Sunday, April 26, 2009

04/26/09, We find the way by getting out of the way.

We have to do the work of becoming conscious of, making our peace with, reconciling ourselves with, squaring up with, becoming comfortable with where we have been and what has happened to us and how we have responded and how that has impacted our life, for better or worse. The work is to make our peace with the life that is ours to live. It’s called growing up. It’s also called the spiritual journey. It is a continuing process of coming to terms with our lives that covers the entire span of our lives.

This process of growing up, of the spiritual journey, of coming to terms with our lives, involves us in living out our idea of ourselves, of who we are and what we are about. We have to keep faith with ourselves by living in ways that are commensurate with our idea of ourselves, of who we are and what we are about—even as we do the work of aligning our idea of who we are and what we are about with who we actually are and what we actually are about.

We aren’t free to just make something up here. We have to be true to ourselves. There is an essential reality, a specific, individual identity that we have to take into account and accommodate ourselves to. We have ourselves to consider. We have to be who we truly are in the world, and live so as to express the proclivities and inclinations, aptitudes and abilities, the calling and gifts that are ours to express. We have to do the work that is ours to do. We have an appointment with our life. No matter where we have come from, we still must live our life. Part of that work is continuing to deepen and expand, to clarify and express who we are, so that our idea of who we are increasingly coincides with who we actually are, and we live with integrity and are at-one with ourselves in the world. This is growing up, the spiritual journey.

At every point along the way, we have to be confident in our own ability to know what is right for us in any situation, to know what the next step is here and now. And, we have to be patient with the process of clarification, of knowing what we know at that point, with the information available to us. We can only act on the basis of what we know at the time. As we gain experience and our perspective expands, deepens, enlarges, we may well change our minds about what is right for us, about what needs to be done. We may misstep all along the way. But we remain confident in our ability to make the corrections necessary to get back on track and in the center of life as we need to live it, one step at a time. “We know when we are on the beam and when we are off it” (Joseph Campbell).

When something “rings true,” when something resonates with us, we know it. That is foundational, essential, knowing. That is the knowing that guides us through our lives. Yes/No is the fundamental choice. “Is you is or is you ain’t my constituency?” Soul wonders. Whose side are we on? When we stand apart from ourselves, from our agendas and aspirations for our lives—when we get out of our own way—we know what is right for us. That’s the knowing we need to know.

This knowing suggests that there is an unchanging essence about us all, an unshakable foundation of goodness and life, which can be counted on as a reference point through deep nights on churning seas. The truth abides: we have what we need and will not be left bereft, abandoned and alone. There is “a very present help in time of trouble” that we can trust to see us through dark times and difficult places. In seeking the stability we yearn for in the external world, we are like a woman holding her car keys looking for her car keys.

That being said, there is something attractive about lives with a comfortable, and comforting, sameness about them. Marriages that remain vibrant through the years, houses with flowerbeds that have been tended over time, places we return to for their continuing ability to nourish, nurture and sustain. We need actual, tangible, physical reminders of that which is stable, reliable, durable and dependable within. “As above, so below.” “As out there, so in here.” We have what we need, but that doesn’t mean that our lives will be smooth and easy with nothing but “ups, and ups, and ups” (Lucy in the comic strip Peanuts). Soul doesn’t care about smooth and easy.

What does Soul want? Not very much, it seems. We have our, Ego has its, eye on the displays of success, achievement and arrival, on wealth, prosperity and having it made. Soul is happy with the aroma of fresh bread and digging in the dirt of spring. Soul wants the simple experience of being alive and the straightforward expression of its interests and gifts in the world. Neighborliness. Conviviality. Grace. Compassion, Hospitality. You know the list: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Gentleness, Generosity… Doing unto others as we would have them do unto us. Living in the service of life. Bringing life to life in the time left for living. Walking the straight and narrow.

