Saturday, March 28, 2009

This I Believe...Update

This semester I am taking Judaism, Christianity, and Islam taught by the inspiring Rabbi Rami Shapiro at MTSU. In the course syllabus Professor Rami assigned us two different papers one of which is to write an essay for This i Believe.org, an "international project engaging people in writing, sharing, and discussing the core values that guide their daily lives". We don't have to actually send in the essay to the website (although he encourages us to send it) but we are to follow the same requirements as listed on the site and email it to him. Since I write publicly anyway I thought I would go ahead and send it in, and if I'm lucky and they like it they'll air it on NPR. I know I'm not a talented writer but I enjoy writing, so I write. Parts of my This I Believe essay are taken from my Mission Statement since I consider that the core description of my beliefs.

Update: The text in bold is Rabbi Rami's response to my essay and the text in red is my response.


I loved collecting coins as a kid. My first coin was a prize I found at the bottom of a cereal box . Each box featured a coin from a different country
you can collect. I can't explain it but something about collecting a coin that passed through so many hands and had a minute part in so many lives was awe inspiring. Whenever our town had its semiannual local flea market I made a bee line straight to the coin man's table. He would hand me a coin and I would carefully look it over checking for the date, scratches, and any other interesting characteristics. My meager allowance kept my coin collection small but I cherished everyone I bought. I don't collect them anymore but I still glance at them from time to time and I'm reminded of that childhood spirit of collecting.

Now I collect puzzle pieces, spiritual puzzle pieces. I believe that each one of us is born with a piece of a God-Sized puzzle. This piece represents how we see and interact with each other and with the Universe. Our pieces may look similar but each is personally unique to the bearer like a snowflake or a fingerprint. Whenever I meet someone new I walk away with a copy of their puzzle piece. They may be Hindu, Buddhist, Mormon, or even an Atheist, but by understanding their view of reality my love for Humanity increases. There is no border, no end to this God-Sized puzzle
which grows as we find new pieces, and when spiritual travelers cross paths, pieces are traded further enriching each other's journey.

I wish to collect these spiritual puzzle pieces and spend a lifetime putting the puzzle together. The very act of assembling the puzzle is Heaven to me and is more rewarding than any attempts to complete it. Because what else can you do with a finished puzzle then to glue it to cardboard, frame it, and hang it on your wall awaiting 'Ooos and ahhs' from friends and family. Every time I receive a new piece it opens my heart to a new expression of the overall beauty of the Cosmos. I believe at the heart of this puzzle is eternal beauty which flowers outward as eternal love. I choose to call this God, although others may call it by a different name. Little by little, as my puzzle grows, my appreciation and love for God and my fellow Man flowers and blooms.

Rabbi Rami: This is exactly the kind of essay I was looking for, and exactly the kind of thing you should send to NPR's website. No guarantee that they will publish it, but you never know. The analogy with puzzles is wonderful. I used something similar in a book I wrote years and years ago. There I said that each of us is a piece of God's puzzle and it is up to us to take our place in the puzzle. In Zen Buddhism puzzles are called koans. These are problems to mull over rather than solve. They make no logical sense, but the process of examining them is supposed to bring you to enlightenment. Jesus in the Gospel of Thomas in the first logia also talks about riddles which are similar to puzzles.

Me: I guess I would have to read the book first to fully understand what you meant, but until then I'm stuck with the image of God sitting in a bathrobe starring intently at the picture on the puzzle box while stroking his beard. I'm assuming what you wrote had more to do with God's Will for us in his Divine Plan than turning into an actual jigsaw piece and finding where you fit into God's puzzle as He watches his Saturday morning cartoons while eating Cheerios. In a sense, I am also mulling over the vast collected beliefs of humanity, not to try and figure God out but by looking out over the waves of humanity this helps me to ponder the essence of what it means to be human. It helps me to "know myself" by knowing others, and by knowing others I get a glimpse of knowing God.

2 comments:

Ben said...

That was a great analogy with the puzzle. I agree, sometimes the hunt is more fun than the actual catch. The thrill of the chase keeps things interesting.

That is also interesting that you enrolled in a religion course. I hope you definitely keep us up to date with any interesting stuff you learn!

Unknown said...

Thanks for the kind words, Ben. I'm actually a religious studies minor which is completely unrelated to my major. I chose it because it is an interesting subject and I needed a minor.

Thanks again.

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