Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Hands Of Esau, The Voice Of Jacob: SC&A Review Robert Godwin’s “One Cosmos Under God”

This piece was written by the author of Sigmund, Carl and Alfred, who has kindly agreed to crosspost on this site.

One of the most dramatic scenes in the Old Testament takes place on the deathbed of the biblical patriarch, Isaac. As his strength wanes, the now blind patriarch sends his eldest son, Esau, into the fields to trap and then prepare a game animal in celebration of the blessings about to be bestowed.

Rebekah, mother of both Esau and Jacob, decides that it is Jacob and not Esau, that deserves the 'blessing of the firstborn.' She concocts a plan to do just that. She slaughters two goats, and prepares a favorite savory meal and encourages Jacob to serve his father the meal. Jacob protests- he tells his mother that his father will be able to see through the deception. Undaunted, Rebekah fashions sleeves of goatskins that Jacob is to slide over his smooth arms and a scarf of goatskin to wrap around his neck, so that when the blind Isaac embraces his son, the smooth skinned Jacob will feel like the rougher skinned and haired brother, Esau. As the drama unfolds, Rebekah's plan works and Jacob is bestowed with the blessing meant for his older brother, much to the consternation of Esau.

Many religious commentators and theologians have written on the episode, but one nagging questions remains: Once Isaac knew he was deceived, why did he not simply bestow the appropriate blessing on Esau? Why not admonish Jacob for the deception?

While there are many lessons to be learned from the story, some lessons stand out.

Firstly, it is clear from Rebekah's action that blessings from God are to be earned. They are not simply handed out by reason of protocol or belief. While the acceptance of a religious creed is important, the deeds of the individual are more important. Rebekah understood that it was her second son, Jacob, by reason of his behavior, who was more worthy of Isaac's blessing. Isaac realized that his wife's motivation for deceiving him was more significant than his own desire to reward his firstborn. Isaac comes to realize that the reality of the moral worthiness of Jacob's supersedes the significance of birth order.

It could not have been easy for Rebekah to choose one son over the other. Nevertheless, Rebekah does exactly that because she understand that there are some things bigger than her own motherhood. By reason of her own faith, she came to understand the legacy of Abraham's covenant with God was not to be measured by protocol or birth order, but rather, by the legacy of the kind of deeds that God intended for man to elevate himself, to be worthy of having been 'created in His image.'

One Cosmos Under God, by Robert Godwin (author of the blog One Cosmos) is a marvelous and profound book that illustrates the simple truth that real faith serves to elevate man and that the struggle for that faith elevates our potential, because our behavior and deeds can influence and author our collective and individual destinies. The book is satisfying and rich. That said, it cannot be read in a single sitting. Godwin expects his readers to contemplate his ideas and to challenge him with their own long held beliefs.

Godwin's ideas are the result of a fresh look at the world around us. He looks at parenthood and 'babyhood' and the mystical process of acquiring 'humaness.' He discusses the nature of knowledge and the nature of experience and where they converge to become recognized and elevating of universal and spiritual truths.

In science, Godwin sees the exquisitely transcendent and choreographed ballet of the life and the universe and he challenges those who believe the lonely and cacophonous notes of science are the point of our existence. Perhaps most importantly, he deconstructs the stridency and literal interpretation of religious doctrine as well as the contemporary desire to make religion an abstract manifestation of self expression. That is no small matter. Are we answerable to God or is God answerable to us? These are the questions of our time.

Godwin sees the struggle with and for faith as a kind of conversation with God- and that is a good thing. He sees the meaningfulness of that conversation enhanced by elevating behaviors negating those behaviors that only serve to lower our humanness. By way of example, he notes that

The cultivation of humility and gratitude serve to oppose covetousness and envy.

If we are to elevate ourselves and our conversations with God, we must first understand and then work on our own weaknesses. As Rebekah understood, it is through our deeds and personal struggles that we become worthy of our potential destiny.

The book is not about religion. Godwin is comfortable seeking truth wherever it might be found. His treasure map is the world, drawn with the pen of history and colored with the universal wisdom of the cultures of the ages. The approach is refreshing- no matter our religion, we come to see the elevation of man by way of faith as something to rejoice. Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Jr or the Imam in Paris that called out to save the Jews in Nazi occupied France, are all examples of how an elevated sense and understanding of what it means to be 'created in His image' means.

One Cosmos Under God is a testament to the 'Unity' of Creation, life and purpose, of which Godwin writes so elegantly. The 'Unity,' that endless symphony of life he describes, is really a moving target, ever more demanding of our better selves and ever more elevating. It is through faith that we are given the tools with which we can meet the challenge.

In the end, One Cosmos Under God, is one man's effort to put onto canvas his search for meaning, life and unity. His convictions are fierce and unshakable- the hands of Esau, the product of his own fierce struggle for and with faith. His voice is that of Jacob, soft and compelling, by way of reason and ever yearning to find that higher and elevated self.

The universe is like a holographic, multidimensional musical score, that must be read, understood and performed. Like the score of a symphony, it is full of information that can be rendered in different ways. The score can interpret diverse interpretations, but surely one of them cannot be "music does not exist." For at the end of the day, we are each a unique and unrepeatable melody that can, if only we pay close enough attention to the polyphonic score that surrounds and abides within us, harmonize existence in our own beautiful way, and thereby hear the vespered strains of the "song supreme."

Like great art, readers of Robert Godwin's effort will be rewarded and nourished in the way they need to be. There is no 'one size fits all,' when it comes to faith, God and the never ending struggle to elevate ourselves- and therein we are each assured of adding our own notes to that symphony and "song supreme."

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