Oops. Now I’ve done it. Walking the straight and narrow. We’ve always understood this as the way of moral rectitude. Being a straight arrow. But the straight and narrow is exactly the way of compromise between Ego and Soul/Self/Psyche. It is the fine line between the interests of both sides of ourselves. It is the Third Way between submission and defiance. It is the way of working it out. Of deciding together with ourselves what is being asked of us and how we will respond, of knowing what is needed and what must be done. We do not know this beforehand, intellectually, rationally, apart from the anguish and agony of the struggle with anxiety, ambiguity, and ambivalence. Sometimes we only know it well after the fact, and have to repent, turn around, redeeming what can be redeemed, and bearing the pain of the burden of what cannot be redeemed. Not being sure about what needs to be done or what to do about it is the cross of life, borne by all who would be alive.

Oh, but, we want more than being alive. We want to be rewarded. We want to be recognized. We want accolades and commendations and prosperity. We want the effort to be who we are to be worth our while. We want to get something out of it beyond being ourselves, alive and open to the wonder and glory of life. We want something to show for it. We can’t settle for being awake, aware, and alive. We want to be rich and famous. Celebrity status. We can’t just be who we are. We want to be Somebody. You see the problem.

What does wanting know? We can want what we have no business having. We are in the mess we are in because of wanting. Wanting, and doing what we wanted, got us here, now. And doing what we want will lead us on. What are we going to do? What we don’t want? That puts us in the position of wanting what we don’t want. We are still doing what we want, even when we do what we don’t want. Even when we do what someone else wants. We have to do what we want whether we want to or not.

Wise wanting is wanting that remembers, imagines, anticipates, intuits. Growing up means honing our wanting, discerning what to want and what not to want, getting better at wanting the right things. We want to avoid investing ourselves in the wrong things. What are the wrong things? There you are: The task of life, discovering what is worth our time. The surest way to find out what the wrong things are is to invest ourselves in them. We figure out how to live by plunging into our lives and experiencing our experience. But, we prefer lectures and books on experience. We want to do it right. We want to avoid investing ourselves in the wrong things. We can imagine our way around some things, but some things we have to live with for a while in order to avoid them in the future.

Wisdom is known by her children, and what is right becomes apparent over time. In the moment, however, there is only feeling, sensing, intuiting, hunching, guessing. We can be wrong, and often are wrong, and we cannot let that keep us from guessing again, from going again with what feels right, even though it may be wrong. The hope is that we will guess our way to becoming better guessers.

Being wrong can lead to the deepening and expanding of our perception of truth and self as surely as being right can restrict and limit our perception of truth and self. We can be wrong in the right way and right in the wrong way. Impact and outcome have to be assessed over time. Sometimes, wisdom is known by her grandchildren. Sometimes by her great grandchildren. The jury, as they say, is out.

What works is the question. What does it mean for something to work? Works in light of what? Does it increase the level of grace, mercy, and/or peace in the world? Does it lighten loads, enhance joy, produce gladness? Does it bring life forth? Does it work to make the world a better place to be? Does it make you a good place for others to be? Is anyone blessed by it? Does it serve a good that is greater than your own good? Do the things that infuse you with life, bring you to life, enable you to be alive. Live so as to be alive in the time left for living. Evaluate the life-potential of your choices, and go with life wherever it takes you.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

04/19/09, Life is the origin of all that is.

You Are Your Only Problem

You are there to catch yourself when you fall. You have to believe it to know that it is so. When you are on the edge of the abyss, hanging onto the cliff side with bleeding fingertips, dangling at the end of your rope, despairing, having lost all hope and at the point of the end of it all, it is only your idea of how things ought to be that is slipping away. You are only being asked to change your mind about what is important. And, who is asking you to do that? YOU are! When you have run out of options, then you have to trust yourself to yourself. To The One Who Knows. You are never alone. You always have exactly what you need at every point in your life. You just don’t have what you wish you had. Things just aren’t what you want them to be. That’s your only problem. Make your peace with that and let your Self lead you along the way, and you’ll have it made.

The inner world is more important than the outer world. The only value of the outer world is its place of expression for the inner world. The inner world is to be incarnated, birthed, made visible, tangible, actual and real in the outer world. If we aren’t doing that, we are dead, or dying and soon to be dead. Of course, we aren’t doing that because we are distracted by the lights of Gay Paree, and think the outer world is the living end.

