Do It Yourself Universe: Grace and Dependence

Scientist Carl Sagan once said, “If you wish to make an apple pie truly from scratch, you must first invent the universe.” This rather humbling thought resonates with the definition German theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher gave to the religious impulse itself. Schleiermacher believed that a religious or spiritual state of mind arises from das schlechthinnige Abhängigkeitsgefühl, the “feeling of absolute dependence” or the “absolute feeling of dependence.”

For most human religions, this humbleness is both the beginning and ultimate goal of religious practice—we must break down the ego in order to see the truth our our interconnectedness with all that is.  In Taoism, for instance, awakening to The Way is just this realization of dependence followed by a life spent aligning the self with “The Way of heaven.”

Rather than a dependence upon reality itself as reflected in the natural world, Christianity has to often reflected a feeling of dependence on God alone—an abstract god beyond this world—and this has often in practice meant a dependence on God for things spiritual but not physical. Yet in the Gospel According to Luke, Jesus makes the physical connection explicit, saying, “seek the kingdom of God, and you will be given these things”—these things being the necessities for survival (Luke 12:31).

A feeling of dependence and a sense of gratitude ties us to this world, whether this world brings abundant grace or truckloads of want. This dependence and gratitude are the deepest of spiritual practices. In this teaching Jesus goes on to say,   

Think about it: Who can add an inch to his or her height by thinking? If you cannot do something so small, why bother about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they flourish—they do not work; they do not spin—yet I tell you that Solomon in all his glory was not dressed like one of these. So, if God clothes the grass so well, which is in the field today and tomorrow is burned in the oven, how much more will God clothe you, oh you of little faith? Do not wonder about what you will eat or what you will drink; do not have a doubtful mind.

(Luke 12:27-29)

In Saying #42 of the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus sums it up nicely: “Be by passing by.”

A little poem of mine:

The Tao of Kicking

 Kick the can

Down the road

You are the can

You are the road

That’s the kicker


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