By S M Chen, posted Dec 30, 2015 English is a notoriously difficult language to master, for many reasons. One is the irregularity of something we all learned in elementary school: adjectives declarative, comparative, and superlative.
As I tended my 5-year-old grandson the other day, he called something “more big.”
While, technically, he was correct, I wanted him to learn more common (why isn’t that “commoner”?) vernacular usage. So, from various parts of the yard and house, I fetched a golf ball, a tennis ball, and an 18” blue exercise ball and placed them in a row.
Pointing to the golf ball, I said, “Big” (that description being entirely relative, of course). Then, extending a finger toward the tennis ball, I said, “Bigger.” Lastly, I pointed at the exercise ball and said, “Biggest.”
Whereupon, his attention span exceeded, he jumped onto the biggest blue ball and hopped down the hall, leaving me no opportunity to instruct him about an irregular sequence, such as “good, better, best.”
We are accustomed to the yin and yang of life. The Chinese philosophy/ religion of diametrically opposite qualities whose interaction influences the destiny of creatures and things, is symbolized by a circle bisected by two teardrop shapes of different color, each shape containing a small circle of opposite color.
Two opposing forces, two contrasting qualities, two sides of a coin. Good, evil; day, night; east, west; north, south; heat, cold; strong, weak; light, dark; positive, negative. Like the number pi, the list is virtually endless.
In “Travels with Charley,” John Steinbeck wrote, “What good is warmth without the cold to make it sweet?”
Death, for most Westerners, connotes something negative and to be feared, an occasion for sorrow (“I have nothing against death,” said Woody Allen. “I just don’t want to be around when it happens.”).
Dylan Thomas, in his most famous poem, wrote (perhaps to his father, who died the following year), “Do not go gentle into that good night; but rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
The Japanese, and other Easterners, have a more benign, accepting, resigned attitude. Many consider death to be an inevitable part of the cycle of life.
Unlike what usually transpires in Western society, elderly Eskimos, on occasion, quietly depart an igloo without fanfare in the frigid night, so as to be less of a burden on the rest of the family. They likely were ignorant of “Greater love hath no man than this…” but were living (and dying) exemplification.
It occurs to me that God’s original intent was to have a universe of superlatives, of positive attributes without counterpart or counterbalance. Declarative? Yes. Comparative? No. Incomparable.
The dwelling place of the Almighty was once all goodness and light, peaceful, harmonious and joyful.
Holy Writ speaks of the mystery of iniquity. Evil was allowed to flourish, initially in another, celestial place, then here on Earth.
It may be no coincidence that the name of the test object in Eden was the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Two opposites. Before the test, Adam and Eve knew only light, only goodness. They were naked but unashamed. Genesis states that, had they eaten from the Tree of Life, they would become immortal. And like gods, knowing both good and evil.
Another mystery: how did the Almighty (merging the trinity for a moment into unity, although “gods” is plural) know evil? Perhaps witnessing the transformation of Lucifer (along with a third of the angels) into someone and something much darker – hence his loss of name – was sufficient.
Regardless, I believe the Almighty, with infinite wisdom and love, wanted man to be spared the knowledge of evil. But it was not to be.
Albert Einstein purportedly said, “Only two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.”
But we shouldn’t be too hard on our first parents. They had no knowledge of the Law of Unintended Consequences or the Butterfly Effect (which, from chaos theory, posits that a small action in one place will cause a significantly greater, often untoward, effect elsewhere).
Since the Fall, humanity has ever known not only both good and evil, but also almost every other imaginable contrast. While the obverse of a coin is not necessarily better than the reverse, some qualities are definitely to be preferred. Strength trumps weakness, as does light darkness, order chaos, peace war, health illness, life death, joy sadness.
The purpose of Christ’s incarnation, His atonement, was to bring humanity back into alignment with divinity. The ‘at one ment’ may be parsed thusly: It ‘meant’ (homonym of ‘ment’) ‘at one’-ness, being ‘at one with.’ An offer, nay a gift, for humans to be restored to unity, to be (at once, as in the instance of the penitent thief on the cross; for most of us, more slowly) at one with God.
Indeed, is not the heaven described in Revelation a place of oneness? One (albeit triune) God, a place of peace, joy, love, harmony, goodness, immortality, health. Where are their counterparts/opposites? War, sadness, hate, discord, evil, death and illness? Nowhere to be found. Only yang. No yin. No night. Only day.
And, unlike Eden, there will be only one tree – the Tree of Life, from which all may eat freely. And one river, that of the water of life.
As in apostolic times, people will be of one accord. Some will have more stars in their crowns, some will have red borders in their robes, others not; some will be in the group of 144,000, others not. But it won’t matter; all will be content.
For the curse of sin, estrangement, and isolation will be lifted. Expunged and made to be as if it never were. The Prodigal People will have come home, to a place they were never intended to leave in the first place.
The Wanderers, who spent so much time in the wilderness, finally enter the ultimate Promised Land.
Paradise, once lost, is restored. And the second Eden is more glorious than the first.
As light cloaked the pre-Fall nudity of our first parents, so light will illumine the New Earth. But our star, the sun, having performed reliably and regularly for so long, will have served its intended purpose and will be given much deserved respite.
The Son Himself will provide all the light that is needed.
And, lest any forget what once happened long ago, in another, darker time and place, all they need do is look at Him and see the scars on His hands, feet, and side, forever reminders of a sacrifice so profound our understanding of it and His underlying love will ever be incomplete.
All will, once again, be unity, at one.