Sunday, May 31, 2009

05/31/09, Everybody believes in something.

Everybody believes in something, being happy, keeping up appearances, rocking the boat, or not rocking the boat, staying away from edges, jumping off edges… The list is long. How does what you believe help you live your life is the question. How does it help you be who you are—how does it help you be fully, wholly, wondrously alive in the time and place of your living—within the terms and conditions of your life is the question. At least, I believe these are the questions, which underscores my belief in being who we are and being alive in the time of our living.

Ephraim and Minerva (“Nervy”) Bales believed in plenty of things: having children, for instance. They raised nine of them in a two-room log house, one of which was a kitchen, in the Roaring Fork area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee from 1890 to 1930. They farmed, if you could call it that, on about 30 acres of poor topsoil four inches away from granite rocks and boulders. They had pigs and chickens and a cow or two, and raised enough corn to feed themselves and their livestock most years.

I walk, occasionally, through their house and over their land, wondering about their lives and what kept them in place there. What made that a good-enough existence for them? Why did they think that was the best they could do?

Two things come to mind: fear and shame. I imagine that they were afraid and ashamed. Ashamed of their ignorance. Ashamed of not knowing how to move smoothly through the larger social and cultural world beyond their two rooms and thirty acres in an isolated corner of an isolated region in the south. They were ashamed of their lack of social skill and of themselves, and afraid of being shamed in a world where they didn’t belong or fit in. They believed in their inability to live in a world beyond the world with which they were familiar and in which they were safe and comfortable, if you could call it that.

Of course, all of this conjecture is entirely projection on my part. I’m giving Ephraim and Nervy the roles of Will and Nan Hamilton, my maternal grandparents in Itta Bena, Mississippi. I expect that there is a high probability that I am right in making that connection and the judgment that goes with, but I’m still imagining the Bales as an extension of me and my impression of my experience, transferring where I have been to where they were. I could be wrong about it all, but I cannot get out of the impressions I’ve formed in order to form different impressions. If you think that’s easy, give it a turn around the block. Think of some of the ways your life has impressed you and cook up a different impression. Once the impression has taken hold of us it’s hard to shake. The way we see things, you see, becomes, in short order, the way things are.

Our impressions are among the most invisible, we could say “unconscious” things about us to us. We can see them best when we react emotionally, either positively or negatively, to someone else. Our reactions to others disclose who we are. This is the nature of a projection. We project our unconscious impressions onto someone else and see in them what we cannot see in ourselves. I see fear and shame in Ephraim and Nervy Bales because I would stay on those thirty acres for thirty years out of my own fear and shame.

Compassion, as you know, is a way of identifying with another’s feelings. It is feeling with another, bearing the burden, you might say, of the other’s experience along with the other. With projection, we give another our feelings, our reactions, our impressions, our needs and see him or her as though he or she is who we are. When we fall in love, we see the other as having the qualities that are missing from and needed in our own lives. We fall in love with what we feel like we are deficient in, and try to find in another what is so absent in ourselves. So a question we might ask ourselves when we fall in love is what we might be asking our new true love to do for us that we need to do for ourselves.

On the negative side, we despise or pity in others what we cannot admit or face in ourselves. I am not proud to say that I would be afraid to leave a hardscrabble life in Tennessee because I would be afraid of my ignorance and lack of social skills and my insecurity would keep me stuck. But where do you think stuckness comes from? Fear, insecurity, anxiety. We stay in a hole in Tennessee because we are afraid that something worse might happen to us if we leave. Is there anything sadder in the entire history of sad things than to be stuck with something that is killing us because we are afraid that something worse might kill us more dreadfully?

We are stuck wherever we are stuck because we do not have what it takes to step voluntarily into an unknown world and learn different skills and different ways of living. It has to be forced on us. We have to be thrown out of one world before we can step into another one.

