Mankind is perhaps the first and best representation of the mathematical term linearity. Stop rolling your eyes, all you non-math geeks, and hand with me a minute. I’m no mathematician either so this really is not going to be that complicated. It is about relating to each other and to our beliefs.
Linear things are things which are related. Most of us experience it every day when we watch television. The accuracy of the images and shapes on the television screen is due to and an example of linearity. In electricity, linearity refers to the proportional response or output signal based upon the input. In other words, something similar to the old say from the Abrahamic faiths, “an eye for an eye” or the reason why, in Islam, if a man is caught stealing, the hand with which he committed the act of theft is cut off. The problem is that those interpretations, while an example of linearity, are not linear.
Something is said to be linear when it can be represented as a straight line or, simply put, when two things are directly connected or proportional. The original passage from which the linearity of the two illustrations above, the eye for an eye and the cutting off of a thief’s hand, are not proportional.
The word for the monotheistic deity of the mythologies which have become the basis for the three Abrahamic faiths we are discussing today is “El Elohe Yisrael”. We have preciously touched on the etymology of “el” and “elohe”, a form of “Elohim”, all words meaning strong, creator, and/or god.
Some find it interesting that the name “Israel” contains the names, in a fashion, of three Egyptian gods. Isis was a goddess who represented the feminine facets of life – creation, love, compassion, nature. Ra was the Egyptian sun god, represented by an eye which was said to be all powerful and all knowing. The “El” aspect of the name, if indeed these three sections were to be significant, is more in keeping with the modern Middle East we know today. There are two deities which could be represented by “el”. The first was the Akkadian god of earth and wind known as Ellil. Together with two other deities, Ellil formed a powerful triad of gods worshipped in ancient Mesopotamia. Sumeo-Babylonia myths tell of a god named Enlil. Born of heaven and earth, Enlil was said to be the main deity, possessing the Tables of Destiny which provide him with power over man and nature.
There are other words, though, which could be the root of the word Israel or, as it is written in Hebrew, Yisrael. The French had a word “ebreu” which was most likely from the Latin “Hebraios”. The Aramaic “ebrai” translates as one from the other side, meaning one from across the Euphrates River. Certainly the Israelites were immigrants so most likely this is the derivative of their name. They became known as Biblical Jews and were devout to their faith and its teachings, the mythological tales of their ancestry and their god, the god of Israel, El Elohe Yisrael.
However, the El Elohe Yisrael is not the same deity exactly of the other Abrahamic faiths, faiths which believe in a similar creation myth and one deity but with different ways of identifying that one deity. So while their beginnings were linear, related in a timeline, they lack linearity, a fact which has led to strife and turmoil and wars for centuries and which is culminating in terrorism in the world today. How did we lose the Euclidean living of these myths, these stories of faith, these doctrines for living and worshipping a merciful, loving, fulfilling deity?
The purpose of this blog is to encourage thinking and start a conversation, either internally or externally. This week I received two special comments which really got me thinking. One was about He-Man and how we master ourselves and our world from the post “Masters of the Universe”. The other was yesterday’s post “To Be a Neighbor”. I hope you reread these comments and look up the song mentioned.
I do not repost commenter’s names but yesterday’s post brought up something we have discussed before – the fact that I think we all have slightly different definitions and perceptions of the one God of these three Abrahamic faiths, even if we are of the same faith and denomination. It is very much like how one defines a serving of food. The other night we had macaroni and cheese and I made quite a bit, so as to have leftovers for the next day since it was going to be a busy day. Another family member graciously cleaned up after the meal and later I asked how much food was leftover. “One serving” was my reply. I was surprised since I had made enough for another entire meal. “Well,” said my offspring, “for one of us it would be one serving. For you, it’d be three meals!”
I think, for some of us, God is like a serving, something we use once or twice or just when we feel we need a deity on our side. For others, God is a constant companion, masterful and powerful, creator and counselor, friend and healer. For a few, God is a character in a book and nothing more. They see no correlation between their life and this deity spoken of in the myths of the land of the Fertile Crescent.
The writings which advocated an “eye for an eye” were discussing monetary payment and that it should be fair. If you provide someone a service worth twenty euros, you should be paid twenty euros. It was not a passage about vengeance or retaliation. One way to stop someone from misusing their hands might be to remove them but if you do that, then you also deny them any chance of doing good. What Michelangelo saw with his eyes and then recreated is not the same thing I would see with my eyes and then draw – unless you want the Sistine Chapel to be decorated with stick figures! The passage was encouraging equality and a linear relationship, not violence or bloodthirsty retaliatory action.
We all have linearity with the past. We are descended from someone, some culture, some location. We have a family tree that traces our presence on earth from our parents whose lineage is traced from their parents, etc., etc., etc. Our living should be proportional to our faith. That means when someone cuts in front of you in traffic or a line, we need to pause and remember we are their neighbor, their brother. At some point, we might have inadvertently done the same thing, probably without even realizing it. Whether in a market in a sandy desert or shopping in a big box store or mall, we have all been crowded. Our faith should be in our reaction, proportional to our faith, the input of our beliefs. To push another because they pushed us, to bully another because they bullied us is not going to provide the quality action of any faith except one of anger and misery.
Euclidean geometry is one of my favorites but it is all about shapes on a flat surface or plane. Life is snot flat or, at least, it should not be. Life is about vibrancy, the pulsations of living things, the ebb and flow of the tides and the world turns. In Euclidean geometry the lines are constant. In elliptic geometry lines intersect. Our earth has an elliptical orbit. Our lives should as well, intersecting our faith with our living, greeting people with the praise, love, and mercy of the mythologies of our cultures. We may call that which we worship by different names, but just like my macaroni and cheese, it still nourishes our beings, our souls, our lives.