Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Rose by Any Other Name

      Today I was pondering the Christian celebration of Ash Wednesday and the Jewish celebration of Passover when Romeo and Juliet wandered through the mine fields of my mind today. Bear with me, please. I actually Googled Shakespeare’s play and re-read some of the famous passages. Yet again, a frequent topic of discussion in blogs and comments, synchronicity, emerged. Ahhh, the pain and angst of teenage love. There are no areas of gray, the world is either “my way” or I shall die. No one but the two teenagers in question have ever been in love or known the passion and beating hearts that the two young lovers feel. NO ONE! Teenage love is cataclysmic. Mock it, deny it, deride or minimize the young love and the hell that is wrought by a woman scorned will feel like a goose down duvet compared to the fury you will unleash.

The only other comparable nuclear reaction occurs when you offend another’s religion or their religious and spiritual beliefs. I still shudder when the infamous family gathering emerges from my memory banks. Born in the deep south and raised in true deep south Southern Baptist tradition, I knew how to pray. The family had “circled up” (that’s southern for gathering in a circle and holding hands) for the meal time prayer. I was called upon to do the honors. Taking a deep reflective breath, I uttered the fateful words, “Creator of Life. “ Before the ‘ife’ rolled off my tongue my brain started screaming “Oh my God!”’ Now mind you, my brain was screaming, “Oh my God!” but the name, “God”, was nowhere in my prayer. Ever the resourceful one, I figured if I was going to die by lightning let it be now while everyone was circled up and would not dare break the circle of prayer to drive a stake into my heathen heart. I continued the blessing as I would normally pray and changed not a word or name or descriptor of the Divine Presence, God or Creator from whom I sought the blessing for us and the food.

Romeo replies to Juliet’s call of ‘who is there?” with

“By a name I know not how to tell thee who I am. My name, dear saint, is hateful to myself, Because it is an enemy to thee. Had I it written, I would tear the word.”

If Helen of Troy’s face could launch a thousand ships, the name of “God” has launched even more armies and wars. It is a “name” that has or can be so misrepresented, maligned and abused that you have to wonder if the presence behind the name shares the same feelings as Romeo. It is a “name” that can create an impenetrable wall dividing countries, families and even churches. It is a “name” that can cease discussions, understanding and even belief.

It is a “name” but it is not the presence, the being, the force nor the essence. Juliet, thinking of Romeo speaks

 "Tis but thy name that is my enemy. Thou art thyself, not a Montague. What’s Montague? It is nor hand, nor foot, nor arm nor face, nor any other part belonging to a man. ... Retain that dear perfection which he owes without [the name of Romeo]. Doff thy name; and for that name, which is no part of thee, take all myself.”

When Moses asked G-d whom should he tell the people of Israel had called him, G-d answered “Tell them I AM." I AM that “dear perfection” which causes our souls and hearts to cry out and respond. I AM that force, power, energy, hope and love that moves within and without. I AM that “dear perfection” which is not the flavor of the day, a little bit of this and a little bit of that to suit my tastes, needs or opinions.

I AM that “dear perfection” which is, what? I do not know. Perhaps I do, but then I risk placing a name between you and I. This I know and to this I promise to be true: if I should write of G-d, God, Buddha, Bodhicitta, Creator of Life, Divine Presence or any of the other descriptors of this “dear perfection” my heart has no intent to offend. It is just that sometimes without “a name I know not how to tell thee who I am.”