Think of God and God’s will as what is important. It is important to know and to do what is im-portant, ah, but, who is to say? How shall we decide? Is anything more controversial and hotly debated than what is important? People go to war and get divorces over what is important. Churches split. Chil-dren leave home. Friends quit speaking. If anything is true of human beings worldwide it is that we have the wrong ideas of what is important. But, whose idea of what is important shall we adopt instead?
We all think we know what is important, but who knows who knows? How do we know who is right? Shall we take a vote? Majority rule? Or, go with consensus, and allow the whiniest, most narrow-minded “No” block the way of the rest? Who determines what is important? Who gets to say whose idea of God is God and what God’s will is?
We each decide for ourselves. We say. We are the ones. How do we know? We don’t know. We guess our way along. And allow each outcome to become a corrective, a guide, for the next guess. So, that over time, with our eyes open, we know more about what is important than we knew at the start. But, we never know all there is to know, and we can be wrong at any point along the way.
Our lives are an amalgamation of choices and responses to choices. We live in light of something, we live toward something. We choose what is important and serve that with our lives. Over time, some things stand out as being more worthy of our allegiance, our loyalty, our lives, than other things. Time fashions values. Time shapes our estimation of worth. Time shows us what is important. We live toward what has proven to be worthy of us. We are participants in the evolution of the idea of what matters. That idea is refined through the experience of the species over time.
The Code of Hammurabi, the Sermon on the Mount, the Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, etc. could not have happened before their time. They are products of our evolving sense of what is good and true. The “Plan” that pulls us forward is our estimation of what has “worked,” and is “working,” to pro-duce that which we are proud of, which fills us, completes us, produces a resounding, “Yes!” within us. As we align ourselves with that, serve that, achieve that, we produce more of what has shown itself to be of value, and the world benefits in ways we perceive to be good, and the “Plan” becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Which is to say that there is no Plan. It’s a mess out there. Anything can happen at any time. Noth-ing has to be what it is. And, yet, everything that happens produces in us a sense of “yes” or “no.” Every-thing that happens, and has happened, creates a “wealth of wisdom,” a pool, an ocean, really, of experi-ence, which shows some things to be better than others. Everything that happens shifts us toward certain thoughts, behaviors, outcomes, and values, and away from others. We “figure it out as we go,” and de-velop a sense of direction that is self-correcting and self-validating. We know, as Joseph Campbell says, “when we are on the beam, and when we are off of it.”
“It won’t work.” “This isn’t working.” That’s all we need to know. We find what works by know-ing what doesn’t work. We find the way by knowing what is not the way. If we don’t know whether some-thing will work, we only have to give it a spin, take it around the block a time or two. Everything becomes clear with time, even to those seeped in denial. It is only a matter of time. All it takes is time. Everyone wakes up in due time. If we all lived long enough, we all would be wise.
We learn from living—and the species learns from living over long stretches of time—what living is “all about.” We learn what works, and what does not work. We learn what is good, and what is bad. We learn how to behave. We learn what to value. Living leans us toward living in certain ways, and toward people who live in those ways. The “Plan” that is being worked out in our lives is toward the good of all things. We are learning to live toward the good. And, the “Plan” is simply the realization of what has proven to be important in the experience of the species over time.
Whose idea of God is God? What is God’s will? What is important? The more awake we are, the more we see eye-to-eye about the things that matter. The more we get it. The more we agree about what is to be gotten. There are many paths, but the journey is to the table at the center of the room. And, we get there by walking the path we deem to be important. Doing what we think is important with awareness is the only way to get to what is important. Knowing what is working and what isn’t working leads us to the center. If we want to find the path, we only have to be sensitive to the difference between what works and what doesn’t work.
Our task is to know what is important and to do it. That is the Great Work. Everything else will fall into place around it. Or, as Jesus said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and its righteousness, and all that you need will be yours as well” (or, words to that effect). We cannot live well with our mind on for-tune and glory.
