Everyone has an opportunity to be great because everyone has an opportunity to serve. - Martin Luther King, Jr.
Today I had the privilege of listening to a fascinating exchange between the estimable Reverend Susan Leo and Rabbi Ariel Stone. The topic was the nature of sin as viewed from Christian and Jewish perspectives - sort of a Ding an sich guide to avoiding the badlands. Because I tend toward the liberal view of different religious philosophies simply being different paths up the same mountain, I am always intrigued by discussions of a comparative nature. As such, it was not that the dialogue was specific to sin that gripped me as much as the contrast and similarities between the two philosophies. If there's anything I could have changed about the discussion, it would been to broaden it to include other perspectives as well. Throughout the conversation, I kept thinking what a wonderful think it would be to listen to a whole panel offering perspectives from other religio-philosophical viewpoints.
One of the great things about listening to a perspective that is relatively unfamiliar is that new ideas open up. For instance, the most interesting part of the discussion for me was not specifically about laws or commandments, but rather the notion that each and every person is put on this planet for a reason and has some sort of destiny to fullfill. While this is not a completely new idea to me, what added an interesting layer was this: None of us will know our destiny until it has been fullfilled. Not only that, though. If we don't fullfill it, no one else will either. It will just be there, left undone. For a person of the neurotic, worrisome persuasion, this is a lot of pressure. I mean, I have a hard enough time worrying about the little stuff, now they're telling me that I have a huge inescapable destiny and I'm really going to be letting not only myself, but the world, and even the universe down, if I don't meet it? That is huge - fodder for a lifetime of therapy.
At the same time, however, it's a really beautiful idea, this concept of every human being being indispensible. And it's also strangely comforting to think that even if we don't know what our purpose is, it is there. It will appear, we just have to be ready to grasp it when it comes along. We will know what it is after we have met it, which ultimately means that the best we can do is keep looking and in doing so trying to live in a way creates Goodness in universe.
I suppose that this idea resonates for me, because I am always plagued with this sense that there is something more I could be doing; some better person I could be being; some greater impact I could leave on the world. I mean well, and often even do well. But there is a huge chasm between right thinking and being inspired to right action. It's hard to believe that the forces of nature put anyone on this earth with the proclamation "Senior Account Coordinator is thy destiny. Go forth! Type, analyse and organize!" I'm not saying I'm a bad person or even that I haven't done things that have left a good mark on the world, just that I could do more. We all could.