There is a photographic saying, “Light doesn’t wait.” You can’t fool around thinking the light is going to be there when you are ready for it. You have to always be ready for it. You have to get up early and go wait for the light. The light is not going to wait for you. Neither is life. Life is not going to wait for you. You can’t put living off until you are in the mood for it. You can’t wait until you are all ready, with everything in its place, and all the flat surfaces neat and tidy and the door sills dusted, before you begin living. If you are going to live, you have to live NOW, in the middle of the mess.
We think we have to get it right before we can begin to live, as though life exists as a realm apart, in a world where everything is as it should be, and if things are NOT as they should be, well, who can live with that? If we are in a prisoner of war camp, for instance, it is clear that we cannot LIVE there. Or if we are homeless, or if we have a terminal illness (Who could LIVE with a terminal illness?), or if we are laboring beneath the burdens of living, with this stink old job and this stinky old house, we cannot possibly live. Living happens when everything is just fine in our lives. We cannot be expected to live if everything is not just fine in our lives.
Living, as everyone knows, depends upon our dream for our life being worked out in our lives. Then, we can really live. With things going our way, nothing can stop us. Big deal. It’s easy for nothing to stop us when there is nothing to stop us. But let something come along. Let something derail us. Let the pianos and anvils begin to drop out of the sky. Let the Wall appear right out of nowhere in the middle of our path. Let reality plant a big wet one right on our kisser. Then, let’s see how we do. Let’s see how we do with nothing going our way.
This is the deal: Living cannot hinge on everything, or even anything, going our way. Life doesn’t wait for things to go our way. If we are going to live, we are going to have to live right in the middle of the mess. If we are going to live, we can’t let anything stop us. All the stuff that we don’t like about our lives, all the things that are in our way, keeping us from doing what we like to do, we can’t let it stop us. It is up to us to not let anything stop us. It is up to us to live in the midst of the mess, to live in the solid dead center of death itself, to live with all that is Not Life draping itself all over us and getting in our way.
Walk through the woods. Nothing there is what you would call real happy with anything else there. Everything there is in direct competition with everything else there, for water and sunlight and oxygen. The oak trees and the maples are not best friends. The pines and the dogwoods do not socialize or inquire about each other’s children. The different varieties of mosses are at war with each other, struggling for dominion over the same six foot square plot of ground. It's like this everywhere you look.
The world is not a friendly place. Do not think that the universe, or anything in the universe (except, perhaps, on their good days, the people who care deeply about you) has your best interest at heart. Do not think that if you are a good person and do what is right your life will line up for you, and ask you what it can do for you, and if you need anything, and if not it will be back to check on you again in a little while. Life does not depend on things going our way. And, I’m not talking about only physical, biological, 98.6 and breathing life. I’m talking about Real Life, Abundant Life, Life packed down and overflowing, being alive and loving it Life. LIFE does not depend on things going our way. We can live in the midst of nothing going our way. I know you do not believe it, but it is so.
LIFE is fully compatible with Not-Life, call it Death. LIFE is fully compatible with Death. You could look it up. LIFE and Death co-exist like oak trees and maples, pines and dogwoods, and all the moss varieties, and have from the very beginning. Life and Death come blended together as inseparable aspects of the way of things. We have to LIVE in the midst of Death, in the midst of all that drains us and depletes us and takes all the fun out of it for us. We can’t let IT stop us!
That’s why we come together here once a week. To remember and remind one another to not let IT stop us. To remember and remind one another to Live On, Anyway, Nevertheless, Even So! You’re mighty right it’s hard! Don’t let it stop you! Don’t let the fact that it is hard keep you from being alive, keep you from living in the time left for living, in the midst of all you have to live with. Live with it. In spite of it. Don’t let it stop you!
The challenge, the work, is always to be alive in the time left for living, in the midst of things that do not support life, that are Not Life, that are Death. We have to come alive, to be alive, in the midst of Death. That’s the way it is. That’s the way it always has been. The way it always will be.
Look. It’s like this: The Life-potential of a photo is only good as long as I'm taking, or enjoying, the photo. When I step away from the scene, or from enjoying the photo, IT gets me (“IT” being whatever takes the life out of me at any particular place in time). And the fight is on. The fight for balance and sanity and remembering "I can do this." We can do this. In a place we don't want to be. With people we don't want to be with. Dealing with things we don't want in our lives. We can do it.
The essential determination, the primary focus and commitment is to not let it stop us. To not let it stop us from doing what we came to do. From enjoying what is to be enjoyed. From finding the life that is ours to live--in the midst of all that is not life for us. There isn't Life and Not Life as two separate entities. There is Life-And-Not-Life as one thing. We have to live in the tangle of stuff that kills us, or is trying to. No kidding. I knew you weren't going to like that. The mosses don't like it either, or wouldn't, if they knew what was going on. But they don't let not liking it stop them. There is a moral here, don't you see? Don't Let It Stop You!
Don’t let it stop you from Life, and Living, and Being Alive! If we are reasonably awake and aware, we know, each one of us knows, when life stopped for us, or could have. Something happened that wasn’t supposed to happen. Some trauma, some blow, some disappointment, and we were undone, and quit, or might have. Well, it’s places like that where we have to remember and remind one another, “Don’t let it stop you!”
Our work is to be alive in the midst of death. To live in the smack, dab, middle of that which mocks life, and laughs at life, and suggests in a thousand ways that it isn’t worth being alive. Our place is to take up the challenge, and to LIVE in the face of all that would say, “Why bother?” Ours is the work of being alive when it would be easy to surrender to the forces of death and die. Dying is easy. Living is hard. It takes effort to be alive. It doesn’t happen accidentally. We do not find life. We generate life. We create life.
We don’t wait for Life to be delivered, or for our lives to turn a corner one day and there is Life, waiting on us, handing out blessings and joys, and making us glad, finally, to be alive. Glad to be alive is not something that comes to our door and knocks and says, “I was just in the neighborhood and wanted to see if you would like to come out and play.” It doesn’t call us on the phone and say, “You have been selected to receive a lifetime membership in the Joy Club.” It doesn’t track us down, look us up, thrust itself upon us because we were patient, are deserving, kept the rules and did everything right in a “well done good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Master” kind of way.
Life is an inside job. We take the raw materials and build a life worth living from them. We create Life by the way we live, by the spirit and attitude and outlook and perspective with which we walk into, and through, the day, every day, regardless of what we find there. We bring ourselves to life by investing ourselves in the moment at hand and working to bring to life there what needs to be brought to life there.
Being alive is being alive in the moment of our living, being alive in the now, being alive to the moment, to the now, to what is possible, here and now, to what is happening, to what is trying to happen, to what needs to happen, and assisting that, as we are able, brining forth life, the life that is possible here and now, in the moment of our living. Being alive is bringing life to life in the moment of our living. Birthing life. Being mid-wives, being mothers, of the moment. Making the moment more than it would ever be without us. Being alive is birthing moments. Birthing life in the moment of our living.
We do that simply by being alive to the moment of our living. Being awake and aware. Being present. Paying attention. What is happening? What is trying to happen? What needs to happen? What is being asked of us? Where are we being asked to come alive, to participate in the coming to be—in the birthing—of what is trying to be born?
Sometimes it is obvious. Sometimes it is not apparent at all. But, openness to the moment and what needs to happen there, what needs to happen here and now, is the orientation, the perspective, that serves life and is life. There is a lot about our lives that simply has to be endured, and always will be. If we can square up to that, accept it and let it be because it is, we have it made as much as we can have it made, and can open ourselves to the possibilities of life and create life by the way we choose to live in the time that is ours upon the earth.