Maybe it was that way with Ephraim and Nervy Bales, and maybe not, but my bet is that more misery can be laid at the feet of a failure of nerve than any other cause. We are a fearful lot. How else can you explain the proliferation of bad religion over thousands of years of hard evidence denying the assertions of bad religion? Bad religion doesn’t have to say anything that is true in our personal experience because we want so badly for it to be true we explain away the fact that it isn’t. We are that afraid, and insecure, and anxious. We are afraid to call the gods out. We are afraid to say there is nothing to them. We are afraid to step unprotected into the rawness of life.

Here’s the truth for you: Everything is always on the line. Everything rides on the choices we make. Playing it safe is just another way of betting the ranch on red and giving the wheel a spin.

We yearn for reassurance and affirming guarantees that our lives will be what we want them to be: safe, reliable, comfortable, certain, secure. IF we do our part, obey the rules, stay carefully within the prescribed limits, and step in the black footprints all the way to the grave.

Life laughs at our timid ways, and comes at us with fearsome ruthlessness no matter how we try to ward off its intrusions with our charms and nostrums. Life smashes through our defenses, demanding relentlessly, “Stand up and show me what you’re made of!” And we cower, and whine, and plead incessantly for the protection of the gods. Surely, there is a god somewhere who will give us what we want if we believe the right beliefs and offer the proper propitiation! And bad religion prospers with its empty promises and sham directions to the land of milk and honey.

We have to get over it. Grow up. Stop looking to be rescued, delivered, taken by the hand and led to the lemonade springs and the popcorn trees on Big Rock Candy Mountain. What we do with our lives cannot be governed by our desire for safety, security and a trouble-free existence, or determined by what we fear. We have to listen to the deeper voices, leadings, urges, intuitions and inclinations and override the tendency to inertia and sameness and death.

Being alive is an ordeal, a test of the spirit and will. The question is always will we go to the trouble? Will we have what it takes? Being alive asks us to follow our soul’s lead, but we hold back wanting it all spelled out in advance. How do we know? After all, we can justify anything, talk ourselves into anything. Fooling ourselves is what we do best. No, telling ourselves what we want to hear is what we do best. No, shooting ourselves in the foot is what we do best. How is soul to break through? How are we to know when it does? Is it a white rabbit, or a red herring, or a wild goose? We only know after the fact. Wisdom is known by her children, sometimes by her great grandchildren. We make our best guess and take our chances.

There is no such thing as happy growth and development. We suffer our way to wisdom. The spiritual journey is a painful path. Sorry to be the one to tell you. We buy into the spiritual quest thinking it is the way to get our lives lined up with all that is right and good, which, of course, will qualify us for abundance and prosperity and easy living and happiness ever after. The truth is there is nothing in it for us. Being spiritual is just being alive in the moment of our living for the simple sake of being alive in the moment of our living. Don’t take my word for it. Ask any of the spiritual giants what they get out of it—Sister Teresa. Ask Sister Teresa what she got out of it. Thich Nhat Hanh. The Dali Lama. The Buddha. The Christ.

All they get out of it is being alive in the moment of their living, in this moment right now just as it is. How much of the moment are we aware of? How much of the moment is going unnoticed? We can gauge how alive we are by noting how present we are in the moments of our living, how open we are to what is present with us. Be it fear and anxiety, shame and insecurity, or love, joy and happiness. Welcome it all, and be open to what is being asked of us, make your best guess, take a chance. May as well, since you’ll be taking a chance no matter what you do.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

05/17/09, A Poetry Reading

The only two perfect people in the history of the world are Ken and Barbie. To be perfect, you have to be plastic. No life. No personality. No choices. No choosing. Always doing what somebody else wants you to do, living the life someone else has in mind for you, perfect according to someone else's idea of perfection. Perfectly pleasing to those who know best. Perfectly dead and dying. If you want to live, you have to put perfection aside and live a gloriously imperfect—perfectly imperfect, you might say—life, laughing at the idea of life lived any other way.

