“Therefore when Tao is lost, there is goodness.
When goodness is lost, there is kindness.
When kindness is lost, there is justice.
When justice is lost, there is ritual.
Now ritual is the husk of faith and loyalty, the beginning of confusion.
Knowledge of the future is only a flowery trapping of Tao.
It is the beginning of folly.”
Tao Te Ching chapter 38
What should we really expect from prophets? If God understands that knowledge of the future is the beginning of folly, and knowledge of the past is over and done, do we expect God to teach us folly? Do we expect God to speak truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, even though we know our language and comprehension are incapable of encompassing that? I have personally come to expect God to be good and loving. Being good and loving means being effective in raising us to Godhood, and Godhood is a process and a community. It is not a state of absolute being, or absolute knowledge, or absolute truth. It is a process of doing the best thing we know to do, right now.
Frankly, I’m terrible at living in the now. I believe detailed understanding of the past and accurate predictions of the future are essential to making the best decisions we can about the present, but part of me tells me that isn’t always true. It’s really enough to simply have whatever stimuli will help us make the most effective, Godward decisions in this moment, then the next, then the next. Of course, a sustained sequence of effective choices in the now requires a certain amount of “true” understanding of past and future, but not an infinite amount. So are we really wise in asking our prophets to prophesy? Are we really wise in requiring that they have a perfect understanding of history?
I’ll give my answer–it’s complicated. We are wisest to expect prophets to be human. We are wisest to seek their counsel for today. We are wise to realize that we aren’t the exception to most rules, but every one of us is the exception to some rules. We are wise to seek and grow and listen and trust and pray and reason enough that we can learn our personal place in this unique life, and to choose now the best we know how. We are wise to learn that no one else can tell us what that place is, especially as we grow older and add years of complexities to the sum of our experience. We are wise to hope that others–including our prophets–are doing the same. We are wise to humbly counsel with others who likely see beyond our narrow view. We are wise to pattern our lives after our heroes. We are wise to give our heroes a soft place to fall.
This is what I tell myself, today.