The tears of God.

At least that is the way Meg described them. Looking through the skylight in our bedroom into a very cloudy sky, seeing the trees still wintering, and the rain drip dripping on the window, they could be just that.

Perhaps you already guessed this, but I’m not going to be a Buddhist anytime soon. At the end of the day there is too much true gladness and true grief to believe that they are one and the same. Good and evil cannot be one. Tears of sadness are not the same as tears of happiness.

Several years ago I had a long conversation with someone who has played music to hundreds of thousands of people all over the world. We were talking because he had an honest desire to use his platform for doing good in the world; in particular for taking a stand against injustice that would cost him time and money. Seeing things that should not be, he thought someone should say “no,” and he was willing to step into history, seeing himself implicated.

We talked about many things, among them his own deepest motivations for caring about the heartaches of the world. He said that he was “a not so very good Buddhist.” I told him that I had read quite a bit of Buddhism, and being a worn-out Westerner myself, I understood “the dust of death” that had fallen on Western culture, and therefore the longing for something more.

But eventually I asked him to think about the deepest beliefs of Buddhism, its view of reality and life and the universe, the metaphysical foundations on which it stands. We were eye to eye, heart to heart, one human being talking to another. And then I asked this question: if the final reality of Buddhism is that everything is one, everything, then why do you protest the injustice in Thailand? How is there an honest distinction between justice and injustice, between right and wrong, between good and evil?” It is not a cheap question, and there are not cheap answers.

There are days when I cry out against the world. There are days when it is hard to get out of bed, and take into my heart the hurts that I see and hear and feel. And there are days when I wonder if God cares. Sometimes the silence seems deafening.

The tears of God? If God is not there, and if he does not cry over the pains of the world– the plagues of disease and despair and death –then the musician was right. Everything is the same, and it is only our lack of enlightenment, our illusions, our maya, that makes us think the there is a real difference between joy and sorrow, and that the difference matters.

Steven Garber is the Senior Fellow for Vocation and the Common Good for the M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust. A teacher of many people in many places, he continues to serve as a consultant to colleges and corporations, facilitating both individual and institutional vocation. A husband, a father and a grandfather, a he has long lived in Washington DC, living a life among family, friends, and flowers.

Meet Steve