In the deepest recesses of my heart there is a sadness, which can only be described as pure, uninhibited joy. This thought came to me after having several moments in which I felt fully connected to an inner part of my being, and in that connection I could not help but feel an overwhelming sadness. The sadness was not painful however, but was an enlightened awareness. It was as if I was experiencing a reflection of the universal suffering of mankind, which in turn led to a tremendous sense of compassion for myself and all others.
I’ve also had brief moments recently where I found myself seeing people beyond their human forms, and instead saw the spark of divinity in their eyes. This was a tremendous feeling to experience as I was seeing people for who they really were, not for their skin, muscles and bones, but instead I saw the godlike qualities and a unifying connection that I shared with them. I strive to see all people in this manner, no matter how their outer exterior is presented to me. If someone is presenting themselves as judgmental and arrogant, I want to see the peaceful nature behind their rough exterior, open my heart, love them, and do my small part in bringing their inner being to light. This spark of divinity is in each and every one of us, and we all play a role in each other’s lives concerning whether or not we fan the flame of love, or smother it with judgment and hostility.
I recently finished the book, “An Interrupted Life: The Diaries of Etty Hillesum”. The book presents the writings of a young woman as she lived in Amsterdam through the suffering and hardships of the Holocaust era. It presents a story of the spiritual journey she went through, as she consistently turned towards God, and fought to find the beauty in all circumstances, no matter how devastating. Towards the end of her life, even as she observed the horrific pain all around her in a concentration camp at Westerbork, she could not help but feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the life she had been given, and the opportunity to serve and help others.
I related to her a great deal, for she was not an enlightened being, and over and over again would fall into the traps of her own mental anguish. But instead of harboring resentment for these periods, and wallowing in self-pity, she felt meaning and purpose in her pain, and used these moments to further her spiritual development and grow closer to God. Near the end of her life, as her diaries came to a close, she stated, “Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace and to reflect it towards others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will also be in our troubled world.”
What strength it must have taken, to view what most people can only describe as evil all around her, and instead of giving in to the natural human response of anger, animosity, and judgment, she instead strove to find peace in herself and share that peace with others. There is no doubt that at times Etty could not help but look upon the German soldiers and shudder at their hardened faces, their cruel demeanors, and feel bewildered at the cruelty laid down upon the Jewish people. But it was in these moments that she got down on her knees and prayed fervently to God, not to stop the suffering, not to punish the wicked, but to give her strength, so that she may know God better, and shoulder the suffering and the pain of her comrades.
At the core of each and every one of us is a divine being, a being of love, but for whatever reason, that nature is encased by the hardened coat of the human condition. It is easy to identify with this coat of armor, to recognize it as who we are, but the nagging notion that this is not who we are cannot be extinguished. It is recognized every time the light within finds a tiny crack in the armor and shines through the crevice, giving us a glimpse of an invigorated sense of peace, and the knowledge that we are more than this. We may not be able to always live with this knowledge, but in our effort we are always rewarded. As each piece of armor is peeled away, the road may feel even tougher, more obstacles may be presented to us, but with the pain also comes great joy and the burning desire to keep going, to not give up. The tiny spark then ignites into a giant flame, until it burns us up from the inside out, and we cry out in tears, “Help me God to know who I am! Help me to cast aside the petty sufferings plaguing my mind! No longer do I want to be trapped in this cage of materialistic wants, needs and desires. May I cast them aside this very moment, love as you do, and embody the great spirit of which I am, was, and always will be.”