Saturday, June 21, 2014

Finding Myself in Another (My Thoughts on Ordain Women)

Hello, everyone! In light of recent events concerning the Church in the news, I feel obligated to tell you all how I feel about the issues they bring up. More specifically, I feel suddenly inspired to give you my take on the halo of controversy surrounding how the Church has reacted to the "Ordain Women" organization.

First, let me say that the initial news of the excommunication threats brought sadness to my heart. Regardless of how I felt about the group's policies, I have never thought it a happy thing to see someone's efforts and passions be reduced to naught. Moreover, it seems likely that these events will cause many people's testimonies to waver, and that is never a good thing in my book. So know that, even though I don't sympathize with the views of Ordain Women, it was a very sad day for me.

That said, I get the feeling that the intellectual foundation upon which Ordain Women stands is a fallacious one. In fact, their premises seem to rest on only a single tenet: that if I am to get what another has, it must be given to me apart from him or her. But this is a lie. In fact, this lie is so destructive, so pernicious, and so evil that it has caused me more pain and sorrow than any other belief I have held. You see, I have a high-functioning form of autism called Asperger's Syndrome. Because of this diagnosis, there are things that will always be harder for me than for neurotypical people: I will likely always find it hard to "be at ease" in social situations, and I fear I will never enjoy the pleasure of playful flirtation that I see come so easily to others. But it isn't just Asperger's--other, more private things have caused me to feel great pain when I see other people who lack my struggles.

But in all this I was missing something. In all the sorrow over my limitations, I never stopped to consider that a life-changing idea was hidden just below the surface. And this idea, which I have come to realize only slowly, is this:

My life was never about me in the first place. Of myself, I am fundamentally limited; it is only in other people, and in God, that I will find myself.

This is the key to everything. Without it, we exist separately and singly for all eternity, never being able to share an intimacy that is more than skin-deep. If this were not true, the being and love others have would forever be locked away from sight, and I would never be able to venture beyond the boundaries of my body and my spirit. But it is true. If I love another person I can find myself within her, and if I look hard enough, I can find her within me. 

The knowledge of this mystery seems to be sorely lacking in what I have encountered of the Ordain Women movement. For they believe that women can only get what men have by getting it apart from men, that we must receive for ourselves the same gifts as anyone else in order to enjoy them for ourselves. But this, as I said, is a lie. If I am not a practiced piano player, must I learn to be a maestro in order to enjoy the instrument being played? What if I don't play soccer--does that man I can't watch the World Cup? The logic of Ordain Women rests upon the idea that I must have something for myself in order to enjoy it. But in truth, I can enjoy others' gifts as much as they do, if not more.

The way I see it, God gave us differences not so that we can protest them and demand that they be taken away, but so that we can learn to depend on, love, and find ourselves within each other. If we were all the same, our ubiquitous self-sufficiency would cause us to ignore each other and only seek out what is for our own good. The bland homogeneity of such a world easily disgusts the imagination, for surely no one would want a world where everyone was exactly the same. But we are different from each other--some are short, some are tall; some are abstract, some are concrete; some are men, some are women. And how much better we are for it! What good does it do to flee from the world of difference? Such a world is colorful and multifaceted, and it seems that the only reason someone would move away from it is because they think that others' gifts do not belong to him or her. But that, again, is a lie.

You may protest me at this point. "Wait!", you might say, "how is it possible for someone to have what belongs to another? I guess it's a nice sentiment, but surely it doesn't reflect the facts!" In fact, it does. It's true that I can't literally enter into someone's mind and see their thoughts, but that state of affairs is but a poor image of what's really possible. Didn't you know that your life is like an iceberg? You see your body, your mind, and your thoughts, but that's only the ten percent that peek above the water. Beneath the surface of what you can see with your eyes, you are more glorious than than even the vastness of the cosmos. The stars and swirling galaxies only shine dimly in comparison to the blazing light that emanates from within you. In the luminous depths within us it is not only we who shine, but others as well--for in this interior vastness we all see each other as we are.

A very wise fox once said that "it is only with the heart that one sees rightly" and truer words have never been uttered since. With your eyes you can see a little ways both into space and into minds, but you can never use them to reach the heights attainable by the heart. For it is love (along with faith and hope) that allows you to see how things truly are. With love, you begin to see the secret reality that precedes everything visible; you learn the secret that all things contain all things, that nothing exists that isn't a window to the entirety of being.

You may see this with your scriptures--how the more you dwell on a verse's meaning, the more the wisdom of God pours out through it. You may also have seen this in your relationships with others--how you can feel suddenly at home with another person, even though you consciously know nothing of what goes on in his or her head. This secret also comes in how something can suddenly remind you of someone dear, perhaps one that has died. For these situations are not mere tricks of memory--the reminder is really a window for you to share love with someone across the boundaries of life and death.

Knowing this, that we are secret neighbors of all that is, what reason have you to despair over not having what belongs to the other person? Sure, you may not have the priesthood in this life, but you have the potential to live many lives. Though you may not see it with your earthly eyes, the depths of your spirit can live the life of another just as well as your own. All that you lack in this respect is a clear vision of what you feel, but that too will be remedied once you pass on from this side of the veil.

I have felt the state I just described, and so this post has turned into my way of expressing what I thought was inexpressible. But there is more to be said. For I have wondered: if we are truly connected to all that is, why is there this appearance of separateness and discord? I meditated on this subject, and the answer came to me in an image: this life, I realized, is a dance. We had always existed in the brightness of eternity, but one day it occurred to us to dim the lights a little so that we could put on a show. We divided ourselves from each other, preparing to take different parts in this elegantly choreographed piece that is the world. Sure, we may have different roles to play--men may have one part and the women another--but none of that is limiting. On the contrary, it is just this limitation that is so joyful for infinity. For the finite and the limited are but a brief interlude in the eternal round of heaven--one that began, one that will end, and one that lets infinity shine through it. But it not a sad thing. On the contrary, it is the very joy of heaven to interrupt its boundless infinity with the constraints of finitude (finitude, after all, is the only thing that infinity lacks). For we are creating a masterpiece for the glory of God, and the fact that we do not now discern its movements does not stop His light shining from within every part of it.

1 comment:

  1. I disagree with the very basic premise of what Ordain Women is about, but I like your thoughts on living through each other. I agree that we can achieve the most through sharing our strengths.