Saturday, 11 July 2015

Gradual Change And The Human Condition - Lee Weissman

Originally published as part of the Interfaith Ramadan series on ABC Religion & Ethics. For more reflections and commentary on interfaith and Ramadan, visit Interfaith Ramadan: A Safe Place to Explore Difference, and Find Community which is regularly being updated this month. 

Credit: Art in Action

The nature of the natural world is that nothing becomes something else without gradual changes and transitions. A caterpillar does not suddenly become a butterfly. Even a fetus,  hidden from all sight in the womb, goes through many stages of development. Change in our world is not sudden but gradual. What is true in nature is also true for the character of human beings. This observation was made by the great Jewish scholar Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon in the Arabic classic of Jewish philosophy “The Guide for the Perplexed.”

I have little trouble imagining a similar statement from the pen of Imam al-Ghazali or Thomas Aquinas.  It is a tangibly true commentary on the human condition that for us change is slow. Sudden transitions, lightening bolt insights and speedy conversions tend to be short-lived.  Like the fetus in the womb, we come by new states of wholeness gradually, and I would add, rarely without challenge or pain. I have yet to meet anyone who is truly great who has never suffered.

The Abrahamic tradition of “The Spiritual Stretch,”  Elul and the Days of Awe for Jews,  Ramadan for the Muslims and Lent for Christians are profound responses to the reality of the human condition. They are ladders in which each day is a step. Sometimes we climb, sometimes we hold still, sometimes we lose a rung or two. If have not given up, then we have not failed. We find success when who are at the end of the process is just a little bit different than who we were at the beginning  

Lee Weissman is the founder of the Facebook group Abraham's Tent. the @JihadiJew twitter feed and blog. He will be traveling on an interfaith tour of the east coast US this summer. For details see www.abrahamstent.comLee previously wrote for Interfaith Ramadan in 2013: "Closeness" and Cheerleading the Good

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