Tuesday, December 30, 2008
63) In any situation, 10,000 futures are possible. How we live reduces the likelihood of some possibilities and increases the likelihood of others.
64) One things doing is another things undoing. One things ordered grace is another things traumatic disruption. Dinner for the lion is not something the antelope would bless.
65) Live without worrying about succeeding or failing, gaining or losing. Let come what’s coming and let go what’s going. Enjoy what is to be enjoyed. Grieve what is to be grieved. Do what needs to be done. Come to terms with how things are. Let your life be your life. Your options your options. Your choices your choices. Your futures your futures.
66) Cleverness knows how to manipulate means to achieve its ends. Simplicity observes what is happening, perceives what is trying to happen, and assists what needs to happen. Offering the right help in the right way at the right time is the essence of wisdom. You can’t be wiser than that.
67) Cleverness does this so that will happen. Simplicity does this so this will happen, because this needs to happen, whether that happens or not.
68) What is done is what can be done, which is not the same as what has always been done. It takes the vision of a sage to see what can be done in any situation in order to do the work of redemption and transformation and bring the new into existence out of the old.
69) In remaining below, the sage receives what the situation has to offer and brings for the baby struggling to be born.
70) In any moment, the sage simply offers what the moment needs out of what she, what he, has to give.
71) The sage does not calculate, strategize, manipulate, control. The sage observes what is happening, asks what needs to happen, and how she, how he, might assist what needs to happen. You wouldn’t want a sage running your business, or hire one as a CEO.
72) We have to know what we are trying to do and whether it can actually be done, and whether it really needs to be done.
73) Of what does life consist? Where is life to be found? What brings us to life, makes us alive? What do we need in order to be alive? What’s with all this other stuff in our lives?
74) Some things are clearly better than others. Every living thing prefers one thing over another. The lion’s life is the antelope’s death. There is no happy state in which everyone has exactly what is needed at no one’s expense. But, compassion keeps things reasonably tolerable much of the time.
75) Compassion lets things be, and lets things become what they might be, and says, “No!” to what should not be.
76) To see what needs to be done and to do it. To be right about what is important to serve it. That’s all there is to it. Anything else is just talk.
77) Fighting is forcing. The resistance can come from without or from within. Don’t let your principles keep you from doing what is important, what needs to be done!
78) We want more than we can have, more than we have any business having, and cannot adjust ourselves to living within the limits of our lives, within what our situation in life allows. “Our reach must exceed our grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” “You’ll never keep them on the farm once they’ve seen gay Paree!”
79) The meaning of life is to be alive in the time and place of our living. What does it mean to be alive in the time and place of our living? Answer that question correctly and you have it made.
80) What is our life asking of us? What does the moment require? At times, our life is at odds with the moment. The flow is not always smooth. Disruption and chaos are also part of how things are. We take it all into account, and do what needs to be done. Are we right about what needs to be done? Time will tell. We may be wrong. Maybe something else needs to be done. We may blow it. Life is like that. We can blow it.
81) Sometimes, we are punished for doing it the way we do it. Sometimes, there is a price to be paid for doing it our way. And a price to be paid for not doing it our way. Whose way is going to be the way for us? Whose way is going to be the way we do it? Who is going to live our life? If not us, who?
82) Trusting the inner knowing and letting things have their own mind is the essential act of faith. If you are going to believe in anything, believe in the power of things to become what they need to be, particularly when assisted by those who do nothing to force their will on the way things are, but constantly look for what needs to happen and help it come forth in the right kind of way.
83) What is to be gained by being favored? What is to be lost by being not-favored?
84) People are not afraid of dying either because life has no value and they do not care if they live or die, or because they know what is truly important and are willing to sacrifice their lives in the service of that good.
85) You have to carve wood the way you carve wood, not the way someone else carves would. We have to live our lives the way we would live our lives, not the way we think our lives ought to be lived—not the way we think someone else would live our lives, or have us live them. We see the photo WE see, not the photo someone else sees.
86) With nothing to live for, there is no reason to live. Therefore, finding value in life is the foundation of life. The spiritual quest is the search for what is important, for what counts, matters, makes a difference in our lives, if no one else’s.
87) How much can we put up with and still be us? Where do we draw the line? I don’t know how much time you think you have left to live, but how much of it are you willing to spend being not-you, doing what is not-you, associating with those who are not your kind of people? Where and how and how often are you drawing lines, saying “No,” giving yourself to the things that have your name on them?
