My last blog about love and war didn’t seem to resonate. It was probably too telegraphic. But an image on this morning’s CNN impels me to try again. It showed the American civilian employees who were guarding our embassy in Iraq or Afghanistan and were caught half naked partying.
I don’t have the slightest doubt that this picture elicited disgust in anyone who saw it, whether or not they had a religious conviction or background. Recognition of that fact should make it easier for secularists to understand where Muslim extremists are coming from. Unlike the pictures from Abu Ghraib, this one illustrates potently what the Egyptian writer Qut’b was carrying on about in the fifties and sixties, and begs for a redefinition of the word “lewd”. In my Heritage dictionary I find: “licentious, lustful, obscene,” and “obsolete: wicked,” from Middle English, originally, ignorant, vulgar”.
I think we need to resuscitate the Middle English meanings: ignorant, vulgar.
Ignorant because a person who behaves in a lewd manner denies that he/she is part of the Whole. A flower is never lewd, a tree is never vulgar, even a pig has its dignity. The Whole of which we are a part, Gaia, consisting of the earth and its biosphere, is what we are. As Gary Zukav playfully but seriously said:
“That which is is that which is. There is nothing which is not that which is. There is nothing other than that which is. We are part of that which is. In fact,we are that which is.”
So we are not being puritanical when we condemn this behavior: we are saying that its practitioners are violating our own “is-ness”. Similarly, when Muslims say “God is Great”, they are referring to that which is. As Alastair Crooke tells us in “Resistance: The Essence of the Islamist Revolution, quoting an anonymous Shi’a cleric:
The reflexive introspection on ‘being’ that is the route to a comprehension of the oneness of man with man, man with nature and man with the universe, implies the curbing of the personal. The understanding of connectedness with other humans and with the surrounds diminishes the sense of individual ‘self’.
An individual’s relationship with God does not emerge instantaneously out of a single act of faith as St Paul suggests to Christians. It emerges slowly from the experience of the living God’s demand that humans behave towards one another with justice, equity and compassion.
Echoing Buddhism, Crooke’s interlocutor notes that:
“The knowledge or ‘relationship with God’ is only to be achieved through restraining the ego or ‘nafs’, rather than privileging it as in the West, which has elevated individualism to become the basis around which politics, economics and society is organized.”