There is a famous story told in Chassidic literature that addresses this very question. The Master teaches the student that God created everything in the world to be appreciated, since everything is here to teach us a lesson.
One clever student asks “What lesson can we learn from atheists? Why did God create them?”
The Master responds “God created atheists to teach us the most important lesson of them all — the lesson of true compassion. You see, when an atheist performs and act of charity, visits someone who is sick, helps someone in need, and cares for the world, he is not doing so because of some religious teaching. He does not believe that god commanded him to perform this act. In fact, he does not believe in God at all, so his acts are based on an inner sense of morality. And look at the kindness he can bestow upon others simply because he feels it to be right.”
“This means,” the Master continued “that when someone reaches out to you for help, you should never say ‘I pray that God will help you.’ Instead for the moment, you should become an atheist, imagine that there is no God who can help, and say ‘I will help you.’”
ETA source: Tales of Hasidim Vol. 2 by Mar
Somewhere in the skies far, far away, a sea of snowy clouds floated across the vast blue; their cotton-like puffs dispersed like dandelion seeds then disappeared like melting snow. And on these gaseous clouds sat a young boy, making his way to a place he had in mind.
Somewhere in the same skies stood a man on another cluster of clouds, cloaked in a white robe. He noticed the young boy in the distance and followed him to a massive oval-shaped translucence rippling at the edges. It was a portal connecting different places and different worlds. The man called out to the boy just in time.
“Papa,” cried the boy in delight. “How did you know I’d be here?”
“Cheeky little fella. I saw you rushing here,” said the man as he leapt onto his son’s cloud. “Come!” he offered his hand.
“Where are we going Papa?” the boy questioned innocently.
“I’d like for you to see something, son.”
“What is it Papa?”
“It’s a surprise. Now let’s go before we are too late.”
He led the excited boy through the portal and they teleported to a place far away; a place of infinite dark space, with no beginning and no end. The boy noticed shimmering lights in the distance on all sides and asked his father why the candle lights aren’t illuminating the sky.
“Those are not candles, son,” the man laughed. “Those are stars of different galaxies. And we are not among the skies.”
They drifted swiftly through the darkness. The boy watched wide-eyed as giant grey rocks with circular dents slowly passed by, and he marveled at the sight of the distant stars shooting in random trajectories. But what he found most amusing was the darkness that made the universe look like it had come to a standstill.
“We’re here,” the man announced as they came to a halt.
He waved his hand at the void and without hesitation, the darkness shifted itself and slowly unveiled a glowing ball. It was a perfectly spherical ball of deep blue with sharp hints of green.
“What is this Papa?”
“It’s a world. A world on its own. It’s barren now but you, young man, are going to fill it with life,” the man placed his hand on the boy’s narrow shoulder and looked into his innocent blue eyes.
“How?” the boy questioned, unaware of the greatness of the gift.
“Think! Let your imagination go wild, son! Think of something, anything, and say the word ‘Be’ and it will be. It will come to life. You can make it come to life.”
“Anything?” the boys eyes gleamed.
So the boy spent the next few days crafting miniature species that would soon swim the waters of the new world, roam its barren lands, and soar high in its light blue skies. He brought them all to life with a monosyllabic whisper. And as his final touch, the boy created man, a creature in his own image and in his likeness, but much smaller in size, and placed him among beasts on the lands.
The boy watched over his creatures every day and every night and often played with them. He liked placing sea creatures on land to see how long they can go without breathing. He enraged monsters of different sizes and forms and had them duel. But he enjoyed playing with man the most. He would flood their lands, and when they swam through the catastrophe, he would shake the earth and watch it crumble and engulf everything in sight. He struck them with bolts of lightning when they were unsuspecting, and set whirlwinds after them that eventually swallowed them whole. But despite these little pranks, the boy gave mankind everything they desired. And out of love, he gave them more than what they deserved. And sometimes, when he grew too fond of certain men, he took them from their homes as others mourned.
“If only they knew better,” the boy would think to himself.
One day, the boy brought his father with him when he went to play with his creatures and showed him what he had made of the round blue world. He enthusiastically introduced his old man to the ants, ferns, cacti, vultures, leopards, oxen, whales, and almost everything he had created.
“And what is that?” the father asked when the boy forgot to mention the tarantulas.
“That is a type of spider. It has eight legs and spins web. Almost all my spiders do,” said the boy.
The man was impressed with his son’s work, and a little jealous that he hadn’t thought of as much creatures himself to fill his world, the one his father had given him.
“I’m proud of you, son,” the man gleamed with pride. “I really am. You gave each of your creatures a name. But what are they going to call you?”
“I don’t know,” the boy was taken aback by the question. It hadn’t occurred to him that he too would need a name. “What do you think they should call me, Papa?”
Hypocrisy is not a virtue. It never was and should never be regarded as one.
Nonetheless, the world is plagued with hypocrites. We have leaders who put on façades and do the very things they promised never to do; followers who act self-righteous and point fingers while their hands are caked in dirt; cops who break oaths as they shoot innocents dead; and spouses who let greed and selfishness do them apart instead of death. Hypocrisy severs the trust that bonds the human race and shatters the integrity that makes us what we are – human.
But what if hypocrisy is the flicker of hope humanity needs? What if our hypocrisy is a way of reassuring ourselves that we have the potential to actually be the persona – the better version of ourselves – that we portray ourselves to be?
© Faristha Kanakkapillai
(This piece was inspired by the quote/poem: “For a star to be born, there is one thing that must happen; a gaseous nebula must collapse. So collapse. Crumble. This is not your destruction. This is your birth.“)
I saw in you a light
encompassed and concealed
beneath your corrugating skin
Its luminosity radiating
through your blue-green veins
to seep through your pores
not to drain you out
but to unleash and fill
space’s infinite darkness
every void and abyss
with your awe-stricken aura
the world does not yet know
it needs to see
I still see in you the light