Sunday, July 13, 2008

07/13/2008, Sermon/Dharma Talk

Our lives are unstable because our wants are out of alignment with our haves, because our expectations, hopes, and dreams are ensnarled in reality, and can’t free themselves in order to be realized. We don’t have a problem as long as things are going our way. We begin to get a little unsettled, trouble begins to brew, when we run into something that is Not What We Have In Mind.

Want to make the Grandies a little crazy? Give them something they hadn’t planned on. It could be good. They might eventually come to like it. First, there is hell to pay. Don’t think for a minute that they are different from us. If it isn’t our idea, forget it. We’ll buck and snort for days, no matter what it is.

We would all be happier with more cooperation. If our lives were more like we think they ought to be, and less like they are, we would be a lot more fun to be around. There is nothing wrong with us that getting what we want, when we want it, the way we want it, for as long as we want it, and then getting something else we want, when we want it, the way we want it, for as long as we want it, and then getting something else we want, etc. ad nauseam, wouldn’t cure.

It’s all about getting what we want. Religion? Christianity? Jesus? Getting what we want. We’ve created the whole scenario, the one that passes for Orthodox Christianity and all the rest, to make ourselves feel better about the way things are, and to give ourselves hope for the future. Heaven, you know, is where we will enjoy the wonders of everlasting bliss everlastingly. Heaven is all about making us happy. Finally. It’s a long wait, but baby, it’s worth it! We will have what we want, when we want it, the way we want it, for as long as we want it, and then we’ll have something else we want, etc. ad nauseam, forever. God is, after all, here to see to it that we get what we want.

What do you think prayer is for? And penitence? Our oblations and sacrifices? Our tithes and our votive offerings? What do you think the flap over propitiation is about? It’s all about getting God on our side! We jump through all these hoops to get God to give us what we want! We give to God so that God will give to us! That’s the structure of religion. The priests, who are in the know, tell the people what God wants, so that the people can give God what God wants so that God will reward the people with what they want. And, the priests get what they want for keeping the people so well informed. It’s a great system. You can’t beat it anywhere. Except, maybe, for politics and the World Bank. But everybody can’t play those games. Everyone can get in on religion. It’s the game for the people. And, it’s designed to give people what they want.

Riding the horse called I Want, I Want, And I Will Eventually Receive gets us through a lot of stormy nights. How else would we make it? Why else would we go on? What keeps us going but the thought of what’s in it for us, the thought of what we are going to get out of it in the end? “Tell us truly, O Lord,” say the disciples to the master. “Will it all work out in the end? Will it be as we want it to be at last?” “I tell you truly, my children,” says the master to the disciples. “It will be exactly as you wish in the end. And, if it isn’t, it won’t matter.”

Of course, there is another way. It is the way rarely taken. It is the way of life. It is the way of living this life, right here, right now, exactly as it is. Without having an eye on the future, or what’s in it for us, or what we stand to gain from the deal. It’s like this: Nothing is the heart of everything. Emptiness is the source of life. If you are going to believe in anything, believe in nothing. Not as the absence of everything, but as the origin, the foundation, the source and goal of everything! Empty yourself of all interest in personal gain, and do what truly needs to be done for no reason—whether you get anything out of it or not; whether there is anything in it for you or not; whether it benefits you in any way or not. Be good, for nothing! For no reason! Not because God will then bless you, but because the good you do is the blessing! The blessing is the blessing! What else is there to get?

It isn’t about getting, owning, acquiring, amassing. What’s to have are the things we create, generate, bring forth from our own hearts and souls and ways of being in the world. Peace and harmony don’t exist “out there” any more than meaning and purpose do. We don’t “find” peace and harmony, meaning and purpose. We create them. Produce them. Bring them forth. We bring it all forth, the good stuff and the bad. Why talk about the bad? We bring forth love, joy, patience, kindness, gentleness, generosity… The whole values package. We ARE peace. WE are peace. Or not. It’s all up to us. We practice peace, and harmony, and meaning, and purpose, and love, and joy, and all the rest. We work at bringing them forth in our lives. Living well is our practice. Our work is producing the qualities that make life worth the effort.

