The Lazarus Paradox

Flickr - Light - Sarz.KIda Lawrence, Contributor
Waking Times

One of our finest challenges is to experience life consciously, with ears open to the truth, eyes open to what is, mind open to ask why, and heart open to love. And here’s the big one: if it’s in your heart, ask permission to serve the highest good.

I can also include in this the principle of non-infringement. Since everyone is in life to learn through experience, you don’t infringe on other people’s lives… you practice allowing and detachment. So let’s talk about how serving the highest good fits in with allowing and detachment.

A lot of people have trouble with this, and I do too. It seems to present a paradox.

I remember a friend saying, “I cannot believe that so many children chose to be born into such terrible circumstances in order to experience those circumstances… I just don’t buy it. Seems like a lame excuse for not caring.” She has been volunteering in her spare time for years… she cooks and serves at a food kitchen for the homeless, with no thought about karma or detachment… just doing what’s in her heart to do, and I love her for it.

So let’s get into this a little deeper by talking about one person’s life experience, so that we can get a feel for the empirical knowledge of experience.

Here’s a story of a man born into Bronx/Brooklyn poverty, life in the ghetto, family conflict, drugs and violence… and he was one of those whose spirit didn’t get swallowed up. He survived the onslaught into his teens, and got a boost from the music of the time… the Temptations, Curtis Mayfield, Bob Marley and many others who sang about life as it is, and rising above it.

  • He went into the martial arts at age 15 and he became a Muslim at age 18, letting the disciplines and practices lift him up. In his late twenties he escaped to California, incorporated some new age thought into his spirituality and kept learning and teaching the arts.

    He built martial arts schools in three different cities, experienced some success, gained respect as a master of the arts, and he lived happily… not within system’s idea of normalcy, not free of financial stress, but with many enjoyments. This was his life… he served, and offered knowledge, insight and self-empowerment to people.

    Then he began to succumb to an inherited disease. He lost his physical power, and he waited for death to release  him.

    One of his favorite songs… I think it was a reggae artist… spoke at a high level: we have to experience it all before we can reach Zion, was the message of the lyrics. It was a song that recognized the pure knowledge gained from life… a concept that liberates people from victim mentality.

    This man couldn’t have made it if he hadn’t been helped. The artists who wrote and sang such beautiful, conscious music helped him. The teachers of Islam who were an example of clean-cut, non-violent, drug free… helped him. All of his martial arts teachers helped him and his students helped him.

    So what does this say? If we are inclined to evolve, we will welcome into our lives the light and grace and empathy of others and we will offer it back out to even more ‘others’. I am saying this with oneness in mind… we are each other, we need each other, and we nourish each other in the thirst for knowledge. We are one, after all. Even more so when we give ourselves to the highest good.

    Now let’s glimpse the subject from another angle. My own life began with an infusion of Bible stories, and I remember a very poignant one that may relate. It was a parable of the rich man and Lazarus, offered by Jesus. It’s quite interesting.

    The story gives us an image of a man who had the position of beggar, dwelling in torment at the gate of the rich man. We are not told who Lazarus was – angel, holy man, lazy bum, mentally ill – no clue. He existed, and he was seen but not cared for and not helped. The rich man lived in luxury, lacking nothing.

    Eventually Lazarus departed from life, and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side.

    Soon after, the rich man departed from life as well, and found himself in torment. He saw, in the distance, Lazarus at the side of Abraham, and he called out for just a drop of water to ease his torment. Abraham informed him that there was a great chasm in place, and no way to cross over from there to here or here to there.

    So the rich man begged… please send Lazarus to inform my family so that they will not make the same mistake. Abraham replied that the rich man’s family had failed to listen to all of the messengers who were sent to tell them, so sending someone ‘back from the dead’ wouldn’t persuade them. Case closed: if you can’t get to mercy in life, then you’re looking at a great chasm.

    I’m not intending to preach or pass along a concept that we are destined for hellfire if we don’t tend to the suffering of others. How should I know… karma is very complex from what I hear. And I’m not saying that suffering creates good souls who are elevated to heaven. Nope… poverty sucks… no up-side.

    Suffering… mental or physical, can seriously break you down or it can make you empathetic when you heal, or get some insight into the why of it and let it go. Life does offer pure knowledge of the workings of the human spirit. But it’s not something we think about or attempt to codify… seems to me more like it’s information that becomes imbedded in our energy pattern.

    The many small decisions to overcome are in there, the times we listened to someone and understood their true need, the times we disciplined ourselves to do better, the times we faced our fears for the sake of our evolution. These pearls become our light… the feeling of us that brightens and spreads.

    When you look at it, it seems that every encounter that triggered the martial artist’s evolution was a meeting-up of his seeking spirit with the light of someone else.

    So now let’s get to the chasm. Our light is what we offer, and we offer it just by being. We are all bridges to one another!

    When we can really see, and feel, from inside another person’s struggle, that’s empathy. When we perceive and offer what they truly need with no opinion or thought of whether they are ‘deserving’ of it, that’s mercy.

    But when our thoughts are for ourselves alone, and our egoistic desires are the only desires that we care to respond to, then we set the stage for collapsing in upon ourselves. We have withdrawn the bridge. There is now a great chasm.

    Non-infringement, allowing and detachment do not translate into ‘not caring’. Caring is natural for the connected human. The rich man refused to see that Lazarus and he were one and the same life force. Jesus gave a good lesson there.

    Non-infringement means not attempting to control another person’s life in order to make them to do ‘what’s best’. ‘What’s best’ in the hands of a controller is usually what’s best for the controller. Allowing is the same kind of concept – there’s respect built into it, and trust in the divinity of the ‘other’.

    Detachment is really a way of dealing with our ego’s opinion: “There should be no poverty and suffering in the earth… I see the suffering, therefore I suffer.” Maybe there shouldn’t be any suffering, but there is. The only way to deal with it is to detach from our belief that there should be no suffering, and wisely build the bridge between the hearts.

    Remember that instruction… do unto others as you would have them do unto you? That was a good ‘empirical experience’ life map, wasn’t it. Fits well if you’re looking for a purpose.

    About the Author

    Ida Lawrence is an author, blogger, copywriter and editor based in Atlanta, Georgia. She has contributed to and edited two books on racial justice and human rights, and numerous articles on human rights, self-empowerment and related subjects. Her latest book is entitled The Warrior’s Way to Heaven on Earth. Ida has also published a companion book of blog favorites from

    This article is offered under Creative Commons license. It’s okay to republish it anywhere as long as attribution bio is included and all links remain intact.

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