Sunday, March 02, 2008

03/02/08, Sermon

You all know by now that the first Grail question is, “What ails thee?” What’s the problem? What’s the trouble? Being clear about the problem is the path to life. And, that leads me to posit that The Problem these days, The Problem with us all is emptiness. There is no joy. There is no life. There is no gladness at being alive. There is only the frantic search for something worth having. There is no compelling vision. Nothing we have to have or else. We cast about asking, “What do you want to do?” “I don’t know,” comes the reply. “What do you want to do?”

We live in The Wasteland. It is empty. And we are empty. Joseph Campbell says the wasteland is the place where everyone is doing what they are supposed to do, and no one knows what truly needs to be done. In the Wasteland, we take our cue for living from someone else. Advertisers tell us what to want. We follow their directions and do what is supposed to make us happy. But, we don’t know what really matters. Our lack of attachment to what has true value results in empty, superficial, lives. We have no life. We have no heart. We are empty as it gets.

What do we do about the emptiness? How do we fill it? The rule is simple, and without exception: When empty, become empty! You think that’s nonsense, don’t you? Double talk? The dumbest thing you ever heard? That’s truth for you. We walk right past it, shaking our heads, and don’t give it a second glance, a second thought. We know what we need, what we are looking for, and that isn’t it. And, so, the rule: When empty, become empty!

Become empty of your ideas of what it will take to be filled! Become empty of your ideas of the truth! Become empty of your images, your notions, of what you are looking for! Become empty! We receive what is valuable, we do not generate it! We prepare ourselves for its arrival by emptying ourselves of expectation and desire.

How do we empty ourselves of what isn’t working, of what it isn’t about, in order to fill ourselves with what it takes? What does it take? “Thy will, not mine be done!” How do we become empty of emptiness that we might be filled with a will not our own? With a meaning, and a purpose, and a direction not our own? What is our part in this process? Standing aside? Stepping back? Acquiescing to a way that is not our way? Which way would that be? How would we know it when we see it? Of all the voices clamoring for our attention, how do we identify the voice that knows? How do we disappear ourselves, get ourselves out of the way, so that we might wait, and watch, for that which knows? While, in the meantime, doing what it takes to pay the bills and keep the home fires burning?

This is not too different from the experience of the traumatic impact of life. Then, there are two levels, the level that makes no sense, where all the normal rules governing life in the world are suspended, and we don’t know who, or where, or when we are for a time. But, we still go through the motions, and show up for work, and mow the lawn, and shop for groceries, and do what it takes to live on one level while we have no life at all on another level, and everything is discontinuous and scattered and out of harmony and we are disconnected with everything that was life for us before.

Emptying ourselves of all that is empty, and waiting, is a lot like that. We still go through the motions of life, but we can’t call that living. We call that waiting. Waiting to see, and hear, and understand. Waiting to know what we know, what something knows. Waiting to see what is truly important, to hear what must be done, and to understand how to bring forth from within the gift that is essential for the life of the world.

Ah, but, how do we empty ourselves of everything? There you are. That’s the work. Emptying ourselves of the desire to be empty. Emptying ourselves of the need to know how to empty ourselves. Emptying ourselves of wondering if we are empty yet. In order to empty ourselves, we have to be empty.

Become empty! Let the questions go! Let the answers you think you have to have go! Stop thinking, struggling, searching, seeking! Let the panic go! Let the fear go! Let the anguish go! Become empty! You have heard it said, “Let go and let God,” but I say unto you, “Let God go, too!” We have to empty ourselves of everything and hold onto nothing. We have to learn to live with nothing at the center.

But, it is a special kind of nothing. It is different from “not anything.” It is the kind of nothing that is the origin of everything. This does not make it something. It is quite nothing. Quite empty. And, it is filled with potential. It sounds strange, because until you know what I’m talking about, you can’t begin to understand what I’m saying. It all comes clear, however, once you empty yourself of everything. Once empty, we are then open to everything. All the possibilities that we once excluded because they didn’t fit in with what else was there become possible.
We wait for a door to open, for a light to come on, for the way to become apparent, for the next step to be revealed, for the dawning of awareness that leads to life. In the emptiness of our lives, we empty ourselves of all that is empty—we stop looking to be fulfilled by any of the things that cannot satisfy—and we wait. Watching for the way to open, for the White Rabbit to call our appear and flash across our field of vision.

How long will it take? Longer than you hope it will, but not as long as you are afraid it might. We cannot hurry the arrival of the Grail Vision, the appearance of the White Rabbit. We have to wait, trusting that the way will open to those who are open to the way. And, while we wait, we have to do the next thing. We have to do the thing that needs to be done here and now. We have to function in the world while we wait for the vision from the other world.

So, we go to work, or find a job, do the laundry, take the dog to the vet, the kids to school, feed the birds, take care of business… We do the things that sustain life while we wait for the things that bring us to life. That fill us with life and provide us with purpose, and meaning, and direction.

Who knows what those things will be? Not us. But someone, something, knows, and it will be revealed to us over time. Perhaps not as a preview of things to come, but as a realization of what has always been. Maybe we know what has meaning and purpose and direction by remembering what has always had meaning and purpose and direction. Or what once did. Maybe we find our way back to where we are going. And, maybe not. Maybe it’s a new thing that invites us to life. Who knows? So, we wait, and watch. Taking care of business while we look for life.

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