We think the Outer world is where life is to be found—in the lights and action of Gay Paree—and neglect the Inner world, which connects us with life, and is life, and live draped with beautiful rags, wearing glass beads, admiring ourselves in our silver mirrors, oblivious to the death that would point us to the path of life if we could only wake up and know how dead we are. Death is the path to life to those who realize they are dead. And, it is only death to those who think they are alive.

Life is conditional upon the inner work that is necessary to connect us to life, bring us to life and enable us to be alive in the outer world of normal, apparent, reality. Outer calls forth inner which blesses outer, and all things are complete, and one. But, in order for that to be the case, we have to do our inner work.

We have to reestablish our connection with the inner world by learning the language of soul—image, metaphor, dream, symbol, symptom—and bringing soul to life in our lives, living to incarnate soul, to give it concrete, tangible existence. Soul work is the work we do to bring soul to life in our lives.

Carl Jung says we have to find the image tucked away in our experiences. What has become of the dragons and monsters, the demons and ogres? The path? The journey? The magic? We don’t live magical lives, lives that are attuned to the inner world because we think it’s all about concrete and steel, and what you see is what you get. We have forgotten that there is more to life than meets the eye. In order to recover the sense of “more than eyes can see,” we have to rekindle our imagination and curiosity, and see the outer world with the “inner eye.” We have to live with a foot in each world and know which world is home.

We also have to connect our experience of the spontaneous images that arise in our minds with our experience of the concrete world of tangible reality—making the experience of the mental images concrete and tangible in the outer world of daily experience. What does it mean that I dream of snakes? How does the image of the snake connect with my lived experience? How do I translate the image of the snake into the tangible world of concrete and steel? Where are, who are, the snakes (dragons) in my daily life? It is the work of consciousness to make the connections, to find the meaning, and live with a foot in both worlds.

As it turns out, I hate snakes. Whenever I encounter a snake in a dream, I, the dreaming dreamer, say in the dream to whomever is in charge of production, “You know I hate snake! I’m going to always hate snakes, and you keep throwing snakes at me!” I hear the producer laughing. The dream is indicative of my waking world in which I encounter an endless stream of things I hate: trips to the dentist, to the auto repair shop, income tax preparation, balancing the check book… You have your list, you know what I’m talking about. The snakes at night are the hated list by day. The dream producer seems to be saying, “Get used to it. Get over it. Take doing what you hate in stride. Life is full of stuff like that.” Image becomes reality. Another snake dream underscores the truth of the way it is, invites me to accept it, live around it, and get on with my life, with doing the things that bring me to life, the things that I am here to do, in and around the snakes, the things that must also be done.

Inner prepares us for Outer, for life in the world of normal, apparent reality, offering images which reflect and shape experience, enabling us to live in the external world as those on a mission from the internal world. The mission is to bring forth who we are in spite of the context and circumstances of our lives. The mission is to be alive in a world that is not always conducive to life. Life is an inner reality to be brought forth in the world of physical experience.

Two things here. One is that the physical experience of life is not the only experience of life. Life is experienced on more than the physical level. Life is expressed physically, in the world of outer reality, but it does not EXIST physically! Physical existence is not the only form of existence! The inner world connects us with another world—who knows how many worlds there are—and life is the source of all worlds. This is a switch from the normal way of perceiving reality, which scratches its head and ponders the origin of life, as though life is produced by the physical universe. Reverse that train of thought. The physical universe is produced by life as a means of expression of life, of experiencing life. It is one of the ways life exists.

From the standpoint of this view, an end of life, of LIFE, is out of the question. Life is the foundational reality, the absolute, the given. If you are going to believe in anything believe in life beyond life, on-going, unending, eternal, beautifully, wonderfully, mysteriously, real. Life is not bound to the physical expression/experience of life. When physical existence ends, life continues. It only takes being a little bit alive to know this is so, and we are here to be alive in the time of our living. Being alive is exactly the work of soul, the work of bringing ourselves forth in the world of normal, apparent reality.

