We are here to respect every path, and to call every path into question. Every path has much to commend it, and every path has much about it that is absurd. There is much to revere, and there is much to be completely irreverent about. We honor them all and satirize them all. Including our own.
The weakness of a path, any path, is its tendency to explain too much. When a path goes over into detail it goes over into delusion and denial. The value of a path is its general direction, not in its ability to pass out answers, and impose order, and define righteousness, and declare what is moral and what is not. Lao Tse says, “A way can be a guide, but not a fixed path.” A way that is the true way provides us with the foundation necessary to look unhesitantly into the heart of things, and see what’s what, and what needs to be done about it, so that we might do it and be done with it. That’s it.
We make up our responses to what happens on the path. We think for ourselves on the path. We learn for ourselves, out of our own experience, what works and what doesn’t. All we need are some general guidelines, some working principles, some encouraging words. We are quite capable of putting the rest of it together out of the materials available to us in the moment of our living. Jim’s First Rule of Life is enough for those who see: “Round pegs in the round holes. Square pegs in the square holes.” That, along with Jim’s Second Rule of Life is all anyone ever needs: “There are things we want to do, and there are things we don’t want to do.” And, if you think that can’t possibly be all there is to it, there is Jim’s Third Rule of Life: “There may be no personal advantage to what is beneficial.” These three rules are quite sufficient, I’m sure. But, we are quick to dismiss them, and make life harder than it needs to be.
We make things up that reflect the world we wish we lived in and have no connection at all with this world where life is lived. We tell ourselves, or once did, that God sends stuff to us based on how successfully we are able to please God, and that what happens in our life is a reflection of the degree to which God is happy with us, and we come here looking for tips for tweaking our life in ways that will thrill God out and result in blessings and rewards for us beyond imagining. We think, or once did, that if we can align ourselves with God, things will go our way and we will be in high cotton, and have nothing but a down hill glide to glory. We have to hit the wall more than once to change our minds about these things and see that the world we wish we lived in is not the world we live in.
A way that is the true way wakes us up to the way things are, and puts us in accord with the inevitabilities of our lives. It enables us to do what needs to be done while connecting us with what is deepest, best, and truest about us and all of life. It grounds us in the center of what is important, and enables us to laugh. It allows us to see the unchanging essence of who we are, the “essential you,” so to speak, which remains constant over the course of our lives—“the face that was ours before we were born”—in conjunction with the tumultuous conditions that are always turning things upside down. Throughout our experience with life, there is constancy and there is upheaval.
A way that is the true way, a path that is the true path, encourages us to think that all paths are valuable up to a point, and that the value of a path, any path, all paths, is its, is their, ability to help us face what must be faced in our lives, and find ways of dealing with what comes our way, while bringing the good to life within the context and circumstances of our lives, using the materials and resources available to us in the moment of our living, in caring for ourselves and all of creation—and to do it again in the next moment, and all the moments after that.
No path can give us something we aren’t ready to receive. The path we are on is a reflection of our orientation, our desire, our interest, our values, our ideals, and our idea of how things should be. Our path mirrors us. Our path IS us. We are the path we are on. At the same time, every path that is the true path, carries us beyond ourselves into deeper, fuller realization of that which is more than we can imagine.
The way is not about trying to get anything from life, rich, for instance. We are always mistaking wealth and prosperity for the point. We are always thinking if we were wealthy and prosperous that would be IT. Then, we think, we could escape life’s drudgery and anxiety and pain, and be ushered into ease and comfort. As if ease and comfort are the point. Here’s the point: We are to live life as it is in ways that are integral with what is deepest, best and truest about us and good for our neighbors and ourselves. It isn’t about getting anything. It’s about living this moment exactly as this moment needs to be lived, and doing it again in every moment following this one.