How peacefully do we live? How graciously? How compassionately? How kindly? How patiently? How angrily? How insistently upon our way now? How begrudgingly? How resentfully? How fearfully? We produce the life that is our life by living with the attitude, and spirit, demeanor, and mindset, and outlook, and orientation that we live with. We influence the way life is lived around us by the way we live. How peacefully do we live? How graciously?

Our practice is to stand, or sit, before a mirror and make the person in the mirror the kind of person the world most needs. WE are our practice. Our practice is to mold ourselves into the kind of person the world most needs. What do you need to be loving, peaceful, joyful, kind? You don’t find those things on the shelves of Wal-Mart, in the aisles of Macy’s. You don’t order them from Land’s End or LLBean. They don’t exist “out there.” We bring them forth and offer them to the world. That is our work. What do we need to do it?

What do we need to come to terms with the way things are? What do we need to let them be that way because that’s the way they are? What do we need to make peace with the way things are? What do we need to grant the facts of life permission to be? How long will we live angry and depressed, woebegone and resentful that the world is not the way we want the world to be? How long will it take us to get over the shock that the world is not the way we want the world to be? What do we need to let the world be what it is because that’s what it is? There is no connection between what we do and what we get, between the way we live and what happens to us (Regardless of what “the Law of Attraction,” oh brother, don’t get me started, proclaims). What do we need to live in the world as it is as an expression of, as a source of, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, generosity, graciousness (and all the wonderful old values that make life worth the effort) anyway, nevertheless, even so?

Or, is it our plan to make the world pay? To make the world sorry it ever disappointed our expectations and destroyed our dreams? To not let the world forget how miserable it has made us all our lives long? And so, we’re going to wear our misery on our face, and exhibit our anger through our tone of voice and body language, and treat everyone we meet as though they are somehow part of the grand conspiracy to ruin our life? Is that what we have in mind? Or, are we just going to hole-up somewhere and drink our misery away? Sorry old world. We’ll show it. Or, we’ll get too drunk to care. Is that our plan?

There are lots of plans. Lots of schemes. Lots of strategies. We could make a lot of money and buy the kind of world we want. Tuck it away behind high walls, or hide it away in some mountain retreat (I hear the Rockies are good for that kind of thing). Live in Our Own World. For a while (I hear they get cancer even in their Rocky Mountain retreats). We can deny it, reject it, denounce it, declare war against it (The world, that is. The way the world works. The way things are. Life. The way life is). We could rail, rail against the madness. The injustice. The unfairness. It’s outlandish! It’s despicable! It’s detestable! The very idea! We could hate it.

We could ignore it. We could pretend it isn’t so. We could crumble beneath the weight of it. We could be the eternal victim. Moan, moan under the curse of life. There are all kinds of ways of dealing with it. We could bargain with it. We could mount an eternal pout. It’s all been done before. But, nobody is better off for it.

We are better off, and the world is a better place, when we serve the high values in spite of the way the world is. The people who served the high values in the death camps put life before death. That’s how it is done. We don’t wait for things to be just peachy, with it all going our way, before we bring forth peace into the world, and love, and joy, and grace, and kindness, and all the rest. We bring those babies forth wherever we are, in the midst of whatever is going on. We live as well as we can while we can where we are, because we are going to be dead soon enough, and the light, such as it is, is fading fast.

How do we decide how we are going to live? What governs our actions, our choices? What guides our living? Toward what, away from what, do we live? What does it mean to be alive? What do we need to live? After we have that, what do we do with the time, with the life, that is ours? To answer these questions, we have to have some sense, some awareness of who we are and what we are about. What are we bringing forth into the world? What is coming into existence through us? What is our calling, our life? How are we standing in the way of our own becoming? How are we, by our behavior and attitude, preventing the unfolding of good in the world?

The only thing standing between us and The Way of Life is US! All we have to do is GET OUT OF THE WAY! How we do that is our spiritual practice. Spiritual practices are all designed to get us out of the way of The Way. That’s all there is to it. It’s never been, or will be, more difficult than that.

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