Instead there shall always be rejoicing and happiness in what I create; for I create Jerusalem to be a joy and its people to be a delight. I will rejoice in Jerusalem and exult in my people. No longer shall the sound of weeping be heard there, or the sound of crying.
Often it seems as if tending to our families, or bearing responsibility for our communities, or businesses or civic entities is primarily an exercise in crisis management. One of our brothers would always begin his report of the region he lived in with the words: “There are many problems.” Reality, for our managing or executive will, is truly filled with problems. Each day, each moment for that matter, seems to present to us problems that we must confront and solutions that must be sought.
So, for the functional and executive dimension of our personalities, the promises of Isaiah seem to be, at best, possibilities for a future time, likely even a future life. This is pretty much what we do with the scriptural promises of peace and consonance; we create from them our own imaginings of heaven, of the next life. As Jesus says to the royal official who seeks from Jesus a cure for his dying son, “Unless you people see signs and wonders you will not believe” (John 4:48). At the level of the pre-transcendent self, from our functional dimension, our greatest aspiration (or better put ambition) and desire is for the solution to our problems in the way that calms our anxieties. What is the kind of belief that requires no “signs and wonders”? What would enable us to know the consonance and delight of which Isaiah speaks, not in a perfect world but in things as they are?
Given we have just changed our measure of time from standard time to daylight time, my sleep is significantly interrupted. One thing about waking often during the night is that one has a clearer memory of our fragmentary dreams. Last night I dreamt of a group of frustrated and somewhat depressed people who were gathered together to work on discovering a response to a significant social issue (the exact nature of which escapes me). As they began to work together, they began to experience a resurgence of life and energy and mutual caring among them. They decided to remain together, after the initial precipitant had passed, because they had learned that the very working together was a source of life and of joy among them. Even though they hadn’t “solved” all the problems before them, working together in response to them had become, in Isaiah’s words, a world of “rejoicing and happiness” for them.
There was no mystery for me in the source of my dream, for we are currently involved in our Congregation in an attempt to alter our ways of thinking and working from the individualistic mode to the more inclusive and collaborative one. Humble as those efforts are so far, I personally have already begun to experience the increase of energy and happiness that comes from being a part of a shared effort of actually responsibly engaging with others in the giving of direction to our common life. I am even realizing that life, far beyond a series of consecutive problems to be solved, is rather a possibility to work together in response to the ever-emergent call of the moment — a call that is not merely a problem but an invitation.
What our functional dimension and executive will see as problems to be solved can be known by our capacity for transcendent willing as invitations to deepen our relationship with and closeness to reality. It is a call to cease evading the unpleasantness of life and world, either by avoidance or by trying to master them, and to instead engage them together, as collaborators in the “work of God.” Our need and desire for mastery, however, as based in our pride form makes inclusiveness and collaboration very difficult for us. We cannot come together and work with others without abandoning our own stance of superiority. “If you want the thing done right, do it yourself.” To work with others means we must give up our own perspective on “the problem” at hand, because others will see it differently and thus have a different response.
The world becomes a problem for us because from our perspective it fails to be what we think and demand it should be. In communal collaboration we are asked to appraise the world and its call in a shared and discerning way. We are asked to give up those demands of ours that make the world a problem and that create the suffering of isolation in us.
In my dream the people who had gathered to work together were changed. They were transformed from isolated individuals into a joyful and blessed community by the simple act of working together. This happened not through the solving of a problem but rather from the very act of being and working together. And, given their experience, they willingly committed themselves to continue with each other, to relax and abandon their sense of individual prerogative and demand for the joy of a shared and common effort.
Our fantasies about the next life are largely based on our functional and executive insistence that this world is a problem that must be solved to our satisfaction. Thus, it becomes quite impossible for us to “delight” in this life. The human condition, however, is a common experience. Because it is the common reality of all of us, we discover in actually sharing it that there is “rejoicing and happiness” in what God has created. This joy is there even in what we suffer. For we do not suffer it alone. Our joy comes from a shared and collaborative response to our suffering. As we feed, heal, clothe, teach, and love each other, we discover, in the present, the truth of which Isaiah speaks.
To love life and humanity as God loves them — for the sake of their infinite possibilities.
to wait like Him,
to judge like Him,
without passing judgement,
to obey the order when it is given
and never look back —
then He can use you — then, “perhaps,” He will use you.
And if He doesn’t use you — what matter. In His hand, every moment has its meaning, its greatness, its glory, its peace, its coherence.
From this perspective, to “believe in God” is to believe in yourself, as self-evident, as “illogical,” and as impossible to explain: If I can be, then God is.
Dag Haamarskjold, Markings, 22.4.56