Sunday, December 14, 2008

12/14/08, Metaphor is everywhere.

The Christian Life is not a better life than the Jewish Life, or the Buddhist Life, or the Atheistic Life, or the Human Life, or any Life lived open to and aware of the moment of its living and of what is being asked of us, offered to us, by the moment. Christian eyes don’t see any better than any other eyes. Christian ears don’t hear any better than any other ears. Christian hearts don’t understand better than any other hearts. Christianity is a perspective, not an advantage. And, like all perspectives, it is continuing to be enlarged and expanded, deepened, transformed.

The Christ is the Anointed One who comes to announce the time of our visitation, to proclaim the good news that the kingdom of God is at hand. Well. Look around. Here it is. Do you see it? Are you participating in its coming into the world through the quality of your interaction with the world in the moment of your living? Are you transforming the moment by how you see the moment, how you live in the moment? If so, then you are the Christ, receiving the grace of the moment, gracing the moment and passing it on. The Jew who does that is also the Christ. And the Buddhist. And the Atheist. And the Human. We are all the Christ without doctrines to divide us, but with eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to understand to unite us, connect us, grace us, and make us all one. We are made one by the metaphors which wake us up and bring us to life in the time of our living.

The Promised Land, the Kingdom of God, the New Jerusalem, Heaven in all its glory, and the Holy Grail are all the same thing: the idea of life as it ought to be. Life as it is is clearly NOT how it ought to be, and so we seek the Elysian Fields, Nirvana, Paradise. But wait! We had Paradise, remember? The Garden of Eden. It wasn’t so hot, remember? We figured a way to make it better, to improve on Paradise. Or, so the story goes. It’s a great story. Nails us to the wall. Isn’t that how it is with us, though? So much for Paradise. You can’t give us anything we can’t wish were different.

How long was it before the Promised Land fell apart, disintegrated in the hands of the people? The Kingdom of God never got off the ground. Of course, it did get off the ground by being placed by Jesus in the realm of the metaphorical, figurative, symbolic, and allegorical (“My kingdom is not of this world,” “The kingdom of God is in the midst of you”), which is exactly where it belongs. It and the Promised Land, and the New Jerusalem, and Heaven in all its glory. It’s all right there with the Holy Grail. Metaphor all the way.

The metaphor pulls us forward, away from all that is familiar, comfortable and routine and safe, into the wilderness (another metaphor—they are everywhere), into the unknown. The prophet knows, and calls us to be open to “The voice of one crying, “In the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord!” The wilderness is always the place where God is found, and the place where God sends us. In our search for the Promised Land, the Kingdom of God, the New Jerusalem, and the Holy Grail, we are, as Abraham was, propelled away from “our father’s house” into the trackless void.

What we seek is found outside the camp. Outside the gate. Outside the box. The Promised Land is out there. Beyond the borders. We are always on the way to the Land of Promise, never arriving. The Kingdom of God is always coming, always breaking into our lives, always breeching the barriers we erect against it, opening our eyes (and ears, and hearts) with its glimpse of grace, mercy and peace (like the Holy Grail with its vision of how life could be) and then it’s gone, and we are left to wonder what response to make, here, inside the box, inside the gate, inside the camp. And the response is obvious. “Go from your father’s house!” and take up the trail of the spirit which is like the wind, blowing where it will. But, we hold back, afraid of the possibilities, as well we should be.

And, yet, the call is to step, trusting, if afraid, into that dark night. The call is to take a chance on life, and on God. We have to trust ourselves to life and see where it takes us. Our expectations of the life we have in mind for ourselves—our hopes and our dreams—keep us from participating in the realization of the dream of God for us. We have to step into the wilderness and see what happens.

Ah, but, that is the hardest thing—to not-know what we are doing, where we are going, to live without a map and a time-table. But, growing up (And, I can’t think of a better term for the spiritual quest. It’s all about our maturity, our coming of age, our developing discernment, our seeing, hearing and understanding, finally, what it is all about, what is being asked of us, what is important, what needs to happen, and what we have to offer to the situation “as it arises” in the moment of our living)—growing up means going away. It means leaving our father’s house, and striking out, on our own through the deserted wastelands. If we don’t go away physically, as in moving across the country, we have to go away emotionally, as in having our own life, separate from the life everyone thinks we ought to have. Separation is the prerequisite for a life of our own. We spend our lives learning that we can be separate without falling apart, learning that we really can’t be together until we can be separate.

