Yesterday, November 9, 2019 my wife and I played tourist in our local area. We took a ride on the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway, the steepest incline in the world. At the top on Lookout Mountain we walked around looking at the beautiful old houses that overlooked the Chattanooga valley below. We also visited some shops and went to the Visitor’s Center for Point Park Military park on top of Lookout Mountain. It is part of the park system for that commemorates the part of the Civil War that took place here in Chattanooga, TN and Chickamauga, GA. We had been to the park before but not the Visitor’s Center.
While there I met a very interesting person (this would set the stage for the rest of the day). He was an older man who was a volunteer for the National Park service. He traveled and served at many other parks in the nation. He told me he always loved coming to the parks here, he said that their was just something about atmosphere here.
We stood and talked for around thirty minutes, I asked where he was from, he grew up in a Protestant-evangelical home north of Chicago on Lake Michigan. He said his family upbringing taught him a balance and respect for all races and cultures. I think if we had a park bench and time we could have sat and talked all afternoon.
Of course our conversation included the subject at hand, the Civil War. He brought out a point to me that I had never even considered before. He brought out the fact that the Civil War like any war did not end on the recorded historical date and the casualties of that war was incorrect because all who had been affected by that war would not die for decades to come. Not all who died from it ever took a bullet but there was disease and illness that the war caused that claimed lives 5,10 and 20 years afterward. He said there is no way to calculate the casualties of that war.
This lead us to other related subjects like slavery and the scars it has left for decades and over a century now.
We talked about the lives our ancestors lived that has become apart of who we are even though we may not know it – how I carry thoughts and attitudes that my grandfather brought back from his time in war in Europe during WW2.
Several hours later, my wife and I was in a local pizza eatery; a man and woman sat down at a table next to us and he had a shirt on that said, “I was killed in Vietnam but I have not died yet”
OK, this was very similar to the subject of the conversation I had a couple of hours earlier with the National Park Volunteer. Of course, we ended up in a conversation with this couple.
Emuna brings awareness:
One of the aspects of emuna is that there are no coincidence with God. Immediately when I saw this man’s shirt, in my mind I began seeking what God was telling me. I went to bed last night with this on my mind to wake hours later and ponder it again. I think I have heard, at least in part, what was being pointed out to me.
For me, right now, the subject is battle scars, effects and remembrances.
A short and cute example. I have a scar above my left thumb. When I was in grade school, my brother and I used to take those white curtain rods that expanded. We would each grab an end and pull them a part and sword fight. Well, one time he smacked me right on the thumb with that sword of his and it cut and left a scar. And to this day it reminds me of that moment.
Now, not all scars are caused by joyful occasions. Nor does many things we go through leave us with pleasant or joyful memories.
I had recently been discussing with some others about the baggage that people have when leaving a religion and coming to the non-religious life of keeping the commands for all mankind from the Creator.
There are 7 categorical commands for living a Biblical Monotheistic life. But for some this is a problem – because of their former religion they feel they need more, they need ritual and ceremony. They want to bring aspects of their former belief system in and tweak them.
For those of us who have grown into what is expected of us as humans have always called these things ‘baggage’ that people bring over.
But now, I question, are these things baggage or are they battle scars and effects of what they went through along the path of life?
Just like when a war has a historical end date – that does not mean the effects of that war has ended, they can keep going for generations.
Just because one leaves and denounces a religion in their search for the Creator does not mean the scars and illness of that religion leaves them. It is not baggage but damage that they have incurred along the way. For many the war may be over but the effects continue.
Like solders and their families, they will carry on the effects of the war with them for years and generations after the fighting has stopped.
The message I am getting from yesterday’s two similar events is, that we all have scars from traveling the path of life, I am now seeing that saying someone has baggage is a negative action that can inflict more scars. And not all scars are seen, some are hidden deep in the heart and mind.
We need to be more like the solder on the battlefield who is seen carrying his wounded brother.
The root of the Sheva Mitzvot Bnei Noach i.e. the Noahide Laws is not sacred times, rituals, ceremonies, foods or the deeper understanding of Hebrew or Torah.
If we are damaging and scarring others with our actions and words then we are not observing the 7 laws.
The root of the 7 Noahide Laws is how we treat one another, plain and simple.
Terry W. Hayes
Photo Credit: Stijn Swinnen on Unsplash