(c) Doug Slagle, Minister to the Gathering at Northern Hills, All Rights Reserved
Murray Pantirer was born in 1925 in Cracow, Poland. After the Germans invaded Poland in 1939, Pantirer and his family were confined with other Jews. His parents and sister were sent to Auschwitz where they were killed. Murray and his brother were sent to a work camp. Somehow, Murray was then put on a list to work in a weapons factory owned by Oskar Schindler.
Schindler was an avowed Nazi who described himself as being motivated by three ‘w’s’ – wealth, women and whiskey. Nevertheless, Schindler undertook to protect 1098 Jews by employing them in his factory. When he was asked later in life why he risked himself to help others, Schindler replied that the treatment and killing of Jews had been inhumane. He determined to save as many as possible.
Despite horrific accounts of brutality by the Nazi commandant who oversaw the factory – daily taking out a rifle, for amusement, to shoot Jews below his office, or literally feeding people to his German Shepherds – none of the Jewish employees under Schindler’s care suffered from such acts. Schindler would not allow it. Nearly all of the persons he brought to work in his factory survived the war and were freed.
Murray Pantirer was one of them. He moved to New Jersey where he used skills acquired in Schindler’s factory to start a construction business. He built it into a prosperous company that employed hundreds. He contributed heavily to causes in Israel, to Holocaust remembrance charities and he was a founder of the Holocaust museum in Washington DC. Presidents Reagan and Bush, Sr. personally honored him.
Pantirer married and produced three children, nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Others of the so-called Schindler Jews now have over ten-thousand descendants.
In the Jewish mishnah, which is a book of commentary on verses in the Torah, there is an often repeated phrase. “Someone who saves even one life, saves the world entire.” That phrase clearly applies to Oskar Schindler but it’s also been applied to other heroic individuals who undertake acts of courage and sacrifice to save or serve others. We might think of charity workers who serve in the slums of Haiti, those who tutor inner city kids in our nation, or doctors and nurses who rushed to Africa two years ago to treat and care for victims of the Ebola virus.
I’ve said in some of my past messages that an act of service for others is much like dropping a pebble into a large lake. Concentric ripples move outward from that point to gently touch distant shores far removed from where the stone was first dropped. I use such an image as an analogy for how we impact the universe in ways we often do not know. One small act of goodness is propagated into the world to impact persons and places we will never know.
I also use the ripple analogy for how we build a life legacy – one that influences lives long past our deaths. Any act of service we do for others will ripple across time, far into the future, so that we figuratively live forever. When we save, nurture, care for, or serve even one person today, we save the world entire for tomorrow. That is how we live eternally.
As I’ve often said, I don’t believe God is a grey bearded figure sitting on some cloud controlling the universe. Instead, God is us. We are the human gods and goddesses called to love and care for the lame, the hurting, the distressed and the oppressed. It’s us, not a religious God, who build a version of heaven on earth.
I say this to set up my final message this month on the theme “Who or What is God?” I’ve said over the past month that she is a unifier. That concept of God is found in all of nature and in the physical laws that control it. Everything is interconnected such that the universe is, I believe, God-like.
I said last Sunday that God is Truth. All that is objectively real, verifiable and proven by empirical evidence can be called capital ’T’ Truth. This is of such importance, especially in our nation today, that I assert Truth is worthy of the title God.
Today, I claim a final concept of God – that she is timeless, and so are we. She’s the forever standard of goodness like the Golden Rule. She is the lasting power of physics, science and Truth. She is all that is forever. I believe she is all these things………AND, she is also us.
What we do today, in big or small ways, will influence the world for eons. The universe will barely know our names, but it will know we existed – that we loved, served, and helped build a better future. As Jonas Salk, the inventor of the polio vaccine once asked, “Are we being good ancestors? In other words, we have a responsibility for the future and when we meet that challenge in this life, we become eternal.
