Monday, January 21, 2008

01/20/08, Sermon

The Messiah is a White Rabbit. The Messiah always comes as a White Rabbit. We miss the arrival by looking for the wrong thing, by discounting, dismissing, the Rabbit Hole and waiting, instead, for the heavens to be torn apart and the angelic chorus to announce the obvious. The Way is not obvious. We never know what is going to lead to life, or where life is to be found. What we think we know about the truth keeps us from knowing the truth.

Our place is not to wait for deliverance, for rescue, for salvation by the Messiah (the Prince of Peace, mind you) leading the armed legions of God into a cataclysmic battle with the forces of Satan for control of the earth. Our place is to simply watch for the White Rabbit, hoping to catch a glimpse out of the corner of our eye. To wait for the chance encounter, the misstep, the blunder that will transform our lives and open us to the life that is our life to live.

We have to entertain our urges, inclinations, nudges and notions, invite them in, sit with them for a while to see if there might be something to them. When I drive by scenes at 35 or 60 miles an hour, sometimes something catches my eye, an arrangement of fences and hillsides and flowers, perhaps, or a barn and a cow, and I have to turn around and drive back to check it out. Most of my “check outs” result in “No,” and I resume my journey, but there have been a number of “yes’s” that are among my favorite photos. “All that glimmers is not gold,” goes the old saying, but gold does glimmer, and we have to look closely to know whether the glimmering thing is, or isn’t, what we seek.

So, we have to look into the things we think might be the thing for us. We have to try them on, go with them for a walk around the block, make a test run, take a chance, find out. We have to find out. Discover for ourselves what is “Yes,” and what is “No.” No one else can tell us that. We can’t tell by thinking about it. We have to take a bite to know.

We pile all our urges, inclinations, nudges and notions on the table, and wait for one or two to emerge from the pile. The one or two with the most life about them, the most power to attract. The one or two that won’t go away, that keep coming back, popping up, saying, “Come, follow me.” And, we go follow them. But, it isn’t that easy. It isn’t just a matter of running after the latest thing we have to have, or do, joining this circus, throwing away this spouse for that one, embracing sweat lodges and vision quests until we find the life that we have in mind for ourselves, the one that is just perfect, the one we are sure is out there somewhere. This is the thing about White Rabbits, we can’t be looking for them. They have to surprise us, and step unbeckoned into our lives.

And, in following them, we have to balance, integrate, the needs of inner and outer. We have to feed our bodies and feed our souls. We have to do what we love and pay the bills. This is what makes it so hard, and it is not the only thing. There are two rules. Rule number one is Don’t Do What You Are Told! This means don’t follow orders. Don’t obey rules. Don’t allow society, our your parents, or the church, to lay out the black foot prints which you step carefully into and call that being alive. Say “No!” to all those would direct, and orchestrate, and choreograph your life, and take the risks involved with finding your own way, listening to your own heart, following your own path, living your own life, and doing what you know you must do out of the spontaneity of your being aligned with the integrity of your life in the moment of your living. This is the first rule. And, the first rule is complicated by the fact that we LIVE in this society! And we have to live on society’s terms. And do what we are told. See, told you it was going to be hard.

The second rule is this: Don’t be imprudent! Don’t be stupid! This means, don’t think you can get by with doing whatever you feel like doing. Don’t think you can ignore the feelings and interests of others. Don’t think other people are here to serve you, and dote on you, and fluff your pillows and bring you peeled grapes in silver bowls. This is your LIFE we are talking about. You cannot play fast and loose with your LIFE! It MATTERS what you do, and how, and when, and where, and with whom you do it. Brittney Spears and all the little starlit divas are wonderful examples of how not to live your life, of how to waste your life, of how to throw life away.

There are two points of entry to the Wasteland, to the land of the living dead. One is by following orders and doing what you are told, and never having a single though of your own, and never following an urge, or an impulse, or a notion, and never looking up when the White Rabbit comes your way, and never lifting your eyes from the service of what you are supposed to do to catch a glimpse of what truly must be done, and you miss it, what is yours to do, what is life itself for you, what is your life.

The other point of entry to the Wasteland is always doing what you feel like doing, when you feel like doing it, for as long as you feel like doing it, and then doing the next thing you feel like doing, and never doing anything past the point of fun, never following any path into the drudgery and boredom of the same old same old, always looking for the glitz and glamour and pizzazz of the latest fad, the newest gimmick, the hottest and best place to be, and never feeling anything you don’t want to feel or being anywhere you don’t want to be.

At this point of entry, we go running off in all directions at once: “Oh, there’s a pretty thing, no, there’s one, no, there it is over there!” We are always better off somewhere else. Where are we going to be, is the question. We would always have more fun doing something else. What are we going to do, is the question. We don’t want to make any choices that will limit our choices. We want an endless list of infinite possibilities, with no limits, no boundaries, no consequences, no conditions, and certainly no responsibilities and duties.

