(Some insights from the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 4)
It is not possible to determine who will be saved and who will not be saved.
There is the Sower. The Seed is scattered randomly across, figuratively speaking, four types of soil or fields or grounds.
The Seed flourishes only in one soil and dies in the three other soils. This is a NATURAL process yet a MYSTERIOUS process.
Soil cannot fertilise itself or turn itself from being rocky to fertile by choice. The Seed falls everywhere; only where there is fertile soil does it come up into fruition.
The soils are not conscious. The soils have no volition of their own. The soils just are.
The Sower and the Seed contain LIFE or POSSIBILITY OF LIFE.
The soils might or might not contain the conditions for life to emerge (fertility).
The Parable of the Sower does not explain how one type of soil had the right conditions and the other three did not have it. Since soils are not conscious, they cannot be blamed for their condition. Nor can Nature be blamed, I suppose. Because, in Nature’s process, rocky soil can over hundreds of years slowly transform into fertile soil.
What about the Sower? Did He create these soils to be what they are? He left some soils unworked on, perhaps, and one soil was prepared, like a piece of ploughed land? Who is to say the Sower is not working on the other three soils? The last shall be first perhaps.
Therefore, there is no condemnation for any of the soils, although apparently there are possibilities for life and growth in all conditions. Cactii can grow in hostile conditions. Dry or barren soil or field or ground cannot be despised as having no possibilities of life hidden therein.
What one learns is that, the Seed of LIFE faces more than its share of hostility. The hostility to the potential to LIFE in three soils remains a Mystery.
Then, whatever the condition of the soils, it is the Sower who has the Seed of Life. Without the sowing and the seed falling into soils, there can be no possibility of LIFE arising out of the soils. And the sowing is always there, the seeds of Life are always there.
The Parable says the Seed fell upon and sprang forth to fruition in multiple quantities or ways. This too is not the soil’s achievement. The soil is. The levels of fertility are. The Seed sprang up, the conditions having been put in place in the soil without the soil’s knowledge or understanding.
When conditions and possibility came together through the Sower and the Seed, Life and Fruit appear, magically.
It’s a Mystery and a Miracle.
That is why the Sower, the Moshiach, says:
Mark 4: 26 And he said, “The Kingdom of God is like a man who scatters seed on the ground. 27 Nights he sleeps, days he’s awake; and meanwhile the seeds sprout and grow — how, he doesn’t know. 28 By itself the soil produces a crop — first the stalk, then the head, and finally the full grain in the head. 29 But as soon as the crop is ready, the man comes with his sickle, because it’s harvest-time.”
And this is strange, indeed.
Even the Sower (the Man) who scatters the Seed does not know how the Seed sprouts and grows. Something happens in the soil and the Seed grows into the full grain.
The soil also does not know how this happens. However, when it has happened, the Sower (the Man) who scattered the Seed can come in and reap the harvest. And the Man is happy that the soil yielded a harvest.
The Moshiach is speaking of the Mystery of Life in a multiplex universe and how Life survives by Miracle in spite of the odds stacked against it.
Stay in the awe of the Mystery and the Miracle of Life.
There is no need to be confounded by Reasonings, Science and especially the cogitations of those who turn the Mystery/Miracle of Life into Religion.
Remain in the awe of the Mystery and the Miracle of Life.
Perhaps, then, the Seed of LIFE will sprout without Religion or Reason.
Nakulan, the Tamil Beckett,
there’s his voice again, my Guru
asking: this battle within you,
who will win – Artist or Saint?
It’s not easy, I reply, torn in two.
THE ALABASTER BOX OF AGAPE
I’ve heard any number of sermons preached on unconditional love or the Greek word for it – agape. I too have preached some on the subject without knowing anything about it. It pays to preach on agape because everyone seems to be looking for a shot of such love and you’ll find listeners aplenty.
Christians ascribe unconditional love or agape to the essence or substance of G-d as revealed in his human incarnation of Yeshua Moshiach, the One who died as a criminal in atonement for the crimes of humankind, the One who forgave all especially his enemies, the One who is sympathetic to and empathises with the plight of humankind, actions flowing out of, I suppose, unconditional love.
Why am I certain that unconditional love might exist? Not so much because I remember it as a principle extracted from a story written by unknown writers and touted as sacred scripture, but because I have consistently felt unconditional love towards me in three human beings – my father, mother and wife.
Then there have been those who have extended temporary unconditional love, mostly forgiveness for my follies and foibles, towards me in certain life situations when I was overburdened of sorts, for instance, my three children and a few others, many of them women.
