Freedom and Submission

We may disagree about God’s prescriptive commands, about what God wants us to do in a particular situation, but we cannot disagree concerning God’s creative commands. Unlike the former, which we generally encounter through words and thoughts, the latter are manifested in the stark purity of our everyday experiences . . . so long as we refrain from contaminating these experiences with extraneous labels.  If I am observing a tree, if I am feeling cold, if I am sensing discomfort in my left thigh, if some unpleasant memories are rushing into my mind . . . then this is precisely how it is.  There is no point in rejecting, denying, or resisting any of these experiences.  The most natural response to what is already the case is acceptance, pure and simple.  It is also the most rational response.  Not accepting what is already the case could serve as a good definition of madness.

And yet, it is more normal to be mad than it is to be rational.  Rejecting, denying, or resisting what we already know to be real is an everyday phenomenon, something we experience many more times on a daily basis than we can ever hope to count.  The hallmark of this phenomenon is the tacit reaction of “no” against whatever happens to be the case.  The old saying that advises us not to cry over spilt (or spilled) milk is obviously a wise suggestion, but crying is not the only form in which we express our “no” to reality.  The subtle feeling that is sometimes expressed in this kind of crying is, more often than not, remains below the level of verbalization, sometimes even below the level of conscious recognition.

No matter how subtle, the inner attitude of “no” to whatever is already the case probably comes out of an unfounded sense of entitlement.  I want things to be a certain way; therefore, I come to expect that things should be this way and not any other way.  When I discover that things are, in fact, not the way I want them to be, I feel an inner rage.  This rage is not necessarily directed against any particular person or force; it is the result of the painful blow that my deep-rooted (and quite irrational) sense of entitlement has just received at the hands of reality.  The rage will, however, seek an object . . .  someone or something to blame.  If things ought to have been this way, and they turn out to be that way, then someone has to take the responsibility for hurting my sense of entitlement and for taking away from me what was rightfully mine.

Consider a person who utters an obscenity when he stubs his toe against a piece of furniture.  There is anger, obviously, but no apparent culprit against whom it can be directed.  The physical pain is the result of an accident, which in most cases is nobody’s fault.  The physical pain is understandable, and even an involuntary cry of anguish would not be out of place; the anger, however, can only be the result of an unconscious, or barely conscious, sense that this shouldn’t have happened to me.  But why shouldn’t it?  Because I am entitled to be free of pain.

The “no” that a person says to reality, whether or not it is verbally expressed, seems to emerge out of an irrational expectation that the world should obey my desires, that the universe should fulfill my wants.  But God does not run a customer service, where dissatisfied patrons can get their money back or receive a free replacement for the faulty product.   This is indeed bad news for those of us who believe that our existence entitles us to the kind of service that we desire or want . . . God does not owe anyone anything.

Our “no” to reality, our sense that something shouldn’t happen or shouldn’t have happened, amounts to a rejection of God’s authority to issue creative commands.  It comes out of an inflated ego, from the expectation that God, or the universe, or reality owes me whatever I want or desire, so that I am justified in feeling enraged or robbed when I didn’t receive the expected service.  But the reason why something is already the case is that it has been willed by the Almighty to be that way.  If the milk has already spilled, or I have already stubbed my toe, anything other than complete surrender and acceptance would be that much closer to madness.

Out of this acceptance, this surrender to what is, emerges what may appear to be its opposite, i.e., freedom.  After we have aligned ourselves with reality as it already is, reality returns the favor by becoming obedient to us.

2 Comments on “Freedom and Submission

  1. But how is our volition our ability to act any different than any other act of God? If I want something at a particular instance do I not do so through the ability and allowance of God? Also, what does it really mean to accept? And how does the self come into play in making decisions or even steering the way our life is?

    • Dear t

      Both are great questions. They are so good, in fact, that I can’t answer them in a few lines. Staty tuned for the next few posts 🙂

      ~ Ahmed

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