracle accounts are ascribed, but again in so doing it seems that attention is drawn away from the very "non-miracle" of "thusness," that things are just so, that the convergence of existence and experience is far more important than any alleged deity walking on water or causing his prophets to be teleported one place or another.

And the problem with such miracles is that there is still so much misery in the world, that the premise of the miracle working deity or prophet implies a certain caprice on the part of the agent performing the alleged miracles; this is done to demonstrate the power of the deity, but that is left undone.

Better to care, better to simply be mindful.

This is why allegedly one Zen master said to another, "If I had known you were going to do that I'd have broken your legs," when the two had come to a river and considered how they would cross it.

The real "miracle" would have been getting a conventional conveyance across the river, and doing so without talking about it.

Update: A commenter, who cares for children who have had great difficulties, objected to the picture that was originally alongside this article, showing a baby with two heads; as I noted in the comments, the purpose of doing this was to show that there were things beyond what anyone would hope for in miracles, or in entreating outside agencies to enact. While I have utmost respect for the care that people such as that commenter provide, I do think that not enough of us know that such people indeed make such sacrifices, or that our existence is shared with those who experience horror from birth.

One can read about the original story here.

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