Yet, we must not wait for validation, for confirmation, for someone to tell us what to do. We have to act on the compelling notion, against all odds. Step into the unknown, follow the White Rabbit, with no idea of where you are going, or what you are doing, or caring what your chances are. Don’t do what you are told, and, don’t act imprudently. That’s the split that will heal your soul, restore your life, and align you with the integrity of your being. What does it take to pay the bills? Do it! What does it take to follow the White Rabbit? Do it! Live in the dichotomy that brings you to life—that brings life to life!

Living the right kind of life has nothing to do with obeying the Ten Commandments and walking the straight and narrow as the straight and narrow is generally conceived. We have always thought of the Straight and Narrow in terms of moral rectitude, purity of thought and deed, goodness of motive and action, keeping the commandments and the codes of conduct that everyone knows to be right, being always a shinning example and a Straight Arrow. It’s time to re-think the concept.

The Straight and Narrow exists as the path on the boundary between yin and yang, between excess and destitution, between submission to authority and whimsical imprudence, where a misstep can be the end of us, or our golden beginning. The Straight and Narrow is the fine balance, the thin line, between the opposites, the contraries, which have to be honored and held in “creative tension” with each other. We have to pay the bills AND we have to do what brings us alive. Doing what pays the bills doesn’t often do that, so we have to find room in our lives for that which does. We have to do what we want to do even when we don’t want to do it. We have to be hard or soft as the situation requires. We have to be clear and unequivocal about the importance of the right kind of ambivalence. The list goes on.

Life is found, and lived, between the hands: On the one hand, this. On the other hand, that. And, we have to decide anew in each moment what to do here and now, with no manual to follow and no policies to protect us. What does life require? We wait for the answer to arise within the situation that requires an answer. We make a decision, and in deciding, we walk the straight and narrow line between opposites, between contraries, and take our chances.

The Straight and Narrow has nothing to do with moral goodness. It has to do entirely with living on the boundary between yin and yang—with walking the ever so thin line between blind obedience and reckless imprudence. Living the life that is ours to live requires us to know what needs to be done and do it. How do we know? We know out of our own authority, out of our own spontaneity of being in the moment of our living. No one can tell us and we can’t just do what we feel like doing—we can’t just run from what needs to be done because we don’t want to do it, or because we aspire to greater and more worthy things. We cannot live obediently or imprudently. That is the anguish of the Straight and Narrow.

And, what if we are wrong about what needs doing, as we often will be? Well, then we do what needs doing in that moment. Get it? If so, you’ve got it. That’s absolutely all there is to it. You are the wizard, the Buddha, the Christ. Go live the life that is yours to live by doing what needs to be done in the moment of your living, out of your own authority, out of your own spontaneity of being which arises from the context and circumstances of the moment of your living. Are we going to say yes or no to the life that is our life to live? Are we going to say yes or no to the adventure that has our name on it? When it doesn’t seem like much of an adventure? When it just asks us to do the ordinary things of life? With nothing in it about shinning armor, or magic rings, or evil wizards out to destroy the world? Are we going to follow the White Rabbit, or not?

Sometimes, the thing that needs to be done now makes no sense now. Sometimes, the thing that needs to be done now is to practice throwing rocks with our sling, with no thought of Goliath in mind. Practice, preparation, is playing with stones and tiny targets, just because that’s what needs to be done, though no one would think so. This makes knowing what needs to be done a matter of great discernment. It takes a wise eye to see what needs to be done, and a courageous heart to do it, particularly when no one else might agree about the importance of the thing and doing it. And, it brings into bold relief the burden of the Way of Life (which is the way of living the life that is our life to live).

The Ordeal is whatever stands between us and the life that is ours to live, whatever we have to go through to live the life that is ours to live. It could be dragons and trolls and Darth Vader and Flesh Eaters. It could be people laughing at us for slinging stones at tiny targets. And it could be our own ideas of the life we want to live. There is one exit from the Wasteland, from the land of the living dead, to the Land of Promise, the land of milk and honey, the land of the life that is truly our life to live. At the threshold between death and life we have to hand over the life we have in mind. And step into the utterly unknown.


Cynthia said...

So you're saying essentially that we're "winging it?" Every moment. Hmmm. And I like the new framing of the idea "the straight and narrow," standing it on its head.

Jim Dollar said...

We're pretty much "winging it," and yet, "we know when we are on the beam, and when we are off it." It's just that when we start thinking about the beam, off we go. It's great, isn't it? How could you beat this life business, this living business, this being alive?