Paying Attention Bill McDonald’s
July 2016 - Volume 16, No. 7
If Angels could be Jealous
It seems in the greater or divine ordering of things, there are beings called angels who exist in a higher order of creation than us humans. It’s said (except for the ‘fallen’ ones, which are another subject) they exist wholly to adore and serve the general and specific will of the Almighty. There is a blessed perfection to their very being, and in artistic representation they generally exceed in a sublime beauty the aesthetics of any of us mortal humans.
Thus it is, that every once in awhile (at least in one or two old movies I’ve seen) there’s an occasion when an angel will desire and even accomplish a full ‘crossing over’ into our human world. The consequences are usually the same - the ability to live fully in love with a human partner, and the necessity of dying. Both of these ostensibly lead to a third consequence, the necessity of suffering as a human.
Once the crossing is accomplished, there’s no chance of return (a fascinating parallel to our Biblical expulsion from Paradise narrative).
The Human Condition
Last Winter, I wrote three of these monthly Newsletters, to explore (primarily for myself) the subject of ‘the human condition.’ I did this in part because day after day people come through my office burdened with problems and conditions common only to the human species. And they look to me to help alleviate the various forms of suffering that accompany them, frequently with excruciating consequences. It is no wonder to me that so many of my medical and psychiatric colleagues rely so heavily on psychopharmacology for the relief of both the patient and the practitioner in handling this constant barrage.
Much of the time my training and intuitive skills allow me to offer useful alternative behaviors, thought patterns, or even just courage and companionship, that may bring some comfort and relief.
Then we look at the larger world, a world with so much violence, offense, betrayal, loss - which can easily allure or tempt us to stop caring, to look for over-easy answers, even toward a deeper cynicism and despair.
What Angels See
Then it occurred to me. If angels could be jealous (which apparently is a trait they lack) they would be jealous of those of us caught within all these difficulties.
It’s not just that they believe and trust that wonderfulness will eventually win out. It’s not Pippa’s “God’s in His heaven—All’s right with the world!”(Robert Browning, 1841).
Nor is it the vapid wonderfulness of too many sermons I’ve endured.
I take great comfort that the angels look at what comes into my office with awe. It’s part of a greater mystery that they can only observe (and at times help alleviate), but that we humans can enter into fully! Humans can suffer, they cannot. Humans can sacrifice for each other, they cannot. Humans can suffer pain, they cannot. Humans can die, they cannot. They can help us, but they cannot be us. And if they could be jealous, they would be jealous of that!
This mystery that they watch even includes seeing that there is no cruelty greater than human cruelty.
Or look at it this way, in terms of the Judaeo-Christian narrative: They were created by the Almighty to have their place in the great divine orders of creation. But they were not created to have and live the freedom of being the Almighty’s reflection of Self. Angels cannot experience within themselves the suffering love that is so central to the Almighty’s inner being. (Remember how easy it can seem to recite “God is love.”)
We have to be human to be able to fully know and experience that.
We are the only part of Creation that can love and suffer and grieve and die, which means also we are the only part of Creation that can fully live as creatures of the Almighty.
This is what the angels see. This is why their message to us is so often, as we walk face forward into the human condition, into the lives of each other, into the lives of the world, into great evil, even into death, “Do not be afraid.”
Do not be afraid of suffering and dying.
Do not be afraid of the suffering of others.
Be careful that in offering comfort to others, we’re not just quelling our own anxiety.
Do not be afraid of being only able to ‘do nothing.’
Know that perhaps angels do watch in awe, and perhaps even how - and why.
Dear Mr. Total Hoo Ha
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