There’s a Jewish legend about what happens to us before we are born.
An Angel appears and introduces us to all the high and low places in the world, all the great works of Nature, all the important and trivial affairs of men. The Angel then takes our soul on a preview of the life we are about to live. We are shown where we will reside, what work we will accomplish, what struggles, triumphs, loves and losses we will endure, what endeavors we will undertake and what destinies will befall us. To be sure, there are many unpleasant and unhappy stops on our journey. We may lose heart and wish to turn back. At these difficult points, it is up to the Angel to keep our soul moving through until our whole life story is revealed.
At journey’s end, the Angel restores us to the womb but not before whispering the great Secret: You are immortal. You cannot die. Of all creations on Heaven and Earth, you are the best, and most precious.
And with that, the Angel lays a loving finger on the baby’s lips—as you or I would give a gentle “Shhh…” to a small child—and departs.
That is why we are all born with that small indentation above our lips and beneath our nose. That’s where the Angel laid its finger upon us, sealing the Secret within us.
That is also why a newborn baby cries, has tantrums and fusses: he has forgotten the Secret and doesn’t know who he really is. He has forgotten that, to find the Secret, he only needs to look within himself—right where the Angel sealed it.
We are not what they tell us in the commercials and bad jokes and the small print at the bottom of the contract. We are not tiny, frightened, confused ciphers that shatter at the smallest zephyr of adversity or change.
This legend comforts me. Some weeks ago I suffered an immense and soul-numbing loss. With loss comes sorrow and tears—that appears to be the way things are set up. But reminding myself that the tears signify that I’ve simply forgotten for the moment who I really am, brings consolation and a measure of redemption. After all, remembering who one really is brings as well the realization of who we all are.
We are not what they tell us in the commercials and bad jokes and the small print at the bottom of the contract. We are not tiny, frightened, confused ciphers that shatter at the smallest zephyr of adversity or change. We are not, in short, things. We are beings. Beings with neither beginning nor end.
When we enter this life everyone around us rejoices, while we are the only ones crying. When we let go of this life everyone around us weeps while we are the only ones at peace. Why? I like to think it’s because, while at the first breath we have forgotten who we are and must search a lifetime to remember, at the last breath we are restored to that awareness, and can depart.
Religion is that reminder of who we really are—and that we can be so much more than what we think we are.
Faith is the Angel that keeps us going, through all the struggles and heartache, to the final revelation of the truth.
The truth we knew all along.