When I came out of the movie theater a couple of days ago, the sky was filled with lightning. I sat down to watch for a little while, and thought about how God hides from us. It’s like He wears a thick cloak made up of time, troubles and plurality. There I was, standing on the warm cement, looking at those awesome flashes in the sky, thinking about my friends and feeling the humid air blowing around me. Why are there so many different things? God isn’t in any one of them, and I don’t have the vision to see all of it at once. Why does He hide in the manyness of things? By giving me these eyes, He makes me to think that I’m down here, and the sky is up there, and all the space between separates us. It may be an illusion, but it is no less convincing.
So there He was, hiding behind the flashes in the sky, hiding in the time it took for them to join earth and heaven, hiding in the singular point of view of a lone mind standing on the ground. Hiding in the finitude and difference and color and thought. Separation can seem so obvious, it makes us feel that we are separated. Every object is a veil because it obscures its place among the other objects, since we don’t see things as a whole beyond time. By His very completeness, He remains hidden to those who live in parts. Our “self” lies in the very fact of possessing a point of view.
It struck me that this was the essence of hell: how hidden He can be. The more hidden, the more invisible, the more hellish our existence. This is the agony of a life with no purpose, when we have to invent a goal just to give our days meaning. And heaven is the opposite: its essence is His manifestation, as He becomes more obvious.
I think that when we die we’ll leave this world of hiding and enter another where He stands clear; but the essence of that hiding and manifestation are independent of life and death. If a soul perfects its vision, perhaps it can pierce the veil and discover a clarity of perception that can bring heaven into the heart. This would make the next world a concrete expression of that relationship, but it is in discovering God that the true meaning of heaven lies.
Then the thought returned to me: why does He hide? It made me think of a film called “Dokhtar-i-Irani” (“Persian Girl”). In that movie there is a man,
Ali, who is the son of a wealth family.Ali is tired of his wealth and all the false attention it brings, so he leaves his family and takes up the lifestyle of a poor artisan making statues.
In the neighborhood of his shop there is a girl that he comes to admire, but she pays him little attention. The other girls at the shop make fun of
Ali, saying essentially that he has little worth. ButAli falls in love with this girl, and begins making a sculpture of an angel using her face. He also does sweet things for her, and she starts to take notice. She herself isn’t interested in marrying anyone, but her family pressures her to find a good husband. She keeps to herself, but starts thinking of `Ali, even though her family would never approve of him.
Ali begins to win her heart, her family learns of his wealthy heritage. They suddenly become very excited forAli to marry their daughter and setup a meeting with
Ali's parents.Ali knows nothing of these plans. When he comes to the girl’s house and sees his parents, he knows instantly what they are about. They are only being nice to him because they want to marry into a wealthy family. They would never have accepted him otherwise. `Ali believes that the girl is the same, and that everything has been a trick to lure him. He leaves and returns to the school where he learned sculpture.
Perhaps this is why God hides behind the nature of this world. He is like
Ali, covering up his wealth because of the false interest it would generate. He wishes to know who His lovers are and who wants to marry Him because of what they hope to gain. It is not that He wishes this hell of obscurity for us -- after death we are sure to enter another world free of that burden -- but those who learn the secrets of love here can discover a special connection, like the girl whose affection forAli was untainted by knowledge of His wealth.
In this respect, His hiding is a gift to us, for once the veil is lifted, our hearts will no longer be ours: they will be lost in admiration to One Whose essence is the substance of every wish. But how can something so automatic be love? Maybe love only lies in being willing to see what others cannot.