The second thing is that this past week I made my annual spring pilgrimage to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. For three days, I walked among the flowers and alongside the streams with camera in hand honoring the rebirth of the world. This year, my wanderings took me to the Ephraim and Minerva “Nervy” Bales place in the Roaring Fork region of the Smokies. Ephraim and Nervy raised 9 children in a two room log house, and one of the rooms was a kitchen. They farmed about 30 acres of four inches of low grade topsoil covering granite rocks and boulders from 1890 to 1930. Think about bringing soul forth under those conditions. Think about bringing soul—yourself—to life there, then. Well, we’ve had it worse for thousands of years, and a large portion of the world’s population has it worse today.

In spite of that, life finds a way. We can count on life. And, we can join life in the work of finding a way by getting out of the way, by standing aside, by not interfering with life by imposing our judgment, evaluation, commentary—by keeping our terms and conditions and expectations from adding to life’s burden. We are here to assist life, to help bring life to life, not to impose more restrictions and limits. Even hope gets in the way when we misunderstand hope and think it is “for” something, or “that” something will happen or not happen. “I hope the Cubs will win the World Series,” is not hope. Hope is what water has when it finds its way to the sea no matter what obstacles it encounters along its path. Hope is the hard-headed, resolute, determination to find a way, when there appears to be no way, when there IS no way. Hope is life at its best, which we trivialize by hoping it doesn’t rain on our day off.

The challenge is the same in every time and place: Honor the inner world and be alive in the time and place of our living. Bring soul forth. Do what is ours to do, what we came to do, what we are here for. And that is not to achieve some great work in the world of outer reality, but to unfold what is within, to bring forth the inner into the outer, to express what is ours to express, to exhibit what is ours to exhibit, to make known what is ours to make known, namely who we are, who we are capable of being. “What I do is me,” says Gerard Manly Hopkins, “for that I came.” In order to know what that is, we have to attend the inner world, learn its language, and assist the unfolding of what is within.

To attend the Inner World, we have to feel the feelings stored there, and honor their place in our lives as we find ways to express them appropriately and consciously. Inner work is not intellectual. It is experiential. It can be wrenching. Like dying. The dead have to die if they are to come to life and be alive. It is easier to remain dead. And so, we have to do what is hard and bring soul forth in the time and place of our living, assisting Inner in the work of transforming Outer, and saving the world.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

04/12/09, How Many Easters in Your Life?

Stream Theory
I operate out of the stream theory of life: Sometimes we flow fast and sometimes we flow slowly, sometimes we have to find our way around barriers and obstacles, sometimes we are sluggish, sometimes we are stagnant, waiting. But the path takes us to the sea. We follow the path in different ways at different times, but always the path. Different streams have different paths, but always the sea. It's good when we flow close enough together to call out encouragement from time to time, and share the joys and sorrows of the journey.
How Many Easters?
How many times have you died and been resurrected? How many personal deaths and resurrections have you experienced? How often have you been reborn? The Easter story is about you, don’t you see? “As above, so below.” As with Jesus, so with you. “(We) once were lost, but now we’re found, were blind, but now (we) see.” How many times has that happened to you? How many Easter mornings have you risen from the dead?

Ah, but. To get to those Easters, our Easters, we have to get beyond That Easter, and understand Easter is every time we wake up and come alive in our lives. We get there by understanding that the idea of “the Christ” is more important than the person of Jesus. We confuse the Christ with Jesus and close ourselves off from the ongoing experience and expression of the Christ in our lives and in the world. The Greek word, “Christ” and the Hebrew word “Messiah,” mean the same thing: “ the anointed,” or, “the anointed one.” The terms reflect the Jewish idea that God would send “the anointed one” after the manner of King David, to right wrongs and restore Israel to her place of leadership among the nations, in ordinary, historical time.

Clearly, this did not happen with Jesus, and the New Testament writers, with Paul leading the way, had to rethink Messiahship, Christhood, and come up with a new spin on an old concept, which they did with the idea of the resurrection and return. Jesus is coming back, they said, to fulfill the role of the anointed one and establish his kingdom of peace and prosperity upon the earth, in ordinary, historical time, for those who believe and are faithful. They further declared that their spin was the only authoritative and acceptable spin (because they knew Jesus personally and who was better positioned to say what he was about) and if anyone else tried to spin the idea of the Christ, the Messiah, they were to be treated as anathema and shunned, or worse. The question for us, of course, is do we buy their spin? If we don’t, is there a spin we can buy?