Getting It Right
Getting it right means being graced by rightness. We cannot arrange rightness. We can’t plan for it. Foresee it. Predict it. Make it happen. We fall into it. Splash around in it, glorying in the wonder of having done something right for a change, looking forward to the next time it comes upon us out of nowhere for no reason when we aren’t expecting it and have no hope of it and get it right again, anyway, magically, mysteriously, wondrously. And stand there dripping wet with rightness, amazed, again, that we of all people can do something right.

A Good Start
We come self-confident and glowing out of the womb. What happens then tells all.

Here’s the Truth for You
Okay, here’s the truth for you. Not one of us thinks we deserve to die. Not one of us thinks any of the rest of us deserve to die. Some of “them” might deserve to die, but not “us.” And some of “us” think that not even any of “them” deserve to die. Not any of “them.” Not even those of “them” criminal courts would sentence to death, have sentenced to death. Yet, we are told to believe Jesus saves us from the death we deserve to die by dying in our place. Wait a minute. We don’t think we deserve to die. Somebody help me here. Anybody.

All We Need
All that we need to find what we need lies latent within, waiting for the environment required to bring it forth. All we need to find what we need is the proper environment to awaken us to the gifts that come built-in. What more can we ask than for an environment which enables us to see ourselves? What is more nourishing, nurturing, than relationships which lovingly accept us while helping us to see and be who we are, and also are? No excuses and no exclusion, no denial and no dismissal. Squaring us up with ourselves without abandoning us to ourselves. Growing us up in healthy, healing ways.

We can’t get too much encouragement. Incentive certainly doesn’t come from the results of our ef-forts. Where do we find what it takes to get up and go at it again, if not from the company we keep? If we aren’t finding it there, we better find some different company.

Our Lives Are Too Small
Carl Jung talks about the importance of “living mythically,” and says we “walk in shoes that are too small.” Our lives are too small. Too shallow. Because we are afraid to venture forth beyond the world of concrete and steel and take on the dragons that guard the treasure, that hoard life in their possession, and require us to stare down our fear if we would claim our fair portion. But the “also truth” is that the world of concrete and steel will let us down. The life it offers is a mirage that moves away as we draw close. Its promises are boxes of smoke wrapped in bright ribbons and bright paper. We live safe and empty lives, afraid of the dragons that have made off with LIFE. Jung says, “Only boldness can deliver us from fear,” but we deny our fear even as we hide from it in the game of profits and losses or the other games of pleasure and progress. Life has no stake in any of our games, and waits in the lair of dragons to be claimed and lived.

The Dragons Are Laughing
To “live mythically,” we have to have a sense of what is being asked of us by our lives. What are the intentions of soul we must protect and serve? What are the fears that hold our life captive? The things we cannot allow ourselves to do because “there be dragons” that must be faced? Is Responsibility a dragon we dare not slay? Or Duty? Or Obligation? Or Desire? Or Expectation? Or Mother? If we do not slay Mother, Mother will slay us. But, to slay Mother, we have to become our own Mother, and who is up to that task, immersed as we are in the fantasy of a trouble-free existence? Life is not trouble-free. The dragons are laughing.

Vulnerable and Alive
Always the decision about what to do, about what is being asked of us, about what is truly needed, about what must be done, with no rules to rely on, no black foot prints to go by, making up in the moment of our living how the moment is to be lived, taking another chance, hoping for the best, being vulnerable and alive in the time left for living.

No Assurances
There is no knowing what to do. No Assurances. No protection. No safety. Somebody is going to not like what we do, how we do it. Those Who Know Best will frown. Those Who Must Be Pleased will express their displeasure. And, we may be wrong. But, whose life is it? And, whose side are we on?

