I am going to request, dear reader, that you bear with me on this one. It’s not what it might seem, it is not intended as a religious diatribe or exposition. It’s something that has come to me since dying and returning to this life and really, it’s a question, or perhaps more correctly, a quest.
When I woke up in hospital in July 2020, I was in a state of ecstatic bliss. In my all my previous years I had never known joy, it was an entirely alien concept, so to wake up so joyous that I could not contain it was a mind blowing experience. I didn’t even have a choice, it was bursting out of me. Of course that has since faded, but the effects on my life haven’t. It led to the Conspiracy of Kindness and refusing to monetise my work and choosing to gift it to others for love, because the desire to create and engage in creative expression, is beyond money. It is a whole other thing! And I want to engage in that whole other thing! For the love, joy, pleasure and wonder of it.
It led me to question everything I have ever understood about life and in particular, the purpose of life. I am a Christian and I am acutely aware that Christianity, as a religion, has a dark and dreadful past, and even today, what is done in the name of Christ and religion is appalling. I left the church because of religion and on leaving my last church was told that I lean too much on grace, to which I replied, “Grace is all I have.” I left and was glad to be out of it, because I had something else – a deep inner faith. Faith in the Jesus who fed the multitude, who gave comfort and healing to the sick, who said, ‘let the little children to come to me,’ when the religious tried to keep them away, the Jesus who whipped the money grubbers out of the temple. It was also Jesus who said that unless we become like little children we cannot know or enter the joy of the kingdom of heaven (meaning, the dimension from which he originated and has returned to).
All this led me to ask, as was asked in the bible, what did Jesus consider to be the greatest commandment to human kind? The answer was remarkable. He was asked, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Allow me to break that down a bit, he was saying that the entirety of scripture (the Bible) and religious practice comes down to Love, that’s the absolute bottom line. He was saying, the most important thing in the universe is Love. Not battering the heathen, not chasing people into heaven with the threat of hell, not killing in his name, not money or power or greed or purity or not smoking or gay bashing or any of the crap that bedevils us, but Love.
I put it to you that the number of people who have grasped this in the history of the world might possibly, maybe, roughly, be a few dozen. One of whom was likely Julian of Norwich. But I can say with absolute conviction, that not one single human being has ever fully understood this. How can we? It’s applying a self evident truth from another dimension to this one, in which it is veiled from us, and we can, at best, only fumble with it. Yet there is something inside us that responds in ways that we can barely express, but can acknowledge that this is a great truth.
We can argue about different types of love, but the love referred to here is agape love, which is less concerned with the self and concerned with the greater good of others and life. Yet that begs the question, to love our neighbour as our self? Which suggests a healthy and wholesome loving regard for ourselves, which can be tough. For most of my life I wouldn’t have dreamed of treating others as I treated myself. This is deeply challenging stuff for such a brief statement in such a hefty book.
It says in the bible, if the Son (of God – Jesus) shall set you free you shall be free indeed. There is nothing abstract about that, if I cannot know what it is to be free, then Jesus is a liar. This is a big deal, and it comes back to that bottom line, love. Freedom isn’t license to do what I like. I love the work I do, making my little dioramas, but it is highly disciplined work. They work only because of the skill and control and knowledge I’ve gained over a very long time, such that when I sit to make them there’s a joyous freedom in the learned discipline of my working practice. Freedom is gained by practice, by learning, by seeking, by spending time to develop as a human being. I can say with absolute sincerity that I am a much freer man by far than I ever was in the past and as a boy. I know who I am, as far as the span of my life is concerned that is relatively new, to feel comfortable in my body, in my being. It is really good to know who you are, it beats the shit out of depression and the emptiness of the lost. I remember the pain, but it is an easy remembering which I hold with love. My faith is a discipline, it shapes my spirit, refines me soul. It doesn’t mean I am sorted or a done deal, it’s a journey and will be as long as I draw breath and it is a beautiful journey. I never thought I would live to see the day that England, in particular, would live under such a vile and oppressive regime. But we are each better than those who seek to oppress us, and every one who has one of my dioramas in your home, has a little expression of my freedom, given with love and joy.
Whatever those in power do, love is and always will be greater, it’s the greatest thing in the universe.
With love for your own quest, Keith.