Here’s mine: The Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One, is anyone, everyone, who lives so as to bring forth God into the world. Ah, but, then we have to talk about God. God is the source of sense of the rightness of things, the right order of things, the meant-to-be-ness of things. God is the mystery at the heart of life.

God is the mysterious, numinous, source of the awareness of the rightness of things when they are how they truly ought to be, when we are how and who we truly ought to be, when our life is how and what it ought to be. Our place is to align ourselves with the rightness, the ought-to-be-ness of things—as Jesus did—in a “Thy will not mine be done” kind of way. When we do that, we live as those whose food “is to do the will of the One who sent us and to accomplish his work.” As we do this, we are the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One, living to bring forth what truly ought to be in our lives and the world. As we live to be who Jesus was in this way, we are Christians, or “Little Christ’s.”

Our lives are our practice. We practice bringing forth what ought to be. We practice being The Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One, who brings forth what is truly right and needs to happen. As we bring forth that which is deepest, best, and truest about us, as we live aligned with the ought-to-be-ness of things, we grace the world with caring presence and dance with our lives.
Understanding the Christ in this way turns New Testament theology on its ear, of course, but it is quite compatible with Jesus’ treatment of the kingdom of God as metaphor, not political fact.

Jesus’ statement, “My kingdom is not of this world,” establishes the fundamental rift between him and the Jewish notion of the Promised Land and the messianic return of King David. The Messiah the Jews were looking for would establish a Kingdom with geographical and political boundaries, latitude and longitude, and all the spoils that go to the victors. But Jesus understands the kingdom in a spiritual, not political, way. The kingdom that is “not of this world,” is the one envisioned by the prophet Jeremiah: But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord’, for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more (Jeremiah 31:33-34). A kingdom in which all are the Christ.

Jesus’ understanding of the kingdom as being “not of this world” stands in opposition to the Jewish understanding of the Messiah and in opposition to the Apostles’ view that Jesus would return and establish his kingdom within the historical world of space and time. Jesus is the denunciation of those expectations. The Christ who Jesus is is not the Christ anyone expected or desired.

And our practice is to bring that Christ forth into the world. We begin with our lives because our lives reflect our alignment, or lack of alignment, with the source of the rightness of things. We are at odds with ourselves, remember? There is no better definition of sin. To overcome our at-odds-ness and live in synch with who we are is the practice that brings the Christ forth into the world.

The question is how well does our life exhibit who we ought to be, disclose “the face that was ours before we were born”? To what extent are we living our life, the life that is ours to live, the life that brings us forth into the world? Where are we not keeping faith with our life? What are we going to do about it? Our work is to know and do what is ours to do, to live the life that is our life to live. We have the rest of our lives to learn how to live the lives that are ours to live. Our work is to be reconnected with ourselves and our lives. To be restored to our life. To be resurrected from the dead. To wake up and live.

There is no instant recipe for waking up. See what you are seeing. Hear what you are hearing. Feel what you are feeling. Know what you are knowing. Think what you are thinking. Taste what you are tasting. Love what you are loving… Experience what you are experiencing in every moment for the rest of your life, including how what you have experienced impacts what you are experiencing, and you will be more awake at the end than you are now. But, you’ll never be all the way awake. Waking up is a process, not an achievement. Here are some steps in that process:

(1) Strong feelings are indicators of stirrings of soul. Something is stirring up something. Check it out. Sit with the feeling and interview it: “What is this touching in me?” “What does this remind me of?” “When did I first feel this?” “Where does this come from in my history?” “What is being remembered that my present situation is triggering that arouses this feeling?” “What is behind the feeling?” “What is beneath the surface of this feeling?” “What are the ideas around the experiences that give rise to this feeling?” “What wound is being exposed here?” “What do I need to make conscious in order to begin healing the wound?” “What am I being asked to remember that I would like to forget?” “What does this feeling have to say to me? What do I have to say to this feeling?”

