Tuesday, December 04, 2007

12/02/07, Sermon

We dream of escape and deliverance. It is the human condition. Not this! Not this! Anything would be better than this! But, everything turns into “this,” eventually. Our assets have their liabilities, and the way out of one thing is the way into another. Where are we better off? On the move! And, even that gets old after a while.

Settling down with the way things are means making our peace with our lives, letting “this,” (whatever it is) be well with us, even though it is not, really, and it is a lie to pretend that it is. So we make the lie part of the “this,” and accommodate ourselves to the pretense, as well as to the situation, until enough becomes enough, and we get fed up, and can’t take any more. Then we move on.

Truthfulness demands a “No!” from time to time. Some things are not tolerable. When the waterhole dries up, we’re stupid to accept dehydration and death. Move on! Stop looking for peace at last! Accept unsettledness as the human condition! Be unsettled! Make the endless trade-offs! Do not look for the Land of Promise where everything will be just fine forever! Being happy with the way things are is a grand illusion. There will always be something not to like. Don’t like what is not to be liked! Live with it, change it, or move on!

If only we weren’t so hard to please! If only we could let things be! If only we could just be content with the way things are! Trouble is, we are part of the way things are. We aren’t pleased with our being hard to please. Our dissatisfaction with the way things are is one of the things we cannot let be. And, we can’t fix ourselves without leaving ourselves alone. Enter irony, paradox, and the need for the balance of laughter, and playfulness, and the ease of living softly, with an affinity for untied ends and unknown paths and unpredictable turns and shifts and outcomes—the need of an aliveness to life!

Balance is never rigid. Balance is constant adjustment, compensation, accommodation. It is not a fixed state, but a quality of motion. We experience homeostasis because we are comfortable with the routine movement required to keep things “the same,” but there are perturbations within the range of comfort that are acceptably “normal.” We never drive in an exactly straight line, and riding a bicycle is just a matter of learning to narrow the wobbles to an acceptable range.

We experience distress when we have to move beyond our “comfort zone” to deal with the upheavals and disruptions of life. Maybe things return to the “old normal,” and maybe we adjust to a “new normal,” but, over time, things settle into another comfortable routine until the next round of upsetting circumstances. But, the comfortable routines are not steady states of being, but constant efforts at regulation and control. We run out of coffee, the rain ruins the paper, the dog throws up on the carpet. “It’s always something,” and we are always making adjustments and compensations throughout our day.

The cumulative effect of constant adjustment is exhaustion. So, part of the adjusting cycle has to be shut-down, vacation, holiday. The impact of physical reality can deplete the Psyche and we develop symptoms on the level of Soma, so Nous, or “mind,” has to step in with a plan for restoring harmony among body, mind, and soul, among spiritual, emotional, and physical reality.

There is Psyche, and there is Soma, and there is Nous. Soul, Body, Mind. Mind is more than intellect. More than reason. More than the thinking, calculating, evaluating, deciding side of us. Mind is also the balancing agent. Mind balances Soul and Body. Soul and Body get out of synch like that, in no time. The culture is a constant source of sensory overload. Our physical needs are, shall we say, somewhat more than met. Overindulgence is a hobby with us. We live to be stimulated into collapse. Where does the Psyche go to have its needs met? Body gets all the attention. Soul has to fend for itself. That's where Mind comes in. Balancing the needs of Body and Soul. Our life's work. Being aware of all that we truly need to be fully alive.

For example, We can restore the psyche by allowing it the freedom to do as it pleases from time to time, to be lazy, to indulge its pleasures, to not be responsible, to not have to “make production,” to create for nothing beyond it’s own joy, to relish beauty, to commune with the spiritual essence of being, to wander aimlessly, to do what it needs to do. We maintain balance by being delightfully unbalanced at various intervals throughout our lives.

To do that, we have to understand the needs of psyche and soma. Our physical needs are fairly obvious: Food, clothing, shelter. Abraham Maslow identified, what he called, a “hierarchy of values,” and holds true across all ages and classes and categories of people. His five values, or needs, are survival, security, prestige, personal relationships, and self-development. I think a case could be made for these same needs existing and being evident in all the so-called “higher” animals. They are not unique to human beings.

What is unique to human beings is the completely crazy, totally irrational, absolutely illogical tendency to throw it all away—to cast Maslow’s hierarchy of needs/values aside—in the service of what Joseph Campbell calls “a mythological zeal.” We go nuts in the grip of a compelling vision. This is what makes us human. We are the vehicles of consciousness breaking into the physical world. Campbell also says that human beings are to consciousness as light bulbs are to light.

You could call it consciousness, or you could call it psychic reality, or you could call it the Spirit of God. It is a spiritual (spiritual meaning not intellectual, not rational, not capable of being explained or understood, or scientifically investigated or explored) passion, or zeal, that seizes us and requires our cooperation and participation, one might say our obedience and faithfulness, at the expense of all other considerations. This is what makes us human.

Of all the species on the planet, we alone are capable of being gripped by a passion, a concern, that lays us bare and strips us of our interest in survival, and security, and prestige, and the like. We alone can “lose our minds,” and “leave everything,” and go off on a journey, a pilgrimage, to the heart of creation, with the heart of creation. We are searching for the heart that beats in synch with our heart, and calls us beyond ourselves— calls us out of our life and out of our dreams for our life into its dream for our life. This is the search Jesus had in mind when he said, “All who seek to save their lives will lose them, but those who lose their lives in the right cause (he said, “for my sake and the gospel’s”), in the service of a cause worthy of them, will find Life (he said, “their lives”).

Here is the flow of the journey. We move from egocentricity, from ego-centered-ness, from the I-Me-My-Mine of childhood to the peer-mask of adolescence and early adulthood (where we disappear into our peers and look just like everyone else with their beige Ford Explorers and there Golden Lab on the back seat and their house made of ticky-tacky on the hillsides of the suburbs, doing we are supposed to do, what is laid out for us to do by our social circle and the culture of which we are apart). From this loss of self to the norms of our recognized social order, we, if we are lucky, move into an “identity crisis,” where we cast off the values and expectations of that order and take up the search for the things that are truly important to us, searching for our passion, our “bliss,” for our heart.

This is “the hero’s journey,” leaving the society to find the blessing of her, of his, own genius, and then returning to the society with a new understanding of what it means to live, and living there out of that understanding, out of that vision, as a mentor and model for others in their own journey to self-development and self-realization. And, in that struggle to be a self in relationship with others, to be true to one’s self within the context and circumstances of culture and society, we take the final step in the process of affinity with consciousness, which is the development of our awareness of that which is beyond us. This is the third handing over of the self.

The first was when we disappeared into our peers, into our social order. The second was when we disappeared into our own hearts and followed the beat of our own drummer, and allowed our own sense of what was important to us to guide us. And this third handing-over is when we disappear into the heart of the universe and consciously identify ourselves with that which is beyond us, outside of us, more than us. “Thou will, not mine, be done!”

Here we follow, not society’s ideas of what is important, and not our own sense of what is important to us, but that which is truly important in its own right because it is essential, and is the way, the truth, and the life. And, when Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father but by me,” he is saying what we all say at this point of surrendering ourselves to the truly important, to the Tao, to the “will of God,” not in the moral sense of the Ten Commandments, but in the sense of doing in the moment what needs to be done, the way it needs to be done, when it needs to be done. “I and the Father are one!” and the sage is one with the Tao. There you are, the map of the journey. The rest is up to you.

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