The veil

Driving the road between Yosemite Park and San Francisco, my skin toasting in the sun and my heart communing with the spirit of Driving, a thought came to me about the nature of this world – the veil. It stems from a story written by `Attar. He writes that a great king once possessed such dazzling beauty, his subjects expired instantly on meeting him. Wishing the well-being of his people, he locked himself away in his castle, but set up a huge mirror so he could still wave to them and show them that he loved them. He separated himself out of love, that they would not be overcome, and have a chance to know his love.

This caused me to imagine a perfect Being, possessed of an equal love. Since it is the nature of love to express itself, and shower its light, He chose to bring into being creatures to receive that love, the way some parents are inspired to have children. This, then, would be the reason we are here, because He wished that love to be known.

Having created us, He could not reveal His love right away. Such an outpouring would obliterate us before we could appreciate it. If the sun rose too quickly, plants would not survive the transition from darkness to light, from coolness to warmth. The way of fragile things is graduation, so He needed a way to manifest His love gradually, in order for it to be known.

If love is light, then we are the eyes to see it. But if a bright light appears too suddenly, it brings only blindness and pain. We would not appreciate a single moment of its brilliance. Thus, in consideration of our frailty, darkness was created. In the relative darkness we can open our eyes, and accustom ourselves to vision. By appearing gradually, we learn to appreciate the light, and its infinite varieties of shape, texture, and color. We can see the beauty hidden in the light because it is reduced from its pure whiteness, to the shades and hues of physical objects. The world is our veil – and our filter, allowing us to see what otherwise would overwhelm our vision completely.

So the perfect Being created a world of limitation, of seeming imperfection, to attenuate His love to the hearts of its recipients. Out of love, He created the veil of the world: an act of love to protect us from the overpowering force of that love. The imperfection we see are mercy, for without them, we would carried away by His awesome beauty. Without the limits of our awareness, we would not be aware at all. Our limitations, then, aid our awareness, much as warming up aids physical exercise. There is nothing but love implied in the nature of our being.

If this rings a note of truth, it indicates a fundamental shift in how I view my flaws. They are like the lid upon my eye, at once obscuring my vision, but also protecting it. To see, I must open my eye – and remove the obstruction. But until I am ready to see, the lid serves me at the same time it inhibits me. Removing the veil in order to see is a boon to awareness; but having flaws is also a boon to awareness, protecting it until the time is ripe. It may even be that the process of removal is what prepares my soul for its accomplishment, much like a protective skin to be shed off as I grow.

It means there is nothing but love to be seen in the fact of creation. Even what seems to have nothing to do with love, is another kind of love. I cannot imagine the alternative, a world full of peril and deceit, with a wrathful God waiting to judge our mistakes at the end of life. I think, rather, He simply reveals himself to the extent we have matured. Our flaws are there to give us the chance to grow. The purpose of life is not only to remove them, but to outgrow them, in order to see what lies beyond.

Otherwise, we would be like hapless citizens meeting that beautiful King, and throwing away our lives away at His feet. How can we know His love, unless we live long enough to feel it? The nature of this world, the veil, is like a nursery for rearing tender plants, guided by the loving hand of the Gardener. What gardener plants his seeds, only to scorn those that grow more slowly than others? He would know only love for them all – and sorrow for those who give up on growing, and slowly recline into the waning hues of death.

The veil is both our life and our death, just as sleep is both the enemy and the friend of consciousness: Enough of it, and we are readied to face the new day; too little, and we cannot concentrate; too much, and we miss the day entirely. If this is true of all our flaws – of the veil itself – then, like a bandage on a wound, let us appreciate its role until the need is ended. The purpose is to know His love, after all. Dwelling on our flaws, or fearing them, or focusing solely upon them, is to give them much more importance than they deserve.