Imagine a magic mirror in which out of your peripheral vision you can see beautiful pictures but when once you look into it straight on, all the fair scenes disappear.
In part one I applied this idea to music; if you think of a person while listening to a song the tones will be more affecting than if you think directly about the tones themselves.
In part 2 I will extrapolate this idea thusly: My relationships with other people are best when those people are not my focus, but rather God.
This is the one relationship the title refers to. In a way all the other ‘relationships’ I have are just reflections of this one relationship -They fall into place in relation to One Relationship.
Now, “My relationship with a person is best when the person is not the focus” is a concept you’ve probably thought of before in regard to people or lions.
Who has not noticed how affection, and caring are built up when truly pursuing a common goal with someone? But even if it’s widely known it is still partly counter-intuitive “X will be better if not made the focus”
What comes to mind is a romance. We might think that the couple that gazes into each other’s eyes all day long is the most in love and therefore their relationship is most secure, but another part of us senses that a relationship is more secure when the couple doesn’t gaze at each other all day long but rather has a shared mission. A classic example of a fragile relationship in which the husband was obsessed with his wife is Enid and Geraint’s, written about in Tennyson’s “The Marriage of Geraint”
He compassed her with sweet observances
And worship, never leaving her, and grew
Forgetful of his promise to the King,
Forgetful of the falcon and the hunt,
Forgetful of the tilt and tournament,
Forgetful of his glory and his name,
Forgetful of his princedom and its cares.
And this forgetfulness was hateful to her.
The jeering and scoffing this brought upon him as of a knight whose manhood was all gone grieved Enid and her sorrow was mistaken by Geraint for unfaithfulness. In burning jealousy his kindness turned to hardness.
‘Not at my side. I charge thee ride before,
Ever a good way on before; and this
I charge thee, on thy duty as a wife,
Whatever happens, not to speak to me,
No, not a word!’ and Enid was aghast
Perhaps their relationship would have been stronger if he had gazed less on her and they had gazed outward in the same direction more.
But where to gaze? Even with ‘common goals’ the question what you are ultimately looking to arises.
The other day I was going to a dance. The invitation said “Dress as formally as possible” so I went to consult with my youngest brother. (Just like in the Grimm’s story ‘The Four Clever Brothers’ the fourth of us brothers is a tailor.) “Maybe you could wear my blue pinstripe suit.” I tried it on – a very handsome suit. “The legs are too short” he said. I said something about wearing them low, but he was not convinced. “Then you have a big gap between your trousers and your waist coat. I’ll re-hem them.”
He took out the old seam, and then carefully with a cloth between the iron and the pant leg he began ironing out the old fold. I knew that my standard of nicety in dress did not require such care. I thought of something I had read about a motorcycle mechanic doing a repair job in which he went far beyond what was required of him by his client because he was compelled on by some transcendent idea of the dignity of the mechanism itself. I mentioned this idea to my youngest brother – how a pant leg should be re-hemmed based on my humble standards vs. the high standard set by the pant leg in the world of platonic forms. “Well, they’re my pants” he said a little pawkily.
This is one option. Don’t get caught up on people. Do your work based on a belief in a world of forms. That is, a way things should be transcendentally existent.
This can feel unnatural.
I’ll give you an example: this blog. This blog is almost a secret. It’s hard to find and I don’t think many people read it. Recently I mentioned my poetry on here to a friend who then asked for a link saying ‘I’d enjoy to read your poetry.’ ‘Maybe,’ I thought and sent the link to my blog. Just the thought of having a friend who has the link and could possibly, potentially read it has improved this blog. I finished a poem I’d started and also cleaned things up by removing an unfinished post that I had started called One Relationship pt 2. (This is is the finished version.)
So you see that the blog is better with just the possibility of a friend reading it then just as a blog trying to live up to some ideal of “What a Blog should be” that exists in a platonic world of forms.
And if I have something good, it’s more loving to share it than not. But you probably also see that this is double edged, if I make pleasing a person my guide. Remember the story from Aesop, The Miller, his Son, and their Ass?
Milo Winter, 1919
Everyone was criticizing the way the miller and his son were bringing their ass to market, so to please people they switched from walking to the son riding, to the father riding, to both riding, to, finally, carrying the ass, which leads them to dropping it accidentally into a stream as they cross a bridge.
Truly, “The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe. Many seek the ruler’s favour: but every man’s judgment cometh from the LORD.” (Proverbs 29:25-26) The best way not to get swept into doing wrong things to please men, is to fear God
“[E]very man’s judgment cometh from the LORD.”
There is One who sees and knows your life. And He can reward you for a kind deed, even when no one else recognizes it. Doing something for conscience sake is all about standing alone before God. An evil friend might be pleased when you do evil things. A good friend should be pleased when you do what’s right, but even in his best moment he does not have a perfect conception of right, and, significantly, he does not know what is in you. But Jesus, our Lord and God “needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.” (John 22:25)
Your good friend may be pleased with your hypocrisy, and give you no affirmation for a secret good deed. But God is not fooled by a mask of good, and he will reward you for choosing the good when no one else saw.
“[W]hen thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” (Matt. 6:5-6)
Living to please Him should free us from doing things to please men, and paradoxically taking our focus thus off of others works to those other’s benefit. What others find pleasing is actually not as good a guide to doing what is best for them as acting toward them as God tells you to.
I think about the One relationship when I go down to the abortion clinics to plead and protest. As the hour draws near I get the feeling “It will be so hard to take all that hatred from my fellow men. It’s easier to go out and do things that my fellow Portlanders applaud.” And then I just have to throw myself into the arms of God. The children I plead for I never see, because they’re in the womb, and their parents are often threatening and angry. But their response is not what measures how much I am loving them. God who tries the hearts measures that. I pray my rebukes come from a loving heart. “Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him.” (Leviticus 19:17)
Again, what others find pleasing is actually not as good a guide to doing what is best for them as acting toward them as God tells you to.
Jesus equated loving God and loving your neighbour. A Pharisee asked Jesus “Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matt. 22:36-40)
I think the second is like unto the first because loving God, having that one relationship right, is to love your neighbour. I mean, if you’re seeking God’s glory and to please Him you will be doing the things that are best for your neighbour. Any time a vile thought or deed flows out of your heart, that’s from a break in your love for God.
“He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor.” (Proverbs 14:31)
A final angle on this. Often times the idea is put out that a belief in the goodness of humanity will help you be good to others. It sounds good because we do treat people better whom we hope the best for, and if we believe in the goodness of humanity, that is a foundation for hope. The problem is, it’s a bad foundation for hope.
The best basis for treating others lovingly is not a belief in the goodness of humanity, it is a belief in the goodness of God. Believing in the goodness of God keeps hope and love alive when a belief in the goodness of humanity would leave you wrecked in cynicism or lead you into relating to people on a delusional level.
So to tie it all together; we considered the idea of doing something because “that’s the way it should be done” because of transcendental truth. And there is transcendental truth and it is God who defines it. So we should work in a way that is not bound to human standards, or bound to pleasing men, but we should not think of it as satisfying an impersonal “the way pants should be hemmed”, but rather loving a personal Creator.
And we’ve considered doing things for other people, and it is right that our actions should be in service to other people but the way we will learn HOW we can best serve and love other people is in loving God first, and by seeking to please Him by doing what he says. This love of God will perforce be acted out in service to others.
Though we might, in a dry mathematical way, think turning our eyes toward God would mean neglect of our fellow men, He will teach us how to rightly love others more than we could ever do if we made other people our focus. He loved us so much that “gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)