I don’t have anything to say to you IF you are listening to yourselves! My hunch is that you are not listening to yourselves. It’s too hard. It’s too much work. You have other things on your mind. It takes too much time. It gets in your way. Besides. You tried it once, with your first marriage. Once burned, twice shy. Never again. You all are quite happy having someone else tell you what to do.
That’s the very orientation that got the church of our experience into such bad shape. The church (the broader church, the people who are the church) has always known, in some sense, on some level, what was right, what needed to be done. And that church has always been overpowered by the Strong Voice of Conviction and Certitude announcing what was correct.
What is going on here? What makes it easy for us to be led by leaders, like the Emperor who wore no clothes, who don’t know what they are doing or where they are going, but don’t know that they don’t know? We cannot blame them. They all have a constituency that makes it possible for them to be who they are. A constituency that is quite happy to be told what to do. A constituency that doesn’t want the responsibility of making their own choices and solving their own problems. Say what you want to about George Bush, but he was elected twice, by close enough to half of those who voted to enable him to steal the election once, and, both times, by people who wanted someone to save them from their fears.
Our fears are our limitations. Not that fear is a limitation. Our limitations are what we fear. The monsters that terrorize us are our limitations, our inadequacies, our deficiencies. The things we want to be saved from are our limitations. We don’t want to listen to ourselves because we are afraid of our own limitations. We want someone to tell us that we have nothing to be afraid of (with him, or, perhaps, her, in charge of your life). “Elect me as your president, your king, your god, and you will have nothing to fear. I will remove all limitations, and you can be anything you want to be!”
Doing what we want is another way to not listen to our own voices, because we can want what we have no business having. We do what we want until we don’t want to do that any more and then we do something else we want. And call that living. It isn’t living. It’s wanting. All of the modern gurus begin with the question, “What do you want?” “What do you want, Little Girl? What do you want, Little Boy?” It could be the witch’s crooning to Hansel and Gretel. “Come in, come in, buy this book, and this CD, and I will tell you how to have everything your heart desires.” We want to live without limits and have everything our heart desires.
If I’m reading the reaction to the flying pig story correctly, we refuse to accept the idea that we have any limitations! No limitations! No boundaries! Pigs CAN fly, and we can do anything we want! We can have the world of our dreams! We can manifest the destiny we have in mind for ourselves (What kind of destiny is that?)! We only have to dream it into being! And, of course, there are plenty of people who tell us exactly what we want to hear.
There are guides and gurus everywhere. We are surrounded by those who tell us we can have what we want by doing it their way. They know the way to our dreams for ourselves (Don’t you think that’s interesting? Our dreams, their way? Who’s kidding whom, here?) The self-help section of any bookstore is brimming with advise on how to have what we want, and realize our dreams, and make our wishes real—if we do what we are told. Same old, same old. We’ve been here before. Really now. What is the value of jettisoning the church of our experience if we are just going to exchange one set of doctrines for another, embrace someone else’s Gospel Truth, memorize someone else’s creed?
Are we going to think for ourselves, or not? Are we going to face our own fears, or not? Are we going to confront the monsters that leap out at us from our own limitations, or not? Well, Not! We do not go easily into that darkness alone. We gather about us ideas, concepts, beliefs, doctrines, creeds, formulas, clichés, platitudes, and opinions to save ourselves from dreadful encounters with the unknown. We clutch tightly the hand of those who are glad to tell us what to think and how to live, and are happy to “walk in borrowed light,” so as to save ourselves the pain of self-discovery.
The pain of self-discovery is the realization that the life our self has in mind for us is not the life we have in mind for ourselves. We cannot live any old way and live the life that is ours to live. The essential realization is “I Am Therefore, I Must.” Doing is a function of Being. Being expresses itself, realizes itself, exhibits itself, affirms itself, incarnates itself, brings itself forth, in Doing. You have heard the phrase, “I am a human being, not a human doing,” but nothing could be farther from the truth. A human being IS a human doing—a human being doing what must be done.
