Filler #5: Journey in the Dark and the Meaning of Moving Beyond the Wheel

Posted by Whit Barringer , Saturday, December 13, 2008 11:16 PM

So I was looking through my old journals that I wrote for Core I, and found some really interesting ones that I completely forgot about. Apparently I had a tendency to write LOOOONG journal entries, which makes me feel sorry for my professor, but my tangents are really cool to go back and read now. I was under the impression that I barely understood some of the readings, but this visitation has made it clear that I was indeed on the right plane of thinking.

I thought I'd share the following journal entry, which is a response to Thomas A. Cahill's essay "Journey in the Dark" from The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels. The prompt has been lost to time, as it has changed for the classes that came after me, so take this as a meditation on the piece. I think it reads well that way, too.
Without further ado, here is the entry.

Cahill's essay "Journey in the Dark" and the meaning of thinking differently about time as something linear rather than circular or cyclical.

According to Cahill, most of the world’s beginning religions or beliefs were based on the cyclical nature of all things. This meant, looking from this perspective, that all things came in a certain order. Everything from the Mayan and Chinese calendars to the moon were cyclical, dependable and perpetual, in nature. As something that is so rigid and precise in its repetition of the perpetual wheel, it cannot be stopped by either man nor God’s hand. However, in today’s world, most believe God is beyond the “wheel” or any of its constraints to space and time, and that, in the end, we can achieve oneness with God. In this approach, man can actually reach beyond the wheel of time and not succumb to its eternal nature. This view was brought about, in legend and lore, by Avraham, or Abraham, an ancient Jew, who, in his heart, listened to God’s plan of spreading Abraham’s seed in a new land where his fruits would be many and good. His wife was barren, and they lived in a city more prosperous than the desert or a foreign land with no cities there. However, God’s offer was to transcend the wheel, to give Abraham his children, his land, his prosperity, against what had seemed to be his fate. He was off in search of a better life when it would have been obvious to all around him that he had the best possible life given his situation.

Through some connecting of the dots, the ideas formed by Abraham’s journey into the land of Canaan and past the Great Wheel and the ideas supported by the Ten Commandments can be related. The main point for all to notice is that though the Ten Commandments are law (perhaps guidelines for people in modern times), they are law not for law’s sake, but for the sake of each individual soul. In following these codes of conduct, one appeals to bit of God in each of us. In Genesis 27, it is said that man is created in the image of God. Most cultures consider God to be great in wisdom, fairness, and love. By following the “Decalogue” and other commandments, man ultimately becomes wise, fair, and loving, in Jewish theory. In doing this and becoming this, man becomes more like God. In becoming more like God, man begins to reach beyond the wheel of time, of space, of life, of Earth, of the universal truth, and reaches another universal truth – that God is behind the machinations of the universe itself. And God being behind all this, ultimately controlling it all, and a simple soul of his creation reaching out to him and becoming him (that is, God), actually surpasses the root of time itself.

I believe that, in a lot of ways, this is true. However, I think most humans are more ambitious to find God as a way to immortal living, not as a way past the Great Wheel of All Things (I suppose this is as broad and encompassing as I can get). Cahill (as I found through a little research) is a historian. Therefore, his views aren’t that metaphysical, but factual as to the events of 3000 and 4000 B.C.E. He was making a purely factual connection between that so distant past and the world we are living in today. Though spiritual matters and customs are big impacts on history, the constant human nature is not necessarily looked at as in depth as a philosopher or student of religion. Kellner, however, was making his points from a religious standpoints, as he teaches Jewish history, religion, and ethics. His spiritual standpoint on the Ten Commandments and their godliness (as well as the alternate Golden Rule) are more based in common spiritual thought that scholar-agreed-upon history. I think that, if Kellner had been given a different subject, more room to write, and a little artistic license, he would have come to the same conclusion – many are looking not for oneness with God, but an alternate to absolute darkness in death.

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