A common definition of ‘infinite’ says that it is something limitless or endless in space, extent, or size. It’s impossible to measure or calculate. That fits my belief in a God concept. She is, as Albert Einstein once said, “the infinitely superior spirit that reveals itself in the little that we, with our weak and transitory understanding, can comprehend of reality.”
Einstein arrived at that understanding of God through his theory of relativity. He said time is an abstraction. It is a measurement humans created so that we can better understand ideas of existence. We cannot see or feel time. Indeed, Einstein proved that it is infinite. It is not a finite thing. It’s changeable and flexible depending on where it is measured. Time on a spaceship, for instance, is slower than time on earth. A clock on the space station runs slower than an identical version of that clock on earth. Persons on the space station therefore age at a slower rate due to factors related to both speed and gravity. A Russian cosmonaut holds the record for most time in space – and thus the most that any human has gotten younger – by 20 milliseconds. If engineers ever devise a way to travel at a velocity approaching the speed of light, time travel will be possible. A human, traveling at the speed of light, could venture to distant galaxies, return to earth hundreds of years later, and yet be only a few years older.
The universe and the concept of all Truth are also infinite. The universe has been proven to be expanding. Powerful telescopes show that the distance of objects billions of light years away continues to increase. The universe moves into eternity.
Regarding the idea of Truth, an Italian mathematician named Bernard Balzano showed that it too is timeless and can even be used to define the idea of infinity.
When we think of capital ’T’ Truth, it can only be true if there is also a corollary idea that Truth is true. That corollary idea requires its own corollary that IT is also true. In other words, the second truth corollary must prove the first, which must prove the original concept of Truth. This extension of one truth…needing another truth…to prove capital ’T’ Truth…that sequence extends infinitely. (This is heady stuff so I apologize if you feel your mind about to explode. I feel the same.)
So, before I get too “far out”, I want to bring my thoughts back to something more practical. If we think of ourselves as one with the universe, with Truth, and with infinity, and are thus God-like, then we can aspire to a higher goodness in how we act and think. Hindu and Buddhist yogis have suggested that a sense of oneness with everything (the universe, Truth and time) that is a way to detach and let go of the self. We can liberate ourselves from our self-centered egos – the part of us that thinks of “me, me, me”.
Liberating ourselves from our egos means we let go of the demands of our bodies to move into a spiritual awareness of what is called the universal self. This universal self is itself an all encompassing idea of God. A universal self exists without boundaries of space or time or matter. It intuitively senses communion with other people and creatures. It knows what is objectively real, and it rests in the peaceful equilibrium of eternity.
This universal self, which we can become, experiences what, as Einstein said, can only be called an awareness of being. This universal-spiritual self is what Oskar Schindler became for moments in his life when he saved other lives. It’s what we are whenever we move outside ourselves to give and serve and love. It is who we are when are at peace with everything.
The more we become a timeless, universal, ego-less self, the more we are able to recognize our God-like attributes of oneness and the less we will fear, hate, feel sad, or judge others. We can find an all-encompassing concept of God – one far beyond what religions describe – by simply letting go of our egos.
I have not come anywhere near being a universal self – much less being God like. Indeed, as an imperfect person, I hate that I have petty wants, small minded fears and hurtful anger. But that does not mean I can’t strive to become a universal me – one that selflessly serves and cares for others, one that does not worry, one that loves without boundary. I want to be fully at peace with death, but I also want to celebrate a glorious eternity that awaits me when I will commune with all humanity, all of nature and all of the shooting stars above.
If I do that, I can create a lasting legacy with every word I speak and every action I undertake. How good of an ancestor am I? What pebbles of compassion and love do I drop into the lake of time? What ripples of impact will I send into the future that help insure a world of equality, justice and opportunity for my children’s children? What one life – or many others – will I save and thereby save the world entire?
When we are at one with everything, when we embody Truth, when we become ego-less selves who live forever in the good we do, we are holy and divine. Immersed in eternity, we will speak and act with love, peace and joy.
Who or what is God?…………….She is you…..and she is the person next to you. And I worship in your presence.