88) We have to know when who we are is running afoul of who we must (pretend to) be. We have to play parts, assume roles, do what must be done, AND we have to be true to ourselves. We have to be who we are. We have to know when something is a role, a part, and not-us, and we have to compensate ourselves for all of our not-me roles by stepping out of the part as often as possible and giving ourselves to the things that are us all the way.
89) Who knows why? Why this and not that? It doesn’t matter why. We have to step into the What and deal with the way things are regardless of why they are that way, or of why we have to deal with it, or of why we have to live with all that we have to live with, or of why this and not that… What is required, here and now? What is being asked of us? What needs to be done? What next? What now? It is enough that we answer these questions without being lost in the questions that cannot be answered. Choosing the right questions to answer is the path of wisdom and life even before we answer them.
90) Creating intentional communities of practice—where we practice “the things that make for peace,” the things that enable us to have what it takes to do what needs to be done, the things that enable us to live the life that is ours to live within the context and circumstances of our lives—is the work of the church. The work of the church is creating the atmosphere, the environment, the space, the place, in which the real work of the church—being alive in the time and place of our living—might be done.
91) We begin the process of bringing ourselves to life by finding the things that bring us to life. Where are we most alive? How often do we do the things that bring us to life? What prevents us from doing those things more often? How do we experience the difference between death and life? What are the inhibitions, the blocks, to life? In what ways do we resist being alive—doing the things that bring us to life? Where do our pleasures lie? How often do we engage in the things that please us? How conscious are we of being pleased when we are being pleased? How often do we deliberately give ourselves the gift of life, the pleasure of being alive?
Sunday, December 21, 2008
The trick is to not worry about it, to not try to “get” more than we “get” at any point in our lives—not to dwell on what we get and don’t get, on how much we get and how much is left to get. All of it is left to get. What ever we think we get, we’ll have to get it again, and again. Get it?
Where we are is just where we are. And, what we see, hear, and understand at that point is what we see, here, and understand at that point. We need slack. We need, “Yes!” We need to know that we are just fine exactly as we are. It all begins with being where we are, who we are, why we are, what we are, how we are, when we are. If we can sit with that, and relax, we can move beyond that into who else we are. But, we can’t get to who else we are by being commanded to go there. The rule is no pushing, no forcing, just being as awake, as aware, as we are.
We need an atmosphere in which we can be as awake and as aware as we are and find our way to our-selves, in which we can be who we are and become who else we are capable of being, who else we are built to be. The call is to ourselves and beyond ourselves, into all we might become. And we need a place in which we can hear, and heed, the call to be who we are and who else we are. We need a place in which to find our way to ourselves and the life that is always working to be born in us, and through us into the world.
A stream follows its path, but we are “worried and distracted (diverted, blocked, overwhelmed, dismayed, held back, stopped cold) by many things.” Or, so it seems. Streams are too. Streams have to keep coming back to the task at hand just as we do. It's all a part of the path. Nothing is wasted in the experience of life. This doesn't mean everything is necessary. Everything certainly isn't good. But, it is all a part of the production of our lives. Our chal-lenge is to fold it all into the experience of us, and we need help with that effort. We cannot do it alone. Perspective is the work of many eyes. Saving perspective is the work of many healthy, healing, loving, eyes. We come together with the right kind of people to find the way in and around, over and through the things in our path. But, the way is there and is to be found by eyes that see, ears that hear, and hearts that understand.
Our difficulties stem from the problems we make of our difficulties. From willing what cannot be willed. The trick is to “roll with the punches” and “go with the flow,” and understand what “the flow” is and exactly how to “go” with it. The ideal is the relationship between the stream and the stream bed. The stream makes the stream bed, the stream bed restricts, limits, contains the stream. Who is in charge? Who is in control? Who is Boss? Stream or stream bed? The questions are senseless. The stream and the stream bed are one thing. They are not opposi-tional, adversarial. We and our lives are one thing. The sooner we understand that and live in oneness with our lives—as the stream lives in oneness with the stream bed—the better things are for everyone, for all “sentient be-ings” everywhere.
We live in oneness with our lives by opening ourselves to the reality of things as they are and deciding what we are going to do with it, about it. How are we going to deal with it? How are we going to be in relationship with it? Given the givens of our lives, what does it take to be alive? What does it mean to be alive? How do we know? What is life for us, what is death? We have to know these things. This is essential knowing. How do we find our way through death to life? How do we bring ourselves to life in the time left for living? How much time do we think we have to spend on things that are not life for us?
