“Michi Haruka”, by Kobudo, from the album “Ototabi” (2013)
As we go through life, if we are lucky, we never lose the, perhaps subconscious, sense of “carrying” our family name, the sense that everything we do or say reflects on our family, either for good or for bad. We carry, in our name, the honor and reputation of our family, and of our ancestors and their community. We carry their moral code and their social beliefs.
I have a distinct memory of, as a child, and as a young teen, having been gratuitously accorded community gifts of respect, tolerance and unsolicited opportunities to be of service – little jobs and small responsibilities as the moment presented.
This was all a result of the familiar conduct within the community of my father, and my grandfather, and my great-grandfather, and their forefathers, all the way back to the mid 18th century, all of whom were known and respected in the community.
Along with these gratuitous gifts came the implicit expectation that I would behave myself in such a way as to “be a credit to my family”. I had an implied “responsibility” to express the truth of the value system of my ancestral community in my day to day behavior within that community.
When we young men (and some young ladies as well) “stepped off the reservation” the adults were not shy about taking corrective measures, even in the absence of our parents, because I was Robert’s kid, Bernhart’s grandson, Wilhelm’s family … and then we would get “straightened out” all over again when our parents eventually heard about how we had behaved.
With those gratuitous gifts of “membership” in our community came responsibilities … expectations that we would behave in a manner deserving of the gifts. There was no “free lunch”. As an older teen, a couple of years before I joined the NAVY, I learned that responsibilities went both ways, both up and down the community “chain of command”. We discovered that as a result of a misadventure involving “messing about in boats”, a normal summer activity of young people in any coastal town.
In a popular story, Mole and Rat are rowing up the river in Rat’s boat. They are discussing nautical things and life in general when Rat is heard to utter, “Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing — absolutely nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats”. (The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame: Ch. 1: The River Bank)
Anyway, we, a mixed group of young people, headed out in a couple of small boats for an afternoon “expedition” of swimming and fishing and a picnic or shore lunch if we caught anything.
But we navigators failed to accurately gauge the state of the tide and in taking a “shortcut” which would have been perfectly safe an hour earlier we managed to clip some rocks and snapped a sheer-pin and disabled 1 of the small boats. We were definitely off the well traveled lanes and not likely to be found by accident.
Now, some things never change, and no red-blooded young man willingly asks for help in front of young ladies he is seeking to impress. Instead of sending the other boat with the good prop back to town for help we instead decided to haul out and camp while we repaired the engine ourselves.
This was well before the days of cell phones and such and we completely forgot about the fact that our failure to return on time more or less, would create rather a stir.
When we finally made it back, several hours later, in pitch darkness, on a flood tide, we discovered that all the local lobster boats and small craft and half the town had turned out to search for us through every nook and inlet up and down the shore. While everyone was overjoyed to find us all OK there were also serious “grounding” repercussions for our failure to keep everyone informed about what we were involved in.
Their (adult) responsibility was to look after us and search for us when we didn’t show up and they went all out. Our responsibility was to make sure we kept our folks aware of what was going on and we really blew it that time. Privileges and responsibilities tie families and generations together in a web of caring, a web of values.
Those beliefs and that code are our “tribal values” if you will. If we are lucky, as we grow up and join larger groups than our immediate tribe, we discover that those larger groups have the same values as our tribe. Not a coincidence, these shared beliefs, that similarity, that “familiarity”, is probably what attracted us to that group in the first place. Joining that larger group seamlessly expands the boundaries of what we now feel is “our family”, our “tribe”.
So, what’s the point of this? Well, our tribe turns out to be very large. I won’t go into the whole human race part of things, but I want to talk about carrying the name of “Christian”. We are part of the family of Christ. We are Christians and we carry GOD’s name. And we have a comprehensive set of “family values”, our community values, inherent in being part of over 2000 years of Christian family. And we have a command and a responsibility to not carry GOD’s name in vain.
When we carry GOD’s name in keeping with the Manufacturer’s Instructions, we bring honor and glory to our family. The body of Christ, and the meta-values of the Christian community form a basket of safety within which we are free to live our lives as a credit to our family. We respect a set of spiritual fences within which the sheep of His flock are safe.
But the absolute worst sin is doing evil in GOD’s name, whether it is murder and torture in the name of holy war, or abuse and exploitation of others as part of our position in the community, or teaching bad doctrine to “little ones” or accepting moral relativism in giving evil a pass because it is not “tolerant” to criticize bad behavior.
Evil is evil is evil, and pretending that it is not while carrying the name of GOD is the most heinous sin. Thou shalt not carry the Lord’s Name in vain.
I believe that Satan’s greatest tool is that he always makes sin look good, he makes it look attractive. That is how he sells the biggest lie, the biggest lie is that we can do without the sacred. The deadly lie is that we think we can find our fulfillment and our happiness in our own pleasure and gratification.
That “Pleasure as the way of ultimate fulfillment is the ultimate lie” is obvious after only a little thought. Humans always crave change, we are wired to notice change, not stasis, and for pleasure to be good we must always crave more, not less pleasure.
In seeking only pleasure without boundaries we necessarily fall into self worship, and ultimately, as we grow older, it leads to tremendous weariness of pleasure – and then despair as we look at our future without pleasure, without our neighbor, and without the sacred … our future alone.
One of our traditional tribal meta-values is to love the other as ourself. That is the exact opposite of finding our end in seeking pleasure. As soon as we love “the other” as ourself we have to accept boundaries as necessary to the realization of “do onto others as you would have done unto ourself”, another traditional tribal meta-value. If we love GOD, the creator of all, then we must see in the face of the other the face of GOD.
We are all “the other”, and GOD our Creator loves us all infinitely. We cannot love GOD with our whole heart and our whole mind and our whole will and our whole soul if we still love ourselves above others. As children of GOD we are necessarily required to emulate GOD’s values, that is “love for all” and to see our brothers and sisters as our Father sees them. We are all, each of us, a Shekhinah.
The Shekhina(h) (Biblical Hebrew: שכינה šekīnah; also Romanized Shekina(h), Schechina(h), Shechina(h)) is the English transliteration of a Hebrew word meaning “dwelling” or “settling” and denotes the dwelling or settling of the divine presence of God. And we are each and everyone of us a dwelling place of the spirit of GOD, more or less, as we adhere to His precepts and strive to do His will.
Without the Sacred there is quite literally only death, sooner or later, for every human being, for all eternity.
So read the signs … they are not complex … its not “rocket science”. The signs were as clear for the 1st century Palestinian peasant as they are for us today if only we will look and listen.