(2) When you find yourself resisting something, dig in at the point of resistance. This doesn’t mean become more resistant. It doesn’t mean “stick to your guns,” “stand fast,” “hold your ground.” It means examine your resistance, explore your resistance. It means find your fear. What is the threat? Where in your experience have you felt that threat, have you been threatened in this way? What does this threat remind you of? What is being asked of you that you don’t want to do? That you don’t what to surrender? What is at stake for you personally at the point of your resistance? What do you stand to lose?

(3) Reflective conversation is the highest value. Conversation that doesn’t encourage reflection doesn’t engage the soul, and cannot bring us to life. Conversation that is restorative wakes us up and connects us with our-selves and our lives. This kind of conversation is the dialectic. The primal soup. The birth place of the clash of contraries. The seat of consciousness. The origin of life. The pathway to soul.

(4) The ultimate conversation is with our soul. To speak with soul, we have to learn the language of soul: metaphor, image, story, dream, symbol, symptom, intuitive sense, persistent drift toward or attraction to, disinclination or resistance… Soul comes at us in different ways with the same message until we wake up and get it and live aligned with soul’s idea of how life is to be lived. Generally, we can only do that when our idea of how life is to be lived has lived itself out, and we have nothing much left to loose. But soul keeps talking, on the chance that we are ready to hear what it has to say.

Soul is a white rabbit appearing momentarily in our peripheral vision and disappearing down holes and around corners while we try to decide if we saw anything and what to do about it. And soul will be “driving six white horses when she comes,” and it will be impossible to miss her. She will run us down, run us over, and demand that we get on board or else. That’s the way it is with soul. If we don’t give chase, we will be chased. Better the rabbit than the horses. Take my word for it. You do not want to find out the hard way.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

04/04/09, Dance with what scares you

We stand between different perspectives, different points of view, different ways of seeing, different interpretations, different theories, different hypothesizes, different spins, different theologies and philosophies and decide which one to embrace, agree with, espouse, profess. We decide which one is right for us. How do we know? However we do it, decide, know, how do we know that’s the right way to do it? This gets us to the heart of the prob-lem of knowing what to believe, of deciding how we are going to see something, anything. Golf, bread pudding, Jesus. By what authority do we say “this” or “that”? What moves us to one position or another? How do we know?

Most of the time we don’t think about it. We just buy what someone else, someone we admire and trust, is selling, or has bought. We think, “If it’s good enough for Mama, it’s good enough for me,” and let it go at that. We are influenced by the example of someone we trust to do our thinking for us. Saves us the trouble. We have enough to worry about. It is our life, of course, but we don’t mind if someone else lives it for us. We just fall in line, do as we are told, follow the black footprints to the grave. What’s the difference? What do we care?

We have one life to live and we opt out of it. We live a nice, well-rounded, cookie cutter life, that is some-body else’s idea of how life ought to be, that looks remarkably like everyone else’s life on the block. We tell ourselves to just tell them what they want to hear and show them what they want to see, because what difference does it make anyhow and it’s so much easier that way. We ignore whoever it is that’s screaming inside, locked away in a back room, away from the light and what passes for life, wishing it would leave us alone, and in time it does. And we are left with a life that everyone is happy with and is a complete waste of our time.

When we die and go to heaven, we will meet our lives there, and have to explain to them why we didn’t live them. And that will be hell. So, we need to take a Quality of Life Assessment on a regular basis. How alive are we? How interested, and interesting, are we? How invested are we in our lives? Do we have dreams for our lives that weren’t realized, that aren’t being realized? Are we living in the service of our dreams? If not, what keeps us from living in the service of our dreams? Are we living the life we wish we could live? If not, what keeps us from living the life we wish we could live? Have we put our dreams away, shutting them up in a back room perhaps? Are we living in the service of our fears? What fears keep us from living? What stands between us and being alive?

