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God's Spies
 

...so we'll live,
And pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh
At gilded butterflies, and hear poor rogues
Talk of court news; and we'll talk with them too,
Who loses and who wins; who's in, who's out;
And take upon's the mystery of things,
As if we were God's spies

--William Shakespeare, King Lear

In The Bourne Identity, a spy movie based on the novel by Robert Ludlum, Matt Damon plays a rogue CIA agent who has lost his memory. He has all the instincts of a spy, including some lightning defensive moves but otherwise can't recall what line of work he is in. As the movie opens, he is fished out of the sea with two bullets in his back and no idea who he is or why someone wants him dead. A Swiss bank account number embedded in his hip is the only clue to his past. This leads him to a safe deposit box in Zurich containing lots of cash, phony passports, a gun, the address of an apartment in Paris and his name, Jason Bourne. The rest of the movie is taken up with Bourne's action-packed adventures in solving the mystery of his own life, even as his former colleagues try to take it from him.

It occurs to me that Bourne's predicament is not fundamentally different from our own. Most of us can supply our name and address without having to ransack the contents of a safe deposit box in Zurich. We can also go about our daily lives without having to worry that we are being stalked by highly trained assassins. Still, we may be nagged by a feeling that we don't truly know who we are or what we're doing here. We may have lost all sense that we were sent on a mission.

While Moses is camped with his people in the wilderness, the Lord instructs him to send men to spy on the land of Canaan, which has been promised to them. Later, Joshua sends spies ahead to scout out Jericho, which lies just beyond the Jordan River. This is the sort of mission we are on, to be God's spies in the Promised Land. The trouble is, we are all amnesiacs. We may be haunted by the vague sense we are supposed to be somewhere, not realizing we are already here. And so our attention is usually directed elsewhere, when all we are expected to do is to keep our eyes open. Our mistake is in thinking that God is the object of our search, rather than the subject. Our aim, wrote the mystic Simone Weil, "is not to see God in all things; it is that God through us should see the things that we see." There is no need to seek another, better world, but rather to see this world through God's eyes.

Simone Weil, The Notebooks

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