In my youth, I remember my father would be irritated by my wild, illogical and inconsistent lifestyle, experiments with forbidden stimulants and hanging around with undesirable humans. But I was always flummoxed by the fact that he never castigated me or condemned me. His silence was eloquent but his actions spoke louder. I never got the feeling that I was not loved and all my needs were met, even when he was struggling financially.
However, it was only in August 2015 that I realised that his attitude towards his firstborn was one of unconditional love. I could look back and see the markers down the lifeline I had experienced with him. For instance, he would come to Madras every weekend for three years while he was stationed at the Sriharikota space centre to take me out for a meal, talk about a variety of subjects, introduce me to his friends. But his love for me struck most deeply when I came to visit him in the ICU. His genuine joy at meeting me and the golden words that poured from his mouth: “Son, you are always welcome!” taught me of agape once and for all.
My mother was very different from my father. She was a tough person, highly sensitive and intelligent yet well exercised in poverty, suffering, hunger and powers of endurance. Looking back, her first act of unconditional love towards me and my siblings was her giving up her lucrative job in the Railways to look after us. If she had pursued her career she would have become a top official in the Railways.Instead, she chose to serve us all her life, hoping that each one of the four siblings would reach the heights she had abandoned.
My mother was the one person I could talk to about anything – sexuality, drugs, alcohol, strange friends and experiences, spirituality, mysticism, books I’d read, anything at all. There was only a listening, understanding ear, a question or two sometimes, and then the liberty granted to choose one’s own pathways. All my friends, stoned or otherwise, were welcome under our roof and she loved and honoured all of them. I sometimes wondered if my mother was amoral for she too never castigated or condemned me when I was up to no good. It was only later that I saw that I was experiencing agape through a human being.
When I think of my mother and her love towards me, two things come to mind, one a matter of shame and the other a matter of honour. Before my mother died, she had expressed many a time a deep desire to go and pay respects at her father’s grave in Chengannur. I kept thinking I must take her there but I never did it. Shame! Then I remember her asking me to get her a glass of water to drink just before we headed out to hospital from home after she had suffered a heart attack. I did give her that glass of water, my heart heavy laden with the prescience that she was going away, and she thanked me. I remember hoping that she would be alright – she had already survived four or five heart attacks in life since she was 30. When she got out of the car, her face was glowing with light and, surprised, I blurted out: “Mom, G-d has healed you!” She passed away an hour later in the ICU, and I was not at her side.
My wife. Maybe it was the recognition of this power of unconditional love in her eyes veiled by spectacles that made me say ‘Yes’ to our union! Time has proven that I rightly recognised this gift in and of my wife. Her name means ‘grace’ in Spanish. These days I believe that grace and unconditional love go unerringly together.
From our first days together, I saw her ability at work. She stayed with me and my parents for a year or so and the meticulous manner in which she took care not only of me but also my father and mother never failed to evoke wonder in me.
My mother passed away soon enough. But I have seen my wife use agape to bring up our three children with utmost care mostly on her own – I was exiled in another world – and be especially good to my father.
“Daddy must never feel in need of anything and must always know that I am there for him in every situation,” she would say. As for myself, my daughter tells my wife: “Mommy, I respect you. Only one such as you could have lived with someone like my father!” She’s damn right! My wife is indeed that woman who practises unconditional love and has had the grace to accept and live with one like me.
These days, when I feel I am tiring and the light of life dims in my own eyes, I look into the eyes of my wife and then I look into the eyes of my children. I can see that this invincible spark of unconditional love has been imparted by my wife to my children too. In time, they too will be astute practitioners of the art of agape.
As for myself, I am certain that this power lies mostly quite afar from me. I have caught glimpses of it impinging upon my life from above from time to time, but I have the clarity that I do not possess this gift.
Should I yearn for it, should I find its source? Some say that ought to be my goal. I don’t think so. One must know what one is capable of and that of which one is incapable. It is enough to have been touched by unconditional love in three human beings. It provides some hope that perhaps there is indeed a G-d of unconditional love and these persons were his image on earth as it is written in the Good Book.
At present, what I know is that I am almost exactly that harlot who approached the Moshiach with an expensive alabaster box of perfume that she broke to anoint His feet with. And the house was filled with the fragrance of it, says the story.
Unfortunately, I am only a vagabond harlot with no alabaster box to offer and no fragrance to scatter. But I am witness to having been touched by the unconditional love of three human beings. It is enough.