Greg Leake emails: Hi Luke,
I think you look pretty good without the beard, although your expression does not look particularly pleased. In fact, I would say glum would be a better characterization.
I’ve had 4 or 5 beards, and I have never been happy with the way my face looked after I shaved them off. I remember one beard I shaved off only to discover the beginnings of a double chin despite all of my efforts at staying in good condition. However, on the up side, I’ve soon adjusted to my new face, and people seemed to be a little friendlier as if the beard was maybe a little off-putting. It would be interesting if you would occasionally let us know how life is treating you with your new beardless condition.
I wanted to say something about your reference to unconditional love. I don’t say this with the intention of trying to influence anyone’s opinion, rather simply to put a bit of perspective on this matter which comes up pretty often.
The Christian idea is that G-d is unconditional love. That is to say that the divine nature of the universe is composed of a fabric which contains powerful and intrinsic elements of divine love. The ultimate nature of divinity is love.
This, of course, does not translate to the experience of human beings in the post-fallen world. Perhaps in the garden of Eden human beings experienced the rapture of divine love. However, since the Fall this is very far from our experience.
For Christians Christ is a manifestation of this divine love while having a presence in the sensory world. After Christ disappeared from the sensory world, the love that he was a personification of once again became part of the fabric of divine nature.
He explained that we were to love G-d and to love our neighbors. This is an almost impossible task in the physical world. The whole basis of survival is the food chain and defending oneself against encroachments. He said that we were to be perfect even as our father in heaven was perfect. This is also impossible in a post-fallen scenario. You cannot very well codify laws based on this view of divine love. Although laws can be tempered by such views.
It is very unlikely that these statements were a prescription designed for human behavior to copy. Perhaps something to aspire to.
Then again, we would have to try to determine what divine love means. Is it close to the compassion that Gautama the Buddha called for? Is it something akin to loving-kindness?
The main point is simply that this love business can only be ascribed to the absolute, metaphysical nature of divinity itself. This to the best of my knowledge was the introduction of a new element into our understanding about the fabric out of which divine nature is composed.
Have you located a new apartment yet?