There is the work of life and there is the work that enables the work of life, the work that pays the bills we incur in doing the work of life. Occasionally the two are the same, but not often. What is the work of life for us, and what do we need to help us with that work? What are the tools that enable the work of life? What assists, what in-hibits, what enables, what prevents that work? What is it that we do in bringing life forth? What are we doing when we come to life? How much of that can we do as we are doing the work that pays the bills?
The focus is on living the life that brings us to life. Life is the guide. Yet, it is also the pain and the agony. We pay a price to be alive. It is easier to take the course of least resistance, to leave the way, step aside from the path and say, “Talk to us no more of the Holy One of Israel”—that is, of the life that is our life to live.
Israel wanted to be like the nations, you know. And, as was the story in the Garden of Eden, forsook, the life that was its life to live in favor of the life it had it mind for itself. That’s exactly the temptation Jesus rejected time after time. “Not my will, but Thine be done!” Whose will? How do we understand the “Thine” here? “Thy will be done.” We hear it all the time. Who is the “Thy” here? How do we think of the “Thy”? How do we conceptualize the “Thy”?
We’ve always thought of the “Thy” as God, the Creator and Sustainer of all that is. The Man Upstairs. How different would it be if we thought instead of the “thy” as the life that is trying to live itself through us? The life that is calling itself forth in us? “Thy will, not mine, be done,” then means that we place ourselves in the service of our life, and live to see, and hear, and understand what implications that has for us and the way we live.
Our life calls itself forth. I wanted a typewriter when I was in the 10th grade, which is when I learned to type. My life isn’t writing best sellers. Or even moderate sellers. My life is writing, forming art with words. And writing is an aspect, an extension, of seeing, hearing, understanding. My life is seeing, hearing, understanding—asking, seeking, knocking—wondering, probing, inquiring… And fooling around.
Fooling around brings things to light, to life, in a way that serious pursuit could never do. When we fool around, we aren’t doing anything in particular and are open to everything in general, and our life is leading us to the next discovery, the next realization, without itself having a blueprint that it is following. It doesn’t say, “Okay, he got that, now in order for him to get the next step in sequence, we’re going to have to get him to …” The steps aren’t in sequence. The next step isn’t the next step on the list of steps. It’s just the next step, the next thing to come along. Arbitrarily. Randomly. Capriciously. Reach in a hat and pull out a blue marble. That’s the next marble. But it becomes meaningful when we fold it into the life we have lived up to that point, and we incorporate it in the series of steps that lead us to us. But no one is leading, no one is following, Our life is just calling itself forth.
The moral here is: Listen to your life and follow where it leads, go where it takes you, no matter what. All our lives will not have the same outcome. Yoda was a highly advanced spiritual being at one with the Force and he lived in a hole in the ground. Luke Skywalker was a highly advanced spiritual being at one with the Force and he lived in a royal palace. We don’t know how it will turn out for us, but our eyes can’t be on the outcome. Where we live, hole or palace, cannot be important to us. What is important is that we follow our lives as they lead us along. We listen, we discern, we follow, and we stay out of the way, we cooperate, we buy a typewriter. But not to be a famous writer. Just to write.
Our dreams for our lives get in the way of our lives. Yet, they can also be the way our life gets our attention and calls us forward. No one goes seeking a nightmare, or lives in the service of the Desolating Sacrilege. Our dream can be our life’s dream for us, not our dream for our life. When the two are the same, it is beautiful. May we always dream of knowing what is important, what needs to be done, and doing it.
Our lives will probably not be what we wish they were. Will not be what we have in mind. And, they will be fulfilling, completing, satisfying. And, they will ask hard things of us. We will wish they were more fun, easier, more enjoyable. But, we would not be able to walk away from them without paying with our zest, vitality, joy, exuber-ance, enthusiasm, spirit. We cannot part with our lives and feel anything like being alive, no matter how much of the high life we are living, no matter how often we say, “Ain’t this the life though, Flo?”
Once we realize that things are not right with us as they are, we take up the search for life, of coming to life in our lives. How do we shift over into life? How is that handled on stage and in the movies, in novels, in biogra-phies? In interviews of artists, writers, and poets and people who “find themselves” in later (or earlier) life? What is that process? What is involved in the movement of life among the living? How would we research the question, “What does it mean to ‘be alive’?” Do it. Research the question. Become an expert. And apply what you learn to the living of your life.
Who are the most alive people you know? Interview them. Ask them if they are consciously, intentionally, alive or naturally, accidentally, so. Ask them if there was a time in their life when they “woke up,” or were awak-ened by the circumstances of their lives, and began to live deliberately, with awareness. Ask them what they would recommend to people who wanted to come alive in their lives. Ask them all the pertinent questions you can think of. Tell them you will call them up if you think of something else to ask. Invite them to call you up if they think of something else to say. We are learning to align ourselves with our lives, with the lives that are waiting to be born in us, to come to life in us, and bless the world. The blessing is the world’s. Not ours. Our lives are out gift to the world. And we are here to see that the gift is delivered.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
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.
