Driving together Tuesday night, I casually asked my younger daughter, “So, what do you think is the biggest, most fundamental question that all religions are trying to answer?” It is a testament to her character that she did not roll her eyes at me at all!
“There are so many, Mom! How can I pick just one?”
“Oh, just pick one out of, say, your top five?”
“Hmmm… well, why are we here? Like, what’s the purpose?”
I laughed proudly and said, “Babe, I think you pretty much nailed it! Wow, and you are only twelve! Some people have to sit on mountaintops for years to even venture a guess!”
“What’s the purpose?” Instead of , more commonly these days, “What’s the point?” This is not just a good kid talking, although she is a very good kid. This is the human heart talking, before the “so many” questions of this world that can overwhelm us so easily, if we assume that arriving at one answer is the point. I believe the point is to forever keep asking many questions, curiously and lovingly. And together, which of course makes anything much less overwhelming.
Sure, everyone seeks, and arrives at, conclusions in their lives and in their hearts. Still, considering our “answers” to be eternal works in progress sure looks to be the path of those whose hearts progress the most on this earth. The words of many saints, mystics, and really cool people from Gandhi to thoughtful twelve-year-olds often illustrate this point. Such a mind-set (or, let’s call it a heart-set) is groundless ground indeed. Many people seek solid ground instead. That seems to be a common first impetus toward religion. But, that impetus is often fear-based, rather than love-based. It’s seems a beginning, but not an end in itself. I recall the words of a man I met far away and many years ago, in Nepal.
“Man has three steps on his path to religion. The first is Fear. Like a child who obeys his parents because he fears punishment because he is small because the world is large, he attempts to propitiate the world, so as to guard himself, but not to enlarge himself.
The second is Doubt, where such things do not seem as answers, where as humans we question, we draw away from what we fear, we do not we no longer submit to it.
The final step is Comprehension is Understanding is the Processional of Enlightenment, when we accept in ourselves our capacity for enlargement for acceptance of what we have always known always feared but now we no longer turn our face away but behold and in the letting go of fear we grasp the truth.”
I’m more of a “more truth” mama than a “the truth” one. I’d love to substitute the word “love” for “the truth.” Nevertheless, I’ve never heard what we all face, then don’t really want to face, then hopefully really do face, better described. So, just a couple of questions later in a car on 5th Street in Austin, Texas, and we are a couple of more steps along the Processional of Enlightenment.