Sunday, October 26, 2008

10/26/08, Sermon/Dharma Talk

Don’t try to make sense of it. Don’t have to understand it. Don’t waste your time reasoning it out, squaring things up, explaining things, making it all right that things are what they are. Just let it be all right. Even the things that are not all right, like selling drugs to children, or treating gay people like they are sinful or sick and unworthy of the rights and privileges of those considered by some to be normal human beings—let it be all right that there are things that are not all right—and work to make them right. Let it be all right that you have to work to make things right. And get busy. Don’t sit around trying to understand it, explain it, justify it, smooth it over. It isn’t smooth! Some things are not right. Let that be all right, and get busy making them right. Let it be all right that we have to work to make things right.

Don’t be looking for reasons for things being the way they are. Here’s the reason things are the way they are: It’s easier that way. Things take the course of least resistance in becoming what they are. And we have to work to make them different, better. Things are the way they are because somebody was too lazy to alter them at the start, and now we have to do the work of thousands to make things more like they ought to be than they are. And the question is how lazy will we be? Will we do the work? Or, will we sit around fanning ourselves looking for some cosmic purpose at work in things being the way they are? Telling ourselves to leave things alone because it is God’s will that they are what they are?

There is no cosmic purpose. No body is planning your day, your life, managing events and circumstances throughout the universe in order to achieve some well-designed, thought-out, carefully orchestrated and marvelously wonderful outcome. Nothing has to be what it is. It makes no sense. So, stop trying to square things up and align them with some grand idea of how they ought to be, and roll up your sleeves and get busy. Get busy living your life, doing what must be done, making things as good as they can be for yourself and all people.

That gets tricky quickly, doesn’t it? We can’t make things as good as they can be for everyone without someone sacrificing something. Our good for the good of the whole. Where IS that balance point? There is no balance point. Things do not fall nicely into place and stay there so that everyone’s good is optimally served at all times. No one is happy all the time. At any point, someone’s needs are not being met, and everyone thinks it’s their turn now. What are you going to do? Do what you can. Do what can be done. And let that be that.

Flash back with me to Tevya and Fiddler on the Roof. “It’s a new world, Goldie.” Things are falling apart. Disruption is everywhere. The stabilizing traditions are dissolving. Chaos and turmoil rule the day. Nothing that once could be counted on to hold things together can be counted on to hold things together. Yet, Tevya and Goldie do what can be done to make life possible for themselves and their children and the people who are influenced and sustained by their presence, their spirits, their lives.

It isn’t what happens to us, that matters, it is who we show ourselves to be in dealing with what happens to us. It is who we are, who we bring to life, in the engagement with life, who we become through the process of living our lives. “It takes the Cyclops to bring out the hero in Ulysses.” It doesn’t matter what happens, how easy or hard our lives are, or how much we like or don’t like about our lives. It matters how we manage ourselves, not how we arrange our circumstances. It matters that we stand with Tevya and Goldie, that we walk with them through the shambles of their world, and ours, and make of it what can be made of it—in the spirit of those who are just fine to be who we are doing what we are doing.

This doesn’t mean we aren’t staggered by the things that come our way. And it doesn’t mean that we can make it through our lives alone. We need a community to uphold us, sustain us, and enable us to find the wherewithal to take the next step, to do what must be done. Tevya and Goldie are not isolated from the larger community of displaced Jews. They find their way in the world in the company of those who are also finding their way in the world. The quality of our association with a sustaining community is directly proportional to the quality of our lives. We cannot live well without the right kind of encouraging, caring presence in our lives. Our life is a function, an extension, of our life together. We live well apart by living well together.

It’s harder than it needs to be. It doesn’t plop right, out of the box. We have to work to make it right. To make it as it ought to be. It’s our life, taking this and turning it into that. We are miracle workers, making magic happen. Or not. Sometimes, we just complain. Whine. Moan. Carry on. As though we are privileged and the word didn’t get around. And, now we are being asked to do things we shouldn’t have to do.

Well. We don’t know what our life will be. It doesn’t unfold before the cameras like a well-crafted Hollywood script. We don’t think it up and there it is. We don’t place an order and have it delivered. Life is what we do with what we have to work with. With what comes our way. With what is waiting around the next corner, and all the ones after that.

Life is what we create by the way we live, by who we show ourselves to be through the process of living our lives. Life is the creation. We are the creators. We produce the wonder that our Life becomes. Our life’s work is our life!

Life isn’t automatically what it needs to be, what we need it to be. We have to work at it to make it worth living. We make it what it is. What’s good is good because we make it good, because we put ourselves in the way of the good, grab it with both hands and refuse to let go, no matter what—because we do the good, serve the good, practice good, relentlessly, over the course of our lives. What would you put forward as justifying the experience of life and making it worth the effort that goes into being alive? How much of that would exist, or how much of that could we experience, without what we do to make it possible? We create a life that is worth living, or not. It’s ours to do all the way. Creation is our gift to the world, to ourselves. We bring Life to life. We don’t find it there, accidentally, as one might stumble upon loose change in a parking lot.

Of course, we don’t have to produce anything. We can wail and cast about, and attempt to console ourselves with “Poor me, poor me!” Poor me, indeed! Nobody gets what they wish they had. And if they do, it’s isn’t the right color, or it doesn’t fit like they thought it would, or it doesn’t last and they can’t let it go. Poor everyone of us! Now what?

Life waits to be formed and shaped and brought forth into the world. That is our work, our genius, our gift to the world. We craft Life! We bring Life to life in our lives! We grace the world with the Life we live out of the materials at hand. Or not. We don’t have to craft a Life. We can live out our days with an eye on other things. Many things pass for Life. For Really Living. There is grabbing the gusto. There is buying, spending, amassing, consuming. There is acquisition and accumulation. Escape and denial. The world is filled with things that claim to be Real Life. We can live our entire lives in the pursuit of Real Life. We don’t have to craft a Life. We don’t have to be alive.

Crafting a Life brings Life to life in us and brings us to Life in our lives. Here’s how it works: We take the raw materials of our life, of the day, our parent’s divorce, say, or the loss of our job, or a bequest of several million dollars, and we bring our spirit, our character, our soul, our self to bear on the circumstances of our lives. We shape it and are shaped by it. Much like the stream and the channel create each other, we create, and are created by, the life we live, the way we live in and with the context and circumstances of our lives.

Part of that work is just doing what needs to be done. Paying the bills. Making ends meet. Feeding the baby. Being responsible for our decisions and choices and their impact and outcome. Part of that work is doing what needs to be done the way WE would do it. We come alive in our lives when we live them in the service of our own genius, when we bring our gifts and perspective to bear upon the context and circumstances of our lives. And, when we encounter the mystery and wonder of being.

This experience of this context and these circumstances is beyond words. To be conscious and aware of the wonder of Life, of living, of being alive is to be awake on the boundary between human and divine. And, then, it is gone. And the baby crying is just a baby crying. But, we remember the connection between the baby crying and the beauty of Life. And we know it is not for nothing that we live. And, this is faith.

Faith is remembering, trusting, living on and in light of a level beyond the nuts and bolts of existence. This is the level of Life beyond life. It is accessible only to those with eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart that understands—to those who have been for a time on the boundary between the human and the divine.

And, those who have been there, or who believe it is possible to be there, gather in groups like this one to remember and remind one another of Life beyond life, and encourage each other to do the work of living within the context and circumstances of life as those who would bring Life to life there by the nature and quality of their work, of their presence, of their spirit and character, in doing what needs to be done with the raw materials at hand, each day of their lives.

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