Serena posted some very nice thoughts, commenting on my Imitation of Christ blog, and I wanted to elevate them here, especially to respond too, instead of leaving them trapped in Comment land. Hope you do not mind, Serena, and welcome to the blog. Here they are:
"Surely, God does not want all humans to be exactly the same."
That sure is the truth and what I have seen as a problem so often with religion. I hate being with a bunch of people with a cookie-cutter mindset. The glory of it all is that our Creator does the work in us to conform us to the image of Messiah. It is His work. Since we were originally created in YHWH's image, then it stands to reason that we can be "like Messiah(Christ)" and still be entirely and original. That is an awesome thought and something that the cookie-cutter types have a hard time with. Of course, even cookie-cutters if they gave it a lot of thought would realize that no 2 cookies are alike and that you can decorate them entirely different. I'm glad that none of us can be put in a box (no matter how hard others try) and that our Father delights in the unique creation each of us are. He works with us and in us no matter where we are in the journey. The most important thing is that we trust in Him and what He has done for us.
This is me again:
It is entirely a great mystery how billions of people can be unique, and not simply unique but the result of their own self-creation based on how they handle their life (the veil of souls), and yet simultaneously all the same - as Serena mentioned in the image of YHWH. How is that possible? Isn't it just a contradiction? Let's put basic logic into it. If X = Z and Y = Z, then X=Y. Right?
Well, not really. It isn't actually that clear. And now I fiiiinally get what Plato was wrestling with for all those dialogues. As people surely remember from their college days, Plato had this idea that what all beautiful things had in common was that they "participated" in the Idea (notice the Cap) or Form of Beauty. All beautiful things are the same due to this. But then he got himself into this very trap. If all things are the same, then is there really only one Beautiful thing at all, or in the end only one single thing, only One? In fact, a gent named Parmenides who "was an old man at the time of Socrates' youth" and one of the earliest philosophers attempted to assert exactly this. From his logic, Parmenides asserted that there was in fact only One - One undifferentiated single thing with no parts, just One. And now 3 generations later, Plato found himself headed in this same direction, when he could tell it was obviously wrong.
Amusingly, Plato attempted to resolve this in a dialogue called "Parmenides" where a wise Parmenides leads Socrates through all the stupidity of his Form ideas, and then resolves it for him with his fabled 8 hypotheses, that are made of things like, "let us suppose the One is," "let us suppose the One is not," "let us suppose the Other is," etc. As much as Plato thought he resolved this issue here, and rarely dealt with it later, no one has ever really been sure what the heck the 8 hypotheses demonstrated. Confusion is so great, that it was a genuine scholarly hypothesis at times that the whole dialogue was a joke.
Well, I have gone too far into Plato, but I was just so stunned how this seemingly arcane dialogue truly can be important to our lives. Actually, not the dialogue itself as much as the problem it tries to solve. In that dialogue, Socrates does make one interesting suggestion about how we could all be the same and yet different, but it is only an analogy. The analogy is simply the idea of the various things of the world all being different, and yet it is the one and same day for them all. So perhaps our solution is somewhere in here. We are all unique souls, but at the same time we participate in the form of Christ.
A.N. Whitehead said that all western philosophy is little more than footnotes to Plato.
This basic error, though, of identifying good things with a single Good carries over to all sorts of daily life. One version is with artistic experience. Let's say that Beethoven's 9th is better than the Beatles "Day Tripper". Seems quite true. Arguments for it can be presented another day. The mistake that many then make is, "Therefore, there is no point in listening to the Beatles." (Insert any band you might like here.) But this entirely misses the point of musical experience. Things are not ranked on a ladder with each piece of music one step better or worse than the other with the ladder ascending to the moon. And you do not discard each bit of the ladder that you climbed as you find better stuff. Because the two songs do different things. They create different experiences, different emotions, and have different purposes. But this is not some radical relativism. Beethoven's 9th is still in fact richer and can do more for you, but doing more is not the same as replacing.
Ranking people is the same. Mother Theresa was a better person than I am, than most of us are, and better than most of us will be, but we are not therefore superfluous or simply pale imitations of her. We are our own people and have to find our own way to be as "rich" in life. We have to find our unique way of being in the image of Christ.
(Disclosure for new folk. I don't consider myself Christian; just a guy thinking.)
(Also, if you waded this far, one of Plato's problems was, really, figuring out what the meaning of 'is' is. In English, the word has at least 3 meanings. 1: Purely grammatical tense/aspect marker like "is running." 2: Indicates having a property "the flower is red." and 3: indicates identity, "Jesus is Christ". So imagine if the last 2 are conflated. When you say the flower is read, and 'is' means identity, then you just said the flower is red itself and all red things are flowers.)