What Is the Nature of Our Fear?
What is the nature of our fear? Of what are we afraid? What are we afraid will happen? What keeps us from breaking free of the restrictions we place on ourselves and taking a chance on life? What is it we won’t look at? Refuse to think about, consider? What keeps us locked into the life we have always lived, safe from the intrusion of other possibilities?

We Owe It To Ourselves
We cannot allow our fear to keep us from living. We owe it to ourselves to go into our fear and see if there is anything there to be afraid of. Everything is fearsome at a distance. “There be dragons,” you know, “over there. Don’t go there!” The edge of the world is always just out of sight. "Don’t go looking or you’ll fall off!" Go look. Find the edge of the world. Jump off.

The Higher Calling
We admire those who don’t let life get them down, and wish we could become more like them, distancing ourselves, stoically or philosophically, from the events and circumstances of our lives, living with balance and sanity, wisdom and grace, compassion and humor, living out of who we are and not out of what happens to us or what we are afraid might happen, or what we want to happen. If only we could shift the focus so that we are no longer resisting or compelling or forcing or fighting or fearing the world, but are birthing ourselves, bringing ourselves to life no matter what the world does, no matter what is happening around us. If only we could remember that we have a higher calling, a larger mission than to make a nice little nest for ourselves, have our way, and be comfortable and happy during our lifetime. If we have had an easy, trouble-free existence, but never lived, what good is that?

The Welcome Mat
Recognition, realization, recollection, these are the things that grow us up, that wake us up, that reconnect us with ourselves, that restore us to the “dynamic core of our being,” that heal us and make us whole. What of us can we see in the things around us, in our lives, in our reactions and responses to the things in our lives? What of us can we see in our dreams and symptoms, our projections and phobias, our desires and disinclinations? What of us can we see, and seeing, accept, and accepting, love, and loving, heal and welcome home? We are the home we seek. We need to put out the welcome mat, and invite us in.

It isn’t about getting anything, or having anything, or making use of something, or benefiting from something. It is about living with integrity of being (of being at one with ourselves) to the point of self-sacrifice. We give it all up in being who we are for the sake of being who we are without anything in it for us, without getting anything out of it, without having anything to show for it. There is no boon in the sense of realized good fortune. The boon, the blessing, is the realization of integrity, the fullness of life, even though it leads to death. All roads do, you know. So, what do we gain by not dying? We are going to die anyway. We may as well die in the service of integrity and life, and trust the boon to be a blessing in the lives of others. Besides, we get to say we followed the white rabbit and rode the bull. That's cool.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

05/10/09, Working the Program

We have to work the program. The program consists of listening, looking, watching, waiting, trusting, trying, asking, seeking, knocking—of learning the language of soul, being conscious, of waking up, of taking ourselves under our own wing and growing ourselves up over the course of our lives. We work each day to be more aware and alive than we were the previous day. To see what needs to be done and do it. To notice what winks at us and know the difference between an invitation and a test. Working the program will ask hard things of us and make us true human beings—and, of course, you know what that will do for us. Nothing. And everything. But no one can sell us on the idea. We have to decide for ourselves how important being alive is and if we are going to do what it takes to bring ourselves forth into the world. It’s our call all the way.

It is not easy. There is nothing I can tell you to make it easy. There is nothing I can say to make you want to do it. We are not here to make it easy for you. We are here to make it possible for you. We begin by telling you it isn’t easy, but it can be done.

Life is not easy. There is nothing easy about it. Dying is easy. Living is hard. If you want to be alive, you’ll have to pay the price, which is not doing or having what you want! The price is doing what has to be done, never mind what you want to do. The price is dealing with how things are, never mind how you wish they were. Doing what you want means not doing what you want!

If you want to be alive, you have to do the work. The work is done on two levels. We work to bring two worlds together. You have to learn to think of yourself as having a dual citizenship in two different worlds. One world is the physical world of outer, tangible, concrete reality. The other world is the spiritual world of inner, abstract, metaphorical, intuitive, instinctive, numinous reality. The inner world is the world of heart and soul. The outer world is the world of the body and the physical universe. We live in both worlds and our work is merging the two, bringing the spiritual into the physical, so that the two become, in us and through us, one.