We are back to Gerard Manly Hopkin’s line, “What I do is me, for that I came.” Our being is made manifest in our doing. We live as much to do as to be. We live to be and do. The closer we come to the I AM, the more fully our actions are in accord with our being, the more aligned our lives are with our heart-soul-self, the more transparent we become, the more apparent, revealed, disclosed we are in the things we do, the more at-one we are with that which is deepest, best and truest about us, the more at-one we are with God, so that “I am who I am,” can be said of all of us, and we can say, along with Jesus, “The Father and I are one.”
We are not defined by our wants, but by our musts. What are the things we MUST do, the things we have to do, the things we cannot leave undone and be who we are? It doesn’t have to be much. It probably won’t be much. It is not likely that it will pay the bills or put food on the table. It may be digging in the dirt. Or watching birds. Or writing poetry (Just try selling poems on the street corners!). Or working with the homeless, the hungry, the poor… What are the things we must tend to, the things we cannot leave undone? When we know these things, we are close to the things of soul, the things of heart, the things that are most truly US. The problem is, of course, that our wants and our shoulds easily over-ride our musts.
Nothing is easier than talking ourselves out of the things we must do. “Don’t be silly. It’s a waste of time. You can’t make any money that way. You can’t do that and pay the bills. You’re throwing your life away. You won’t have any friends. What would your Father (Mother) say? Scandal! Outrage! Shame! Forget it!” But, we pay a price when we turn aside from what we must do, and walk away from the work of soul, no matter how trivial it might seem. Then, soul shrivels, and we die. And, we become nothing more than ferocious appetites living in the service of I Want—or, lifeless drones living as dutiful servants of I Should!
Where is Ego in all of this? Sound asleep at the wheel! Ego has to wake up, be aware, pay attention, come to our rescue, understand what is at stake, make better choices, start listening to our heart-soul-self, to the part of ourselves that knows what we must do to be who we are, and say to I Want and I Should “I Will do what I Must so as to be who I Am.”
Here is a psychic map for you: There is the “I Want”—Freud’s Id. The “I Should”—Freud’s Super Ego. The “I Will”—Freud’s Ego. And, I’m going to add another element that Freud wouldn’t like (which led to his split with Jung). The “I Am Therefore I Must”—my idea of the Soul, Heart, Self. I think these are the four elements that constitute psychic reality, and that we live out of the swirl of these elements, combining and clashing to influence the Ego’s choices about what we will do in the world with our lives.
Here is an aside for you, which takes us back to something I’ve said before. Ego is not the enemy. There is a lot of stuff sitting on shelves in those afore-mentioned self-help sections of bookstores that dis Ego these days. It is written under the influence of an eastern understanding of Ego, which is Freud’s idea of the Id, not Ego. The eastern spiritual traditions don’t know Id as Id, they know Id as Ego. So, when they advise getting rid of Ego, who are they talking to? What aspect of the individual personality rises up to rid itself of Ego? And, who speaks for me when Ego leaves the room? You get rid of Ego, and someone is going to have to check you into an institution where someone else will bathe you and feed you and take care of your needs, because the part of you whose job it is to do that will be somewhere else.
Do not confuse egocentricity and self-centeredness and Narcissism and me-only-ism with Ego. These babies are nothing more than Id gone wild, I Want at the helm. Ego is the deciding, choosing, deliberating, evaluating, judging, directing aspect of our personality. When it comes to a conflict of belief and values, Ego clears its throat and says, “Jim, let the fruitcake go.” And, if it is weak, undeveloped, immature, it surrenders to Id, and says, “Whatever you want, Jimmy boy.”
The trick is not to get rid of Ego, but to grow up into Ego, to give way to the I Will that has our true best interest at heart. If we get rid of Ego, then who is going to tell us what to think, believe and do? Those who tell us to get rid of Ego, no doubt.
Of course, we all hate to decide, particularly against ourselves, so we DO try to get rid of (or ignore) Ego and do what we want (what Id desires). But that path leaves us awash in conflict, because everything we want interferes with something else we want, and we wring our hands a lot and look befuddled, because we will not decide. Because we will not look our conflicts in the face and find the contrary beliefs at work in them and consciously choose what we believe and how we will live. Because we will not listen to ourselves. And that’s where we came in.