69 Two Commandments Are Enough
By Peggy Wood
Occasionally my mother used to announce that she was going to take time out from the day's activities "to rest," she would say, "and to invite my soul." She always put the phrase in quotes, in order, I expect, to divert the facetious remarks which might arise from the worldly or practical-minded folk within earshot or disarm those who might feel "soul" was a Sunday word not to be used in everyday conversation.
But she meant to do exactly what she said, "invite my soul."
The pressure of the modern world is so great upon us today that we find little time for rest, physical rest, let alone leisure for spiritual reception. Thus, when we take the word "soul" out of its Sunday clothes it is unfamiliar to us, we don't know it very well.
We may have different interpretations of the meaning of the word; to some it may mean "conscience," to others that part of our being given us with life.
I believe with Dr. Schweitzer in the sanctity of life, that the miracle called life, which cannot be manufactured by man, does come from a source which we call God, and that life and soul are the same. And yet when I am asked point-blank, "What do you believe?" I hedge and play for time in my confusion by saying, "Well, now, that's a pretty big question."
It is not altogether the pressure of the modern world which has clouded our comprehension; "the simple faith of our fathers" got a nasty jolt when Copernicus propounded his theory that the sun and stars did not revolve around the earth and that therefore man was not the sole object of celestial concern.
Darwin dealt another blow and Freud's search into the operations of our hidden selves shook our conviction that man could be made in the image of God.
It might be said that such matters affect only dogma and not belief, and yet the mounting complexities of man's discoveries about himself and the world he lives in increase so with the years it is little wonder man cries out for something simple and enduring in which to believe.
As in moments of great grief the reeling emotions steady themselves by concentrating upon small physical occupations - the careful tying of a shoelace, the straightening of a crooked picture on the wall, the tidy folding of a napkin - so I believe, in this heartbreaking world, in tending to the simple familiar chores which lie at hand.
I believe I must keep my doorstep clean, I must tidy up my own backyard. I need keep only the two great commandments to live by: to respect the Giver of Life, and my duty towards my neighbor.
I believe that people deeply revere these two commandments (upon which hang all the laws and the prophets) and suffer personal distress when they are broken. When the property owners in South San Francisco refuse to let a Chinese family move into their district, when flaming crosses are burned and when the homes of decent people are bombed, we are all aware that our own doorsteps have been sullied and the human neighborhood besmirched.
If I am too puny to grasp the cosmic contours I believe I can at leave live my faith within my own small orbit, gaining in strength from others until that time when all men can rest - and invite their souls.