Enmeshment means we don’t have a life of our own. It means our life is intertwined with other lives, with our mother’s life, for instance, or our daughter’s. Our father’s life or our son’s. You get the idea. We don’t know where we stop and they start. It’s all one big, not so happy, life. We wander around clutching each other in a large co-dependent huddle, lost in the fear of ever having to be who we are, hoping we never have to have a thought of our own.

What would “our own life” be? We cannot figure it out by thinking about it. We have to live to find our way to our own life, and live it—the life that is our life to live—within the context and circumstances of our lives. To what extent are we living our life, the life with our name on it? To what extent are the things we find ourselves doing the things would do if we were in charge of our lives? If we aren’t in charge of our lives, who is?

It all hangs by such a thin thread. The future turns on a dime. On less than a dime. On nothing at all. In trying to find our lives, we lose them. We force our way at the wrong time. We give way at the wrong time. It is such a fine balance. We make pivotal decisions without paying attention, without knowing what we are doing, without a second thought, or a first one. We say, “No,” or “Yes,” without thinking, and life as it could have been never has a chance. If we had only known the time of our visitation and the choices we had to choose from!

Of course, the opposite is true as well. Life has a chance as easily, as off-handedly, as absent-mindedly, as it is nipped in the bud. We make a choice lightly, say, “Yes,” or “No,” on a whim, and everything opens up before us, and we find ourselves on THE way, without knowing how we got there or why we should be so lucky. We can think too hard, ponder too much, about the ought-to-be-ness of things. At times we just have to trust our luck and take our chances. “He who hesitates is lost,” you know. And, other times, we have to listen carefully and know what is being asked of us. “Look before you leap,” you know.

But who can be so smart? Who can know the things that make for peace, and for life? Who can be so finely tuned to what is being asked of us that we know how to respond, how to offer what is needed, what to do? We live at the mercy of “time and chance,” and take our chances all the time, whether we know it or not. And yet, there is the possibility of “the third eye,” the eye that sees, the ear that hears, the heart that understands—the possibility of perceptivity beyond the range of “reasonable and normal.” We can know without knowing how we know. We can intuit the moments upon which the future hangs. It takes being attentive, awake, aware on a level and to a degree that is not ours to command. It takes not missing anything, particularly the obvious. And it takes time to develop the knack of knowing what can and what cannot be known. It takes time to grow up, to see, and hear, and understand. We have to take the time, and we have to know what we are about, and what is going on.

It all hangs by a thread and turns on a dime. So I recommend not worrying about it. Jesus and the Buddha had something similar to say. Regretting not having done better keeps us from doing better in the time spent regretting not having done better, which gives us something else to regret, and snowballs to oblivion. We did what we could with the information available to us and here we are. Now what? Given where we have been and how we got here, and what we have to work with here and now, what's the next step? Where we are going is more important than where we have been, so we have to shake it off and think about where we go from here, now.

Begin where you are. Start with what you have. Living differently, I mean. Living. How would the Messiah live? Live that way. Don’t wait for the Messiah to come winging in on clouds of glory to institute The Way for all humankind. Do the next thing the way the Messiah would do it, here, now. Don’t wait for social transformation. Don’t even wait for your own personal transformation. Don’t wait for someone to make it easy for you by telling you what to do, as though they know. Just take the next step the way the Messiah would take it. And, if you don’t have any idea as to what that would be, make up something Messiah-like, and go with it. Your best guess will do.

And, if you can’t even begin to guess, no problem. Just do it the way you would do it. Find what you take to be your own life, and live it. How would YOU live? What would YOU do, given a choice? What kind of Messiah would YOU be, doing it like YOU think it ought to be done? Would you indulge yourself and grow fat on the pleasures of life? Live excessively? Without a care in the world? Make messes for someone else to clean up? Drive fast? Eat sweets? Refuse to exercise? Lie around? Belch and ring for the valet? Fine. Just do the next thing the way YOU think it ought to be done, and change it as needed. Never mind the Messiah. Start with you and your way. You are close enough to the Messiah to do. Take a chance on life, on yourself, on God. Everything waits, hoping you will.

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