The Duties of the Heart
Gate Two: "Reflecting Upon Created Things
We'll do what we can in this second gate to catch sight of G-d's presence in
our midst and thus confirm His existence. But we'll see something else too
along the way -- just how good He is to us.
Now while no one can ignore the pain and sorrow many people suffer, the often
overlooked underlying goodness of it all can't be denied either -- once we're
made aware of it. And that will be our task here.
The truth be known, many of us will be hard pressed to accept the points Ibn
Pakudah will make below -- simply because we're so mired in the very symptoms
he lays out, and thus find it difficult seeing how very right he is. In many
ways we're like inveterate alcoholics who like our whiskey too much to own up
to how much havoc it's wreaking in our lives. For as we'll find, it's i
ronically very often our own inability to recognize all the good G-d
has granted us that causes us our pain and sorrow.
Perhaps, then, it would do us well to especially ponder the ideas presented
below and take them to heart. Because if we're ever to achieve spiritual
excellence as we'd like to, we'd need to own up to a number of things that
elude us, no matter how unpleasant hearing them said outright may be for now.
Because in the end we'll recognize the truth and genuinely be the people we'd
like to be.
So why in fact don't we realize how good G-d is to us, and why do so many of
us scoff at the very idea? For three reasons, as Ibn Pakudah sees it.
First, because we're virtually absorbed in the material side of the world and
look to it for succor. So we tend to be bedazzled by the magic of this and
that thing and quickly lose interest in everything G-d has already granted
us, complain about the things we don't have and oftentimes don't need, and
think life is bad.
Second, because we all grow up with a plethora of G-d-given favors -- large
and small, apparent and inapparent -- which we then grow used to and come to
accept as a "given". And by the time we realize all we have, we're already
too preoccupied to appreciate it, and have grown slack in our gratitude. In a
way we can all be said to be like spoiled brats that way.
And third, because we simply don't understand the nature of suffering, and
think well-being and comfort is due us. In truth, life itself is a gift--- a
veritable usually several decades long favor granted us by G-d in love, and
based upon nothing we did to deserve it. The other point to be made is that
we oftentimes suffer for reasons beyond our ken; yet we think we're wiser yet
than G-d, and that we should decide how we're to live life.
So we're encouraged to appreciate all we have, life included. And to thank
G-d for it all. We'll explore the multitude of favors we enjoy in more depth
in later chapters.
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