Wake up! Realize what you’re doing! That should be the mantra of our lives. That is the foundational awareness, and is basic to the identity of, the definition of, the self, us, who we are. We know who we are by knowing what we are doing—and by doing mostly, if not only, those things that “ring true” to, that “square up” with, the drift of our heart and soul, and reflect, express, who we are for all to see.
We are here to wake up, realize what we are doing, and reclaim our life—the life that is ours to live! No more mindlessly following the black foot prints! No more doing what we are told just because we are told to do it! No more doing what is done because it has always been done that way and that’s what’s supposed to be done and that’s the way we are supposed to do it!
Ah, but. There is a reason things are the way they are, you know. The reason is that it’s easier that way. Things would be different if it weren’t so difficult. Living our own lives is the hardest thing in the whole book of things. Knowing what we are doing and being responsible for making clear choices, recognizing and solving our own problems every day for the rest of our lives, and dealing successfully with the opposition and resistance that comes our way in response to the way we are in the world, well, that is more of a burden that most people care to carry. It’s easier to just fall in line, read from the script, and make no waves. It’s easier to be dead than alive.
Waking up and realizing what we are doing comes with a price tag attached. It is the price of being alive. It is the cross Jesus is talking about when he says, “Those of you who would be my disciple, pick up your cross daily and follow me.” Now, you have to understand the deal about discipleship. You have to understand what is at stake in following Jesus. This is the real cross: “The disciples become like the master in following no master.” When you follow Jesus, you reclaim your life. You take your life back, and become, not who Jesus was, but who you are. When you follow Jesus, who was exactly who Jesus was, you have to become exactly who you are. There are no black footprints! So, you follow Jesus by following no one, don’t you see? By finding your own way, making your own path!
But, there is a cross. It is the price of being alive. It is the agony of living our own lives, of being true to ourselves, of waking up and realizing what we are doing, and doing mostly, if not only, those things that “ring true” to the drift of our heart and soul, and reflect, express who we are for all to see. The price is what it costs us to stand apart from the culturally imposed ideal in order to “be true to ourselves” and live the life that is authentically ours to live. The culture thinks we were born to support the economy, take our place in the cultural organization, be a “good company woman, or man,” a “good team player,” and go shopping a lot. The culture dangles trinkets before our eyes, and robs us of our soul.
Our life task is to determine, decide, discover, discern who we are and what we are going to do about it. How does what we are doing express, exhibit, relate to who we are? In what ways does what we are doing bury, conceal, hide, deny who we are? The glitter and sheen of the culture’s beads and mirrors can distract us from the essential matters, and lead us away from the service of heart and soul. Diversions abound. What is the legitimate core, focus, center of our life? What is the “organizing principle” around which “we” coalesce? The central identity by which we recognize ourselves? The spiritual quest, the spiritual journey, the search for the Holy Grail is the adventure of seeking our own heart, our own soul, living the life that is ours to live.
There should be a course on the order of “Life 101” taught in every Jr. High School and church in the land. We have to learn to live. Life does not come naturally. When John had Jesus say, “I came that you might have life and have it abundantly,” we understood that to mean eternal life in heaven with God and the saints and the angels after our biological death. That’s wrong. Abundant life has to do with a simple shift in perspective, seeing through what the world offers as life to the solid core of life, to what actually constitutes life, true life, “abundant life.”
John also has Jesus say, “Not as the world gives, do I give unto you,” and “My kingdom is not of this world.” Again, we think Jesus is talking about the heavenly regions. But, Jesus is talking about life, about being alive, and saying that the basis of life, the solid ground of life, is not what the culture, the world, sets us up to believe that it is.
The question Jesus lived to answer was not, “How can I get these people to heaven when they die?”, but, “What does it mean to be alive in this life, right here, right now?” Think a yellow Hummer will do it? How about another yellow Hummer? Maybe a red one for the weekend? What does the culture, the world, say it takes to “really live”? What is the culture’s idea of “abundant life”? Jesus stood apart from all of it.