Sunday, December 07, 2008
Churches want to grow by increasing the number of people who think like the people in churches think, not by changing the way the people in churches think. Churches think of growth and growing in terms of numbers, not in terms of shifting perspective, deepening understanding, broadening horizons, enlarging hearts, or thinking differently. How differently can the people think and still be "the church"? That depends on how they think about being "the church." See?
How we think about something has to change if we are to grow on the level where growth-as-transformation occurs. We think “outside the box” by getting outside the box. By asking scandalous questions, by saying outrageous things, by being heretical, and by changing our own minds about the things we think there, outside the box.
No one has the corner on “right thinking.” No one knows how we should think, how we are supposed to think, what we can and cannot think. But, we can’t think this way and be the church. Churches can’t change the way they think because one of the things they think is that the way they think is the only way to think. Churches clutch their doctrines and catechisms proclaiming, “This isn’t how we see things—this is how things ARE!” No one who thinks that way can be talked into thinking differently.
We change the way the church thinks by changing the way we think, and letting that be that. Insofar as we are the church, we are changing the way the church thinks as we change the way we think. Even if we could change the way THE church thinks, by the time the process was complete, we would have changed the way we thought when the process started, and would have to start all over to get THE church caught up. We can only think the way we think and let the outcome be the outcome.
Changing the way we think changes the way we live (and, of course, vice versa), changes the way we assess what is important, the way we determine what to do, and transforms our lives. We can’t do that kind of thing in a willy-nilly sort of way, just because it’s Tuesday morning and someone thinks we should. Before we can change the way we think, the way we think has to come up against it. Against what, you ask. The end of the line. We have to be dangling at the end of the rope before we can change our mind about what’s important. And, even then, we resist. Better to die, we say, than to change the way we think.
Changing the way we think is like dying. And, not changing the way we think is like dying. To die or not to die is not the question. What form will our dying take is the question. There is the death that leads to death and the death that leads to life. How would you like to die is the question, and the church, which likes to avoid questions, doesn’t know it is answering the question by refusing to answer the question.
It’s like this: The things I have to say can only be heard by those who can hear them. I don’t say them to be heard. I say them because they are the things I have to say. I have to say them. They are not mine to say or not say. I don’t have them and can say them or not. I must say them. I am compelled to say them. I HAVE TO say them. Whether anyone hears them or not. Even if when they hear them they respond with, “Why don’t you go fly a kite?”
This isn’t to say I just blurt things out without filtering them through silence, conversation, and reflection. It takes a while to know what I have to say and to say it and to gauge whether it was, or is, worth saying. And all of that is part of the experience of participation in the right kind of community. But, the point here is the saying is not conditional upon the hearing. If we only said what could be heard, we would say only the things that have always been said, which is what keeps the church in business.
The thing about hearing, seeing, and understanding is that once you begin to get it, you can’t give it away. You have to live with having it and being unable to do anything with it beyond implementing it in your own life. You get it, you live it. That’s that. The benefit, such as it is, is living well, living with integrity and authenticity. There is no advantage to you or to anyone else to your living well. You just live well, with integrity and authenticity. And the whole world is blessed, you included, but in a way that it doesn’t know it’s blessed. You, of course, recognize that you are blessed, because you get it, and getting it means that you get not being able to do anything with it, except live well, and you know what a blessing and a joy living well is for itself alone. It’s like flying a kite. You don’t fly a kite to accomplish anything thereby. You fly a kite to fly a kite. Not to do anything with it. So, you are already flying a kite when they tell you to go fly a kite.
This is the crucial point where the matter of changing the way we think is concerned. I can't give you anything. You can't give me anything. We can't give anyone else anything. What do we pay a preacher (teacher, guru, advisor, spiritual director, guide) for? They are paid to say "I can't give you anything.” Not giving you anything means giving you everything you need, like their trust in your ability to find your way, their confidence that you have what you need, their reassuring, caring, presence when it seems impossibly difficult, their questions for clarification and understanding, and an environment in which you can sound out your ideas about the way for you, and gain greater clarity than you could ever achieve on your own, and know that while you are on your own, you are not alone. This is the stuff life is made of.
