Jummah Reflection: Martyrdom is Easy
Jummah Mubarak, Shabbat Shalom & TGIF.
There is a profound egoism in waging a constant battle against the ills of the world, especially at the expense of all else.
That’s not to say that we shouldn’t fight injustice, or spend our time, talent and treasure making improvements to our societies. But the glorification of martyrdom (whether literal or figurative martyrdom) is a disease of the spirit.
Martyrdom isn’t something for us to strive for. It is something we rise to if we must. If we are presented with the dilemma of having to lose what is most precious to us for what is truly, cosmically important…then we choose the path of the martyr. But we don’t seek it out.
It seems the ego would rather sacrifice anything but itself. Your family, friends, community, money, time, health…even your life are more easily given up than your ego. The daily grind of humble service, and an ongoing battle against ourSELVES…that is what the cult of martyrdom is trying to avoid.
Living each day as a person of faith, having to constantly re-evaluate your motives and how you are using your resources is hard, tedious and often uncomfortable. The rigors of spiritual life are without glory. There are no parades for you, no posters with your face on them. It can be a much more attractive prospect to sacrifice everything you have for the assurance that your time on earth will not be forgotten.
If we believe what our religions teach we know that it is not within our power to solve all the world’s problems, or right all the wrongs.
Does this mean it’s ok to tune out the world and focus only on religion? That we should refuse to engage the world on spiritual terms? Not at all. Religion has practical value. But nowhere are we assured by any of our traditions that *we* will be victorious in eliminating evil.
As the Mishna says, “It is not incumbent upon you to complete the work, but neither are you at liberty to desist from it.”
Furthermore, by engaging in a constant fight and the pursuit of gloried sacrifice, we not only avoid developing true spiritual discipline, but we miss out on experiencing gift of life. The highs and lows, the sweet and bitter. The ticking of the clock that forces us to look our mortality in the face each passing day and wonder if we will pass This Test.
The obsession of righting wrongs, as if the future of the world and all it’s inhabitants depends on us, leaves no room for God to do Their work.
It also leaves no room for savoring our existence and appreciating the miraculous in the mundane. For the kind of quiet reflection that can last for days. For intimate exchanges and embellishment of human interaction. For discovery and deep exploration–of your true self, and of others.
It leaves no room for peace.
Photo attribution: Nicki Dugan Pogue