We owe it to ourselves to find out how alive we can be in the time left for living. And, we owe it to one another to create the kind of space here, the kind of atmosphere, the kind of community that nurtures life and brings life forth into the world. The work of the church is the work of life—the work of coming to life, being alive. It is the work of becoming the kind of community that enables life, enhances life, and brings life to life in those who come its way. That is our work in this place.
We do that work by waking one another up to the reality of the life that is our life to live. So far as we know (the abundance of speculation not withstanding), we have one golden shot at life. We should not blow it. We should not miss the opportunity to be alive in the moment of our living. What it means for you to be alive is not the same thing it means for me. I cannot be alive on your terms. You cannot be alive on my terms. No one can tell us how to live our lives, at least not in the specifics and particulars. But, there are some general considerations that apply across the board and around the table.
There is a sense in which we have to discover for ourselves what it means to be alive. We have to bring ourselves to life. We have to birth ourselves. We bring ourselves forth from the womb. We nurture ourselves. We are the only ones who know what it means for us to be alive. Yet, we can only do the work of birthing ourselves in the presence of the right kind of company.
The right kind of company is required because fooling ourselves is what we do best. No, telling ourselves what we want to hear is what we do best. No, shooting ourselves in the foot is what we do best. No, wanting what we have no business having is what we do best. No, … well. You get the idea. The right kind of company asks the right kind of questions, and listens us to the truth of who we are.
Clarity about, and alignment with, the center, the core, so that we are who we are, is the key to being a “true human being.” We help people into their lives—we help them find their way—by asking questions. Listening to the answers. Asking more questions. Clarifying their perspective. Enabling them to see better who they are and what they are about. What’s working? What is not working? How do they wish things were working?
Listening to, honoring, respecting everything is the art of life. Ignoring nothing, taking nothing for granted, seeing, hearing, understanding everything. That is the way of knowing what to do. Knowing what to do opens before those who see, hear, and understand all that is to be seen, heard, and understood. Knowing what to do is a matter of seeing, hearing, and understanding what is to be done. Then, it is only a matter of finding the courage necessary to “get up and do (it).”
Clarity and courage are the two keys to living as a true human being, but clarity is not a state of being, but an ever deepening, ever expanding, ever increasing process of recognition. We are never clear. We are always becoming clear. We are never aware, we are always becoming aware. We never see, we are always seeing, hearing, understanding, becoming more who we are than we have ever been.
How would we know a true human being if we saw one? What can’t we do and be a true human being—and be awake, aware, and alive—and see, and hear, and understand? What must we do? If we were to spend the rest of our lives living toward being a true human being, what would we do, how would we do it?
I think we would go slower, be quieter. I think we would do more of what we like to do and less of what we don’t like to do. I think what we do would be more of a natural expression of who we are and less forced, restricted, required—it would be more of a flow and less of a command. I think we would live with increasing integrity, with outer actions aligned with, and expressive of, what is deepest, truest, and best about us. I think we would be who we are, with a gentle, kind, spirit, not hostile, belligerent, or defiant. I think we would pay the price of being who we are with compassion and grace. And, we would pay the price of being unable to be who we are (due to the constraints of place and time, context and circumstance) with compassion and grace. As you can see, my idea of a true human being is a person whose life is centered in who she, who he, is, and who lives that out with gentleness, kindness, compassion and grace.
There are no strategies for living this kind of life, the life of a true human being. We make up the specifics and particulars in the moment of our living. Each next step is a step into the unknown. We have never lived in this here, this now, before. How could we know what to do? We have to take our chances. We make our best guess, and cross our fingers, and close our eyes, and hold our breath, and step unknowing into the unfolding of our lives.
The price of being alive is living within the time and place, the context and circumstances of our lives. This is the world we are born into. This is the time and place of our living. We have to work it out, how to be alive, how to be who we are, here and now. This is not easy. It has never been easy. There is nothing to make it easy. It is our work to do, or to leave undone.
The way we live has implications for others, has impact upon others. How can we be true to ourselves without interfering with their ability to be true to themselves? How can we live our lives without preventing them from living their lives? How do we work things out so that we are all living the life that is our life to live? This is not easy. It becomes doable through conversation. We talk things out.
The key is to keep talking. And, when we reach impasses, declare an impasse without breaking off relationship or closing one another off from caring contact. Always the concern is for an atmosphere in which we can be true to ourselves without interfering with another’s right to be true to herself, to himself. Always the concern is for a sustainable life-style. “With liberty and justice for all.” This is not easy.
What is a sustainable life style? Is that a question that has your name on it? What is the nature of a community capable of sustaining its own life and the lives of those who make it up? Does that question stir anything within? How can the people who gather here assist one another in managing the economic and ecological realities that increasingly impinge upon us all? Is that a question you are interested in answering?
We are facing a future that has never been faced before by any of us. Our future will not be a steady continuation of our past. We are stupid if we come here looking for some spiritual fluff to help us feel better about our lives. We had better be inventing and implementing some practical aids to assist us in living our lives. What do we need that the others can help us with? What does the world need, the culture need, that we can help it with?
We are past the point of being able to entertain ourselves with the latest spiritual fad. This is not a metaphysical diversion to take your minds off your troubles. I’m not here to give you something inspirational and up-lifting to think about during the week. The present is the spring-board into the future. We shape that future by what we make of the here and now. There will be a future. How we influence it, impact it, is our decision to make in the present moment of our living. I’m asking you to form yourselves into an intentional community for influencing the future. More specifically, I’m asking you to form yourselves into an intentional community for anticipating and implementing the kind of future that is necessary for the development of true human beings.
Life is not a spectator sport. We do not live by watching someone else live. Life is not amenable to coaching or instruction. “Is this how you do it?” works with tennis and bull riding, but not with living, not with being alive. How YOU do it is up to YOU. We do not live by listening to someone else tell us how to live. We live by bringing to life our genius, our gift, our self/soul within the context and circumstances of our lives. We do that by trial and error. By experimentation. By living. With our eyes open.
We live to become who we are and we become who we are by living—with our eyes open. Who we are is contingent upon the relationship between ourselves and our lives, our life and our lives, which we work out, over time, in the company of the right kind of people, which it is our work to become.