We become like the things we touch
We become like the things we touch – by P.K. Odendaal – March 2016
I received this adage by inspiration in a vision, and not wanting to let the opportunity of understanding it better slip away unguarded, I decided to pursue the meaning of it as it impacts our lives. I must admit that after contemplating it for some time, it opened new vistas and perspectives far beyond my imagination or expectations and I regard it as a truth which may add new meaning and purpose in our lives. In this article I will try to address some of its more direct implications, inept as I am to realize its full meaning.
Its first implication is that if I want to know who I am, I need to watch the things I am touching – a process which I do not normally notice. Of course the ultimate thing to touch is God and by doing that we can become God-like. Do we not all aspire to that? Why do we then do evil when we set out to do the Good?
Perhaps God-like things are too difficult or hidden for us to and to search for them, reach for them and to touch them takes effort. But then, life is usually so long and tedious without having a purpose, we might as well spend our time more fruitfully and chase after these.
If our lives are without purpose it becomes boring quickly and we need to understand why God chased Adam and Eve out of Paradise with the words in Gen 3:19: In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread. Just living in paradise with no purpose, self-development, hard work and accomplishment can make Paradise ultimately a Hell for us, and the opportunity given us to earn a living might be the biggest gift God has given us.
What do I touch and what touches me? Just the phrase ‘to get in touch with’ already includes an experience on an emotional and intellectual level, and ultimately on a spiritual level. In this way it is surely possible and practical to get in touch with God, and such an experience may not be as far-fetched as some of us may think. For me it is a way of life. However, I will dwell on the more mundane interpretation of touching.
There are many people who are touching alcohol and drugs on a daily and excessive basis, and for them it is surely true that they become slaves of it or that they become like it and that it ultimately kills them – so in that sense it is certainly true.
I must therefore ponder which things are beneficial to touch. I would think that the most mundane activity, namely that of working, certainly elevates us to a level higher than mankind in general, because that is what God does. He certainly works and He works very hard and He never tires of it. His creation bears witness to that. My first and most important perspective is thus that we can work and that we can be creative and innovative – much like God. That is no robbery or sacrilege as scripture says in Philippians 2:5,6: Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God. Just to work is thus a God-given gift which we should pursue with vigour.
We are changed by that - and do we not all want to be changed for the good? We really do not notice it, but the things we do, the things we touch and the things we covet change us. I would hate a stagnant way of live, getting into a rut, joining the Rat Race or such other useless pursuit.
In two specific eras in the history of mankind - the later seventeenth and early nineteenth centuries - the pursuit of happiness and of being romantic for no other reason than being that, was the main purpose in the life of civilised nations, but they quickly found out that it was an elusive activity which was followed by violent outburst of revolution and war. The Aesthetic movement of the late eighteenth century demonstrated in the comic opera Patience, and the Baroque era where mankind played on a stage of immense size to the world at large in opulence, bears witness to that.
Just showcasing the good things does not mean we are touching them in some profound way. We need to be involved in that action, because our involvement in the Good changes us for the Good. Showcasing a good life, whilst we harbour evil within us is indeed one of the most trivial, hypocritical and useless activities we can engage in. With a good life we think we can change things around us and the things we touch, whilst in fact they touch us in a detrimental way, because what we bring to that table if feigned. I am not talking here of our service as servants to mankind in general, but our illusion that our lives as such, without our work and suffering, may be beneficial to someone.
To close with the words of Roosevelt: It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
Well … here he talks about touching things in a profound way.