Jesus’ idea was that life was a function of integrity, of being grounded in what is deepest, truest, and best about us, of being true to ourselves—loving ourselves—in relationship with one another and with God. We lose our lives, in Jesus’ view, when we try to save our lives, when we store up things for ourselves, when we live with our advantage, our gain, our boon as our primary concern. But, when we live in the service of our gift, our genius, our talent, our calling, using what we have at hand in doing what needs to be done (which is not necessarily what we want to do or what we think we ought to do), there is life, abundant life, spilling out, over-flowing, blessing all.
We do not find the Grail by thinking our way to it, in the comfort of our recliner, with something to sip on at our side. We do not find ourselves by thinking about ourselves. We find ourselves the way we find God—by living our way there. And, when we find ourselves, we find God. When we find God, we find ourselves. We live our way to the discovery of ourselves, of God. The trick is to do it—to live—with our eyes open.
The process of waking up is exactly the story of the species and of our individual lives. It consists of living and being aware of our living, talking about our living, examining our living, opening ourselves to the experience of being alive. Crucial to the process of waking up is being alert to the inconsistencies, and incongruities, and contradictions, and discrepancies at work in our lives. We say one thing but do another. What’s going on there? When we do what we think we want to do and our bodies develop symptoms, what’s going on there? When we do what we think we are supposed to do and keep meeting resistance and opposition, what’s going on there? Where do we go to explore these questions? With whom do we process our lives?
The failure of the Bush administration is the failure to process its experience, the failure to wake up and realize what it’s doing. Global warming is what it is today because Bush refused to wake up and realize what was happening. Every pickle you have ever found yourself in would have been less severe if you had realized sooner what you were doing and what was going on. We will not wake up. It’s too hard to wake up. It asks too much of us to wake up. It’s so much easier to drive with the accelerator to the floorboard, asleep at the wheel.
How long before we learn the lessons of life: Easy is hard. Short is long. Fast is slow. Immediate gratification accrues compound interest by the minute to be paid out over long our lifetime and that of our children’s children. But. We don’t want to hear it. Don’t wake us up with the facts! Let us dream our way sleepwalking to oblivion! Anything more than that requires too much of us! So. What about the dream world? What’s it like there?
Security, right? And, comfort. Peace of mind. Denial. Diversion. Distraction. In the Dream World, we are the center of the universe. Everything exists for our pleasure, serves our ends, works to our advantage. We can do whatever strikes our fancy without impact or repercussion. In the Dream World, we can eat whatever we want, exercise as little as we want, weigh as much as we want because diabetes and heart disease and strokes happen to someone else. In the Dream World, we can smoke, and drink too much, and drive too fast, and have sex with whomever we can talk into having sex with us because there are no consequences, and medical science is working feverishly to produce a pill to fix everything. In the Dream World, we can live lavishly, excessively, charge everything to some credit card, and when it maxes out get a new credit card, because there is no day of reckoning, no comeuppance, no end to the dream, and no one and no thing to take into account.
What are we thinking? Oh, that’s right! We are NOT thinking! We are DREAMING! And we are angry at Bush for dreaming with us. He’s the one who is supposed to be thinking, curing global warming, fixing the economy, finding more fossil fuel, so that we can go on with our endless fantasy of life like we like it in the Dream World.
And, the solution would be what, exactly? How do you cure those who don’t want to be cured? How do you fix those who don’t want anyone tampering with their controls? How do you wake people up who are perfectly happy dreaming of endless ease, perpetual comfort, and complete security, with the accelerator to the floorboard, asleep at the wheel?
If we are to Wake up! Realize what we are doing! We are going to have to pay attention. We are going to have to become increasingly aware of who we are and what we are about and how that is expressed in the way we live. We are going to have to develop eyes that see, ears that hear, and a heart that understands. Then, it is only a matter of living with essential integrity by doing things that are integral with, aligned with, in synch with, what is deepest, truest and best about us. "You shall not cease from exploration /And the end of all our exploring /Will be to arrive where we started /And know the place for the first time." (T.S. Elliot in Little Gidding V, from 'Four Quartets' 1942).