But, you want to feel great, don’t you? Admit it. You want to feel exuberant, overjoyed, super-saturated with pleasure and delight. Everything about the culture is geared to helping us feel better than we do about the life we are living. Feel bad today? Buy something nice for yourself. Eat something. Take some drugs. Drink some alcohol. Have some sex. Take in a movie. Play a video game. Escape. Escape. Escape. We have to get away from the lives we are living because we feel so bad about them. We wouldn’t last alone with our lives more than about eighty-two seconds. We hate our lives. We have to find the way out of our lives. That’s the way we are looking for.
I have some bad news for you. Every way that is the true way is the way into our lives. It’s the way of living the life that is ours to live as it needs to be lived, as it ought to be lived. Sorry. Not really. Happy. Happy to be able to point that out to you. If I don’t do it, who will? Who will tell you to just go live your life the way it needs to be lived, the way it ought to be lived? Who will tell you to step into your life and be the person you are capable of being, living in ways that are integral to what is deepest, truest and best about you?
There is no Secret. There is just you and your life. There is just living your life as well as you can imagine with the resources available to you in the moment of your living, without expecting to feel any better about it than you feel. Feeling good is over-rated. How we feel is irrelevant. When the baby needs to be fed, or the diaper needs to be changed, how you feel about it doesn’t play into the picture. Just feed the baby or change the diaper. See?
Oh, but we wish we were in Death Valley, taking pictures, don’t we? Or on a cruise ship. Or at the beach. Anywhere but here. That would make a good bumper sticker. “Anywhere but here.” That’s the theme of the American Way of Life. “Beam me up, Scotty.” “Anywhere but here.” “Take me away.” No where is good enough to be for long. We’re looking for the way outta here.
Every way that is the true way is the way in, not out. Every way that is the true way is the way of embracing our lives as they are, the way of living life as it is, as well as it can be lived, for as long as life is possible. Got a problem with that? No problem. The culture exists to help you feel better about everything. They sell escape on every side. They will be glad to take you away for as long as you care to be gone. But, I’m here to tell you it comes down to you and your life, and your life needs desperately for you to live it. If you don’t do it, who will? The truth is that it is up to you. You have to live your life. Every way that is the true way enables you to do just that.
Every way that is a true way provides us with what we need to do what needs to be done. Every way that is a true way enables us to see, and hear, and understand—and to respond to what is seen, and heard, and understood in ways that are exactly what is called for. Every way that is a true way makes it possible for us to serve the good in ways that are good—to the extent that is possible within the context and circumstances of our lives.
We are here to do what is ours to do—to be who we are—to be true to ourselves within the context and circumstances of our lives—in ways that are good for one another and beneficial to the environment and truly helpful to the world. And, we need a way that will enable us to do that. I recommend sitting. Waiting. Watching. Looking. Listening. If we do that long enough, something will become apparent. When it does, I recommend sitting with that—waiting, watching, looking, listening—until it becomes apparent what we need to do about it.
The way is the way of stepping out of the struggle to force our way through the world, and to look for ways to assist what is coming to be in our lives and in the world. We are mid-wives of the future. We help in the birthing of the world. We are not here to impose our will for the world on the world, but to bring to life in ourselves and in the world that which is truly good for all things.
Ah, but, all things are not interested in what is in their genuine best interest. All things are generally interested in what they want at the expense of themselves and all other things. We serve the good that serves our good. Never mind that we shoot ourselves in the foot wanting what we have no business having. Like world domination. The men—and it generally always is men—who strive for world domination have lives that no one would trade for. They have made a shambles of their personal world, yet they want to dominate the rest of the world. How’s that for egocentric craziness? Nobody can stand them so they are going to force themselves on everybody. How do you wake someone up who couldn’t handle knowing how stupid they have been all their lives long? That is the quandary of those who see in the land of the blind.
There is no rational, logical, left-brained solution to the problem. We cannot think our way out of the mess we have thought our way into. Thinking is the problem. If we think harder, we only create more of the problem. We have to stop thinking. We can’t live and think at the same time. We can’t live and think about living. When we start thinking about living, we stop living. Think of the times you have been most alive. You weren’t thinking then, were you? You were just living. See? Told you.