Here’s a bumper sticker for you: Walk confidently in the direction of your fear. Here’s another: Run to embrace your fear. Here’s another: Step into what makes you most afraid. Marsha Truman Cooper has a poem about this very thing:

Fearing Paris
by Marsha Truman Cooper

Suppose that what you fear
could be trapped,
and held in Paris.
Then you would have
the courage to go
everywhere in the world.
All the directions of the compass
open to you,
except the degrees east or west
of true north
that lead to Paris.
Still, you wouldn’t dare
put your toes
smack dab on the city limit line.
You’re not really willing
to stand on a mountainside
miles away,
and watch the Paris lights
come up at night.
Just to be on the safe side,
you decide to stay completely
out of France.
But then danger
seems too close
even to those boundaries,
and you feel
the timid part of you
covering the whole globe again.
You need the kind of friend
who learns your secret and says,
“See Paris first.”

Two of the things we fear most, that would surely be locked away in Paris, are our own thoughts and our own feelings. We will think anything to keep from thinking what we think. We will do anything to keep from feeling what we feel. We embrace bad religion to save us from ourselves, but it is the connection with ourselves and the life that is our life to live that is at the heart of good religion. You see the problem. We cannot get to good religion without going through the heart of Paris.

We need to think our own thoughts, and feel our own feelings, and live our own lives. In order to live our own lives, we have to be able to make a case for the life we are living. We have to think it out, think it through, think. But how do we know that what we think is what to think? We don’t. We can’t. We can only think what we think, and think it out, and think it through, and be able to articulate our understanding of God and life and what it means to be alive and what we are here for and how we are working to incarnate, express, bring forth, all of that into the life we are living. It will be good practice for when we stand before our lives in heaven.

Another of the things we fear is being wrong, being exposed for being wrong, being shown to be wrong, we have to be right. Okay. Here’s the question. Is it worse to be wrong or to be right? And, here is the catch, we have to risk being wrong in order to be right. When Jesus quotes the proverb, “Wisdom is known by her children,” he’s saying “time will tell.” He’s saying we can’t know beforehand how right we are. He’s saying “Truth will out. Truth will shine through. Truth will show itself to be what it is.” In time, but maybe not in our lifetime. We cannot live knowing we are right about the life we are living. We have to take a chance. We have to risk everything with our lives on the line. The idea gives us the willies.

Our panic fails to take into account the truth that we have what we need. We are afraid of being overwhelmed, undone, exposed, obliterated. We are afraid of the complete dissolution of soul. We are afraid of nothingness, and have nothing to worry about. All it takes is imagination, curiosity, and courage. Those things come packed into each of us at birth. We only have to sit loose in the saddle and enjoy the ride. We are only along for the ride. But we cannot ride casually, unthinking, unfeeling.

The catch is that something can feel right and not be right, so the constant need for examination and exploration, observation and inquiry. What are the contraries at work in our lives? How do we reconcile ourselves to them? How do we square ourselves up to the contradictions in our lives? Where are we not keeping faith with our-selves? How do our lives need to change to be better aligned with who we are? How are we blocking the way of soul, the expression of Self, in our lives? In what ways, and from what, are we hiding? What does what we are thinking about keep us from thinking? What does what we are doing keep us from doing? What are we avoiding? Where in our lives is the deep water calling our name?

The problem, of course, is that we can justify anything. Which makes it impossible to know if what we are doing is right or a spin job. And leaves us quite up in the air about everything. Maybe we are doing what needs to be done, and maybe we are fooling ourselves. Is it clarity, or is it self-deception? How can we be sure? We make our choices and live our lives, and that’s that. Time may tell if we were right, but after enough time it won’t much matter. But, we could be a little less smug and certain about our way being the way. That would help.

We can justify anything. When we wake up, we wake up to our ability to justify anything. The only differ-ence between being awake and being asleep is that awake we question our justifications and wonder if we are telling ourselves what we want to hear or actually making the choices that need to be made. Are we kidding ourselves or living soulfully? How do we get to the bottom of that one? Isn’t this great? I wouldn’t be anywhere but here for anything. I mean anything. This is so it. So perfectly, wonderfully, crazily it. We’ll never think our way out of it. If you can’t love this, you can’t love anything, because everything is going to test your ability to love it over time. And, if you can’t live with ambivalence, and ambiguity, and anxiety, and anguish, and angst, and agony, you better not come out of the womb. That’s just the A’s.