Sunday, 29 January 2017

-| God is in the mundane  |-


Perhaps I am missing something. It is possible.
Most of life seems to be pretty ordinary, mundane even. Mundane tasks liter our days and swallow our hours. We open our eyes, close them again, rub our faces and look in the mirror. Shower. We all dress every morning, undress every evening. And throughout the day, regardless of sun shining or rain drenching, we must do mundane things over and over. Usually without thought we take on these tasks.
And I have not even mentioned the decisions, moral and practical coming our way in every lane we drive in and desk on which we answer the phone. None are earth shattering. Telling the truth here, a kind word there and on any given day not losing your patience with parents, children, boss, colleagues, and neighbor gets no press. No one will notice the steadiness – the victory over the rebellion we all know lies within. More than likely after not losing your temper, you will look out the window of your kitchen/office/train window and long for something beyond the mundane.

It is hard to imagine you are being spiritual in the midst of all this mundane stuff life throws your way. How do you feel spiritual when you are balancing on one leg to avoid stamping someone else's foot and trying to hold the handle with a finger in the 8.20 Churchgate bound fast local train? My guess is you prayed God would give you super-human strength to target your foot in that exact space between two polished shoes and not start a vocal brawl. 

Brewing coffee and writing emails and making design are what you get paid for but it feels terribly unspectacular and rarely spiritual. In fact, it feels small, mundane and far afield from the radical lives of the biographies you started to read.

It appears the current religious climate is one of faithfulness and spirituality measured by the eventful and the big – the bombastic. If the waves are not huge and the shifts are not seismic then we assume a kind of carnality. We have redefined radical to the point where the only radical people in the religion are those who have sold everything and gone…well, anywhere. But for everyone who does not sell everything, you know, those who shop at local markets, go to the mountain for vacation and grab some pao vada weekly – is there a spirituality for them that can be called “radical?” What of homemakers and tellers, clerks and customer service representatives, doctors and lawyers – is there a spirituality for them in the midst of just living a mundane life? Is there a God for them?

We know there is a God for those who are pundits, clergymen and religious leaders; they are living lives of obvious spiritual and eternal consequence. But what about everybody else? What about those who are not paundits and do not want to be?

Am I alone in worrying there is no God for the mundane? You know for those who, in the name of Shri Krishna or any God they have belief in , are simply faithful spouses, honest in business, love their children well and enjoy the world they live in while waiting for the next – is there a God for them?

I think we have gone awry somewhere along the way. It is no longer enough for a husband to love his wife as Krishna loved the cows, s/he must now agonize over whether to give up everything to dedicate our lives to service. In many ways it is really hard to stay where you are. It is hard because no one celebrates the day-in and day-out faithfulness that goes unseen by the wider world by those who toil in obscurity. No one puts pictures of a mom on their refrigerator so they can pray for her. It is hard because life is not easy anywhere, there is no idyllic paradise in India where sin is not pervasive and the devil is not crouching outside of custom-made doors. And it is probably hard for a few because of the guilt heaped up on them who stay and are made to think they are unspiritual/carnal/unfaithful for doing so.

Right now, someone is questioning whether I care about vaishanavism/shivism/etc. at all. You see, that is the problem. We have elevated what is seen as being spiritual and what is radical to the point where all other activity (or seeming lack of activity) leads people to think one may not care. That may be damnable. We must assume there are untold numbers of men and women spreading the love quietly throughout their community and making it possible financially for others to go without making a big deal about it and telling everyone on facebook they are doing it.

It is almost like a new legalism is emerging. “Quit your job. Do something crazy. Pick up and move." If you do not or are not thinking about doing it then you are suspiciously lacking in the necessary requirements of what we deem ‘spiritual.’

The rock-star preacher thing isn’t helping either. Life seems so mundane after watching them, reading about them and then listening to them. Changing diapers and paying bills on time and being generous and holding the hand of your spouse and caring about your aging parents and having deep friendships and being committed and crying with those who hurt – well, its just not crazy enough. It is so absolutely mundane. And I fear that for most, they do not worship a God who can be glorified in the mundane.

They worship a God who acknowledges only those lives described as crazy, radical, extreme and extraordinary. So not only is there no God for the mundane parts of their lives but there is no God for ninety-percent of their life. He works in the great deeds of great lives alone.  No wonder we try to buy his affection with our acts of sacrifice and the forfeiture of our dreams. Or just give up on him altogether.

Is there a God of the mundane? Is there a God who can give meaning to the mundane duties of moms, the mundane tasks of those who clock in and clock out? Is there a God in heaven giving meaning to the mundane lives most everyone leads?

I think there is.

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