Life is all we have to work with, our life, our lives. We are the matrix, the medium, the milieu of our own becoming. We bring ourselves forth as a blessing, not to ourselves, but to the world. As we strive to bless ourselves, we curse the world. The March 22, 2003 edition of “The Christian Century,” contained an interview with Bernard McGinn. In that interview he said, “Meister Eckhart and some other 13th-centuary mystics had the notion of living ‘without a why.’ ‘Living without a why’ means that you don’t ask, ‘What’s in it for me?’, or ‘Why am I doing this?’ You just do the good spontaneously, the way that God acts. God doesn’t act because of the why or for any interest of his (sic) own.”
Knowing what is important entails listening to all the voices claiming to know what is important and waiting for what is important to become manifest, made plain. We wait always for the white rabbit to appear. Nothing is more important than knowing what is important, and being right about it. What we think is important can get in the way of what’s important. Everything hinges on our being right when we make the call, but we don’t have to be right. Getting it wrong is a step on the way to getting it right. One thing leads to another. If we go with what we think is important, it will lead us to what is important. We can begin with anything because everything is equidistant from what is important, and everything will lead us there, if we let it, if we walk the path with our eyes open.
When we think we know what is important, we have to live in its service until it becomes apparent that we were wrong. We must not change direction too quickly or stay the course too long. “Pace and tim-ing, kid. Pace and timing.” So, we live toward what is important to us, and see where that takes us. If writ-ing is important, we write. If sailing is important, we sail. Whatever is important to us, we do that thing, those things. And, don’t worry about it. Particularly, don’t worry about anything coming of it. What comes of it will be a clearer idea of what is important, and we work it out over time.
Growing up means working it out. There is the I Want and the I Don’t Want, the I Should and the I shouldn’t, the I Must and the I Must Not, the I Can and the I Can’t, the I Have To and the I Don’t Have To, the I Will and the I Will Not, and we have to work it out. We have to take all the conflicts of interests into account and decide what will actually be done. This is the proper role of Ego in our lives. Ego is the I who listens, evaluates, considers, chooses, decides: “This is what we are going to do now.” Ego deter-mines what is important, and changes its mind with experience and time.
Growing up is about the maturation of the Ego, about the development of wisdom and understand-ing within the Ego. A fully matured Ego would be completely integrated with the Shadow, and would de-cide what to do now—what is important now—after taking everything about the Psyche and the circum-stances of its living into account. That is the spiritual task, journey, path, quest. It is not about abandon-ing, rejecting, jettisoning the Ego and submitting to someone else’s rule over us, doing what some guru tells us to do, obeying someone else’s idea of what is important, following the dictates of some other Ego. It is about growing up, working it out within ourselves, and doing what we would do within the context and circumstances and relationships of our lives, deciding for ourselves what is important and living to see if we are right.
It isn’t the Ego that is the source of our problems, but the infantile Ego, the Ego that hasn’t grown up and does not assume its proper role of arbitrator and negotiator, of seer, and hearer, and understander. The infantile Ego identifies itself with some aspect of the Psyche—the I Want (Freud’s ID, for example, or the I Must (Freud’s Super Ego)—and serves those interests at the expense of all other considerations. That’s a problem. The Ego’s task—the spiritual task—is to grow itself up, to wake itself up, to live the con-tradictions at play within the Psyche and within the circumstances of its, of our, life, to bear the pain and live within the tension of competing interests, to take it all into account and to decide what is important and what we are going to do here and now.
We can wake ourselves up or, if we live long enough, our life will do it for us. We can always opt for dying in denial. It’s certainly easier to be dead than alive. Waking up is waking up to the moment, to “the situation as it arises,” and what needs to be done there, what needs to happen there, what is impor-tant there, and what we have to offer to assist the doing, serve the happening. There is no great realization, no sudden understanding of esoteric secrets, no initiation into the wonders and glories of spiritual reality. There is just seeing what needs to be done and doing it. Just knowing what is important and living in light of it. Very boring. And absolutely essential to the work of being human—to the work of becoming true human beings.