The Inner Mirror
[Vinod Anand]

I look again at a drawing my niece, then five, had made, and which I treasure. It has her, her sister, and another person who looks a lot like them. Under each ‘person’ is their name in a childish scrawl — Jacqui, Sue and God. “God looks like this, huh?” I asked; she laughed. “Of course, silly!” and went on to tell me she saw God often; didn’t everyone?

Why does ‘seeing God’ seem so unusual to us grown-ups? A Jewish Hassidic story is told about someone asking the great Rabbi Yisroel ben Eliezer, “Why does nobody seem to see God anymore?” He softly replied: “Because there is nobody left who can bow so low” Christian mystic poet Angelus Silesius wrote: “God, whose love and joy is present everywhere/ can’t come to visit you unless you aren’t there.”

The last surprising words are ‘aren’t there’, which makes a sense when you think it over. TR When we ‘are ‘there, so are all our concerns, projects, interests and occupations. It’s only when these are set aside that we open our eyes to seeing God. As always, we can turn to poets to learn more. Here is Mary Oliver: “ is not hard to understand where God’s body is, it is everywhere and everything; shore and the vast fields of water, the accidental and the intended, over here and over there...”

One of Kabir’s poems begins with God asking, “Are you looking for me? / I am in the next seat/ my shoulder is against yours, and it ends with the lines “. . . tell me, what is God? / He is the breath inside the breath.” One of my favourite, if unlikely, teachers is Shug Avery, a character in Alice Walker’s The Colour Purple.

Shug wants Celie to understand that God does not have to be an old grey-bearded white man, but that he can manifest himself in other people. She teaches her that God can be seen in everything else. Celle then begins a letter: “Dear God. Dear stars, dear trees, dear sky, dear peoples.

Dear Everything. Dear God.” - We can learn to see God not only in beautiful things and acts. Lawrence Kushner, teaching on the powerful lessons in the Bible’s Book of Job writes, “At the end of Job, God says, in effect, I’m the whole thing...not just in sunshine and bluebirds, but even in the lions tearing gazelles, vultures eating carrion.

Everything. Everywhere. “God. God. God.” Or, as poet Dillet Freeman’s lines in his poem ‘Had We The Eyes’ ask: How can the rose! More than the clod! From which it grows! Embody God? It can be puzzling, and be deemed ‘wrong’ to some, that some traditions have, in the sanctuary of their shrines, a mirror.

People pay obeisance to their God standing in front of this mirror that reflects them; its placement symbolizing that God is inside oneself and it is of no use to seek God elsewhere. And with this realization, since everyone else reflects God too, we are enjoined to treat them too with love and respect.

Often we don’t realize or admit we see God because mainly we are afraid of what we — or others — might consider arrogance; or we feel guilty that we were taught and believe in One God, and this ‘seeing’ sounds like an aberration if not an outright sin! But when children tell us they see God, they are sharing with us, their capacity to see the presence or reflection of God in everyone and every aspect of Creation.

May we learn from them?

Author's Bio: 


Born in 1939, and holding Master’s Degree both in Mathematics (1959) and Economics (1961), and Doctorate Degree in Economics (1970), Dr. Vinod K.Anand has about forty five years of teaching, research, and project work experience in Economic Theory (both micro and macro), Quantitative Economics, Public Economics, New Political Economy, and Development Economics with a special focus on economic and social provisions revolving around poverty, inequality, and unemployment issues, and also on informal sector studies. His last assignment was at the National University of Lesotho (Southern Africa) from 2006 to 2008. Prior to that he was placed as Professor and Head of the Department of Economics at the University of North-West in the Republic of South Africa, and University of Allahabad in India, Professor at the National University of Lesotho, Associate Professor at the University of Botswana, Gaborone in Botswana, and at Gezira University in Wad Medani, Sudan, Head, Department of Arts and Social Sciences, Yola in Nigeria, Principal Lecturer in Economics at Maiduguri University in Nigeria, and as Lecturer at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in Nigeria. Professor Anand has by now published more than 80 research papers in standard academic journals, authored 11 books, supervised a number of doctoral theses, was examiner for more than twenty Ph.D. theses, and has wide consultancy experience both in India and abroad, essentially in the African continent. This includes holding the position of Primary Researcher, Principal Consultant etc. in a number of Research Projects sponsored and funded by Universities, Governments, and International Bodies like, USAID, IDRC, and AERC. His publications include a variety of themes revolving around Economic Theory, New Political Economy, Quantitative Economics, Development Economics, and Informal Sector Studies. His consultancy assignments in India, Nigeria, Sudan, Botswana, and the Republic of South Africa include Non-Directory Enterprises in Allahabad, India, Small Scale Enterprises in the Northern States of Nigeria, The Absolute Poverty Line in Sudan, The Small Scale Enterprises in Wad Medani, Sudan, Micro and Small Scale Enterprises in Botswana, The Place of Non-Formal Micro-Enterprises in Botswana, Resettlement of a Squatter Community in the Vryburg District of North West Province in the Republic of South Africa, Trade and Investment Development Programme for Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises: Support for NTSIKA in the Republic of South Africa, and Development of the Manufacturing Sector in the Republic of South Africa’s North West Province: An Approach Based on Firm Level Surveys. Professor Anand has also extensively participated in a number of conferences, offered many seminars, participated in a number of workshops, and delivered a variety of Refresher Lectures at different venues both in India and abroad. Dr. Anand was placed at the prestigious Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS), Shimla in the State Himachal Pradesh, India as a Fellow from 2001 to 2003, and had completed a theoretical and qualitative research project/monograph on the Employment Profile of Micro Enterprises in the State of Himachal Pradseh, India.