We are on our own, but we are not alone. We are not alone in the work of being alive. Being alive has nothing to do with the realization of our dreams and desires, with our goals and ambition. It has to do only with being alive in the moment we are living and living their with integrity and authenticity. Waking up, enlightenment, realization, satori, and the like are not about getting, having, owning, possessing, acquiring, amassing, avoiding. They are not about pleasure and prosperity and wealth and power and control. They are not about fortune and glory. They are about being alive, here and now, genuinely being ourselves in the time and place, context and circumstances of our living.
The path we hear so much about is not a way from here to there but a way from here to here. We don't GO anywhere. We don't go ANYWHERE. We just wake up to where we are. See it for what it is. Understand how things are and what is being asked of us, and let it be as it is, how it is, where it is, when it is, why it is, because it is, with equanimity, peace, and acceptance, and do what needs to be done there as only we can do it. That's where the path leads. To doing what needs to be done, offering what we have to give as only we can give it, and doing it with the right spirit, in the right frame of mind. This is Christ-like-ness. Buddha-hood. The way of the True Human Being. Zen living. Life in the fullest, deepest, richest sense of the word.
We are on our own, and we are not alone. The assistance we get is assistance with bringing life to life, with bringing ourselves to life. It has nothing to do with our dreams and desires, unless our dreams and desires are about coming to life, being alive wherever and whenever and however we are. Joseph Campbell says, “We know when we are on the beam and when we are off of it.” There is That Which Knows. We are not alone, but listening, know something of what That Which Knows knows. It isn’t what we have in mind.
What we get from God is not what we want. We want “fortune and glory kid, fortune and glory.” We get life (“as a prize of war”). We get to be alive in the time and place of our living. We want a different time and place, a better time and place. Who can be alive in this old time and place? How come other people get the good times and places? How come we get stuck with these old times and places and this old God? Oh, for a God that is God the way we want God to be! “Won’t you rend the heavens and come down!” “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”
We throw God away in the search for God the way we want God to be. We run past the treasure in search of the treasure. We throw life away in the effort to have life as we want life to be. We spend our time coming up with explanations for life being the way it is (sin, you know). We spend our time devising formulas for making life into the way we want life to be (mortification, repentance, penitence, obedience and faithfulness, you know). We spend our time not-living and then we die. We have to take a chance on life.
Faith has no content. It is attitude, orientation, perspective—an orientation toward life. Faith is about trusting ourselves to our lives. We are on our own AND we are not alone! The heart, the ground, of life is cognition, awareness, knowing, comprehending, getting it and being okay with it, and responding to it out of what it is asking of us with what we have to offer. What is “it”? “It” is That Which Knows. It is the unnamable drift, or urge, or inclination toward “the good,” toward “what needs to happen now,” toward whatever is being asked for in “the situation as it arises.” What are we trying to do with the situation, achieve in it, accomplish in it? Where does that desire come from? That’s “it”! That’s what in charge of our lives, directing us to life, bringing life to life within us and in the moment of our living.
The formula for successful living is simple: Be aware of the situation and what is being asked of us, and offer to it what we have to give. To do this, we have to take up the practice, work the program. The terms are interchangeable. The practice, the program, is developing eyes that see, ears that hear and a heart that understands. The program, the practice, involves looking, listening, inquiring, asking, seeking knocking, paying attention, being awake, aware, alive. The practice, the program is being curious, heretical, experimenting, exploring, investigating, relishing the freedom to fail, to look stupid, to not know. But, this is not a practice to take up alone.
We are on our own, you know, but we are not alone, and we must not be any more alone than we have to be. The practice, the program, is taken up, conducted, within the company of those who themselves are taking up the practice, working the program. We call this “the community of faith” because it is a community of those who trust themselves to their lives. It is a community of those who know we cannot trust ourselves to find the way alone because, while we are capable of self-direction (following the urge to the good), we are also capable of self-deception (thinking the urge we are following is to the good). We all know by this point in our lives that shooting ourselves in the foot is what we do best. No, telling ourselves what we want to hear is what we do best. No, fooling ourselves is what we do best. No, wanting what we have no business having is what we do best. You don’t want to leave it up to us to know which of the inner voices to follow.
The church is a part of the conversation and the atmosphere in which the conversation takes place. We talk over our sense of the next step with those who are the church, the community of faith, with us, and together we find the way. Together we help one another in the work of clarification, which reduces the risk of being wrong about the next step, but does not eliminate it. “All synods and councils,” you know, “may err, and many (Nay! All!) have erred.” We can always be wrong about what we think is right. And, so, the constant need to see, and hear, and understand, and change the way we think! Amen! May it be so!