Sunday, August 10, 2008

08/10/08, Sermon/Dharma Talk

I don’t care what you do, there are going to be people who find fault with you. Try as you will, you won’t please everyone. No matter how hard you work at being likeable, there will be those who don’t like you. So. Do what you do because that’s what you think needs to be done, the way you think it need to be done (which is to say do it your way, the way YOU would do it), and not to get anyone on your side.

Okay. A little clarification. You have heard me say, “The Way is not the way to what we want.” And, “The Way is not the way we want it to be.” And, “The Way is not what we have in mind.” And, now, I’m saying, “Do what you think needs to be done and do it your way.” Which way is The Way? Is it our way, or not?

The Way is very much contrary to our way, and we find The Way by doing things our way. Don’t blame me for the contradictions and paradoxes. That’s just the way it is. I’m only reporting the facts here. Speaking of here, here’s the catch: We find the way by doing it our way and being responsible for the consequences. We have to pay the price of doing what we want with our lives. The price is having no one to blame but us. We do it to ourselves.

Ah, but we so want a scapegoat! If we had only had better parents! If we had only had better choices! If we had only had better advisors! If we had only had more cooperation! If we had only been loved! The list is rather long of all the reasons we turned out as we did. And, no where on the list is any reference to ourselves, no hint that we bear any, much less all, responsibility for who stands before you talking, who sits before me listening. We had nothing to do with becoming who we are, did we?

We had everything to do with becoming who we are, didn’t we? But, we can’t say that, can we? We’ve done all that we have done because we thought that was the way to get what we wanted, but we have refused to be responsible for the consequences that resulted in the life we have lived. We have done all that we have done because we thought that was the way to get what we wanted, but it didn’t turn out like we thought it would, and we are not accountable. The trick is to own up to the tricks we’ve tried to get our way—to say, “This is what we have tried, and it hasn’t worked out so well, so we are going to try something else, and we will be responsible for how it works out, and make more adjustments as necessary until we begin to live reasonably sane and healthy lives.”

Being responsible for our lives means knowing that we don’t know what we are doing. It means understanding, in the words of Sheldon Kopp, “All of our important decisions must be made on the basis of insufficient data. It is enough if we accept our freedom, take our best shot, do what we can, face the consequences of our acts, and make no excuses. It may not be fair that we get to have total responsibility for our own life without total control over it, but it seems to me that for good or for bad, that’s just the way it is. “Always, the challenge is to do the best we can with the information and resources available to us.”

We can’t anticipate every outcome, or envision all the consequences of our choices and actions, or so finely tune our lives as to navigate around all the potholes, dead ends and cliff edges. We can do everything exactly as everyone thinks it should be done, and, still, catastrophe! And, many times, we can only make our best guess regarding what needs to be done, and how. We are just lucky to make it through a day, given the information and resources we have to work with. So we do our best and go on, doing our best to deal with the consequences of doing our best, all our lives long.

We live as those who are liable for our lives, as those who are responsible for the consequences of our actions and choices, as those who understand it is up to us to deal with the outcomes that are generated by the way we live. Our lives are what we make them. No more pretending. No more hiding. No more denying. Now we know that everything hangs on our having eyes that see, ears that hear, and a heart that understands. And, how do we get those babies? By looking closely, listening intently, and asking the questions that are begging to be asked as we make our way through the world.

Sometimes we have to speak and then think about what to say. Sometimes we have to think about what to say and then speak. There are no rules without exceptions. How do we know what to do? How are we supposed to live? Don’t worry about it. It will become clear over time. Just live. And adjust your living to take the consequences of your living into account.

We are self-guided, self-directed, self-adjusting, mechanisms. We got to where we are today by feeling our way along. Experimentation. We used to drown witches. We don’t do that any more. We used to burn heretics at the stake. We don’t do that any more. We used to sacrifice our first-born sons and our virgin daughters. We don’t do that any more.

Of course, we didn’t just get smart one day, and quit. It takes a revolution to turn things around. Revolutions are not always armed conflicts, but the old does not give way easily to the new. Violent confrontations seem to be the way of substantive transformation and change. And, uprisings are avoided, or restricted, only by negotiation, concession and compromise.

We can admire the non-violent tactics of Martin Luther King, Jr., but his cause was the beneficiary of rioting in the streets. The establishment does not read its mail or its email. If you want to get its attention you have to do more than call it up and tell it you would like to talk.

Which is to say that change happens, but it doesn’t happen easily, and it doesn’t happen by the time we would like for it to happen, and it takes work, commitment, and dedication to the cause over time. “No sacrifice is too small or too great for the Revolution!” Well. Who has the heart for that? We want to protest the war by getting a parade permit and packing a lunch, and being home for dinner. And, even if they throw us in jail, we are out over-night, and are careful not to violate the conditions of our release, which means we make sure we aren’t thrown in jail again until the probationary period expires. We like the idea of change, but we have a hard time taking something personally that isn’t personal. We are still too comfortable to care enough about change to be called Revolutionaries.

We can’t hope to be Revolutionaries without being at the end of the rope. We have to be fed up to lay it all on the line. We can’t just not like something, we have to HATE IT. The fuel for the fire of transformation is the passion for change.

This is true on a social/political/cultural level and at the level of our private lives. Beer can change into furniture in the houses of alcoholics, but not without what we might call violence to one’s body and one’s life, not without pain. Alcoholics don’t just wake up one day dry. We may not like the way our lives are working, but that doesn’t mean we will have what it takes to change. What does it take to change? Being fed up. Being at the end of our rope. Reaching our limit. Crashing into the wall. Having enough. Having enough to say, “I’m not going to live like this any more,” and mean it.

When we talk like this, we are talking Revolution! Now, revolution makes things suddenly different, but not necessarily suddenly better. We have to stick it out. We have to realize that we are in it for the long term. We have to “work the program” every day for the rest of our lives, asking of every situation, “What needs to happen here? How does it need to happen?”, and do there what we think needs to be done the way it needs to be done, the way we would do it.

In order to do that consistently, we have to really be fed up. We can’t just wish we were fed up. We can’t just like the idea of being fed up. We can’t just think that maybe we might be fed up. Revolution asks a lot of us, over time. Living differently isn’t all roses, rainbows and white picket fences. So, we have to remember what we are about: Revolution! And, we have to be about it, over time.

Being stuck is wishing things were different but not caring enough about transformation to make the change. We wish we were fed up. We know we ought to be fed up. But, we are not fed up. We want to feel better without doing what it takes to get better. And we will do anything to change our lives except the one thing required to change our lives. We will take courses, read books, attend lectures and seminars, seek the council of gurus, listen to tapes, pay a therapist, but we won’t stop doing whatever it is that we are doing to keep things as they are—we won’t do whatever it is that we must do to make things change. We suffer a lot, but our lives don’t change, because we accommodate ourselves to our suffering, and add rope to the end of the rope and dangle, unchanging, forever.

We’re back to responsibility, don’t you see? Being responsible for our own lives. Being responsible for our own revolution. Forget trying to get everyone on board! Forget trying to make everyone happy! Forget trying to get permission from all the right people before anything is done! Stomp on the egg shells! Rock the boat! Upset the apple cart! Make waves! Begin to live, if only in small, symbolic ways, in ways that you think are important, doing what you think needs to be done in the way you think it needs to be done, and assuming full responsibility for the consequences—and dealing with the consequences in ways you think they need to be dealt with, and assuming full responsibility for those consequences, and dealing with them in ways you think they need to be dealt with, and so on and so forth, from now on forever, Amen.

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