We do this work by becoming conscious of our place in both worlds and working things out between worlds. What does the inner world require? What does the outer world permit? The work is negotiating the ways between the worlds. The work is being awake and aware. The work is seeing, hearing and understanding. Making connections. Bringing heart and soul to life through the body in the physical world. The work is constant, continual, eternal and unending. You never graduate or retire. You don’t get a plaque to hang on a wall declaring that you are awake. If you think you are, you aren’t. If you think you aren’t, you’re right.

We cannot take up the spiritual journey without deepening our relationship with the inner world. We have to learn the language of soul and intuit the leanings of soul, the intentions of soul, and serve them in the outer world. We also have to understand how our desire for safety and security and comfort creates barriers between ourselves and soul, and inhibits our bringing forth what soul intends.

We carry with us a collection of impressions, and memories, and assumptions, and ideas about our experience with life. We see the outer world through the filters of these memories. We interpret and react to the outer world based on the impact of our experience that is stored away within. We have to become conscious of how our memories restrict our living, our bringing to life the intentions of soul in our lives.

The more unconscious we are, the more difficulty we have separating what is happening to us from what has happened to us. We lose the line between inner and outer, and live here and now as though it were then and there. As we wake up, we wake up to our origins, to our history, to what happened to us and how we responded to it, and how that has impacted, determined, the way we live our lives. We wake up to the inner source of our being the way we are in the outer world.

Seeing things changes things. We don’t have to react to present experience as though we are eight years old, or twelve, or fifteen. We can become increasingly able to recognize what is needed and respond to it out of what we have to offer without being compelled to react out of the impact of past experience and its influence upon us. We can work to bring soul to life in our lives without having to always please, or refuse to please, our father, or our mother, or whomever it is that we think must be, or not be, pleased.

Knowing what we have to offer is a function of deepening our relationship with the inner world. Our life in the outer world is where we incarnate, bring forth, birth, the deep gifts of self that are latent and waiting in the inner world. Our mission, our calling, is to read, serve, and express the creative intention of our soul by bringing forth the beauty and truth of our nature, our “dynamic core of being,” and exhibiting it in the world of external reality.

We stand between the outer world and our soul. We decide what is called for in the world of external real-ity and what is being asked for by our soul, and choose what to do. We have to protect our soul from the outer world and we have to express, incarnate, reveal, exhibit our soul in the outer world. How well we do that determines how well we live, how alive we are in the time and place of our living.

Our ability to live well between the worlds hinges on our skill in making choices. We learn to make choices by choosing and being conscious of the outcomes of our choice. We teach ourselves all we need to know. At least, that’s the idea. We don’t have to do it that way. We can wall ourselves in, seal ourselves up, entomb ourselves until we die. We can avoid life, or we can live. Our choice.

How would you do it? How would you live your life, if it were your life to live? It is your life to live, you know. Who knows better than you what you have to offer and how you might make that available to your life? No one can tell you how to do it. You decide for yourself. What are you going to do? Whatever is pleasing. Who knows what that is better than you?

Ah, but, here’s where it gets tricky. We have to do what is pleasing, but we cannot live any way we please! There is only doing what is ours to do the way we would do it, but we can’t do anything we want. We do not do what is needed only if, and on the condition that, it provides us with what we want. We do what is needed and let the outcome be the outcome. And there, in the outcome, we do what is needed again. See? Get it? What does wanting have to do with it?

We are both guardians and servants of soul. We keep soul safe and live soul out in the world. That is our work. Soul is dependent upon us for its protection and expression. We are dependent upon soul for consolation and direction, and the wherewithal to do what is ours to do. It is a perfectly functioning system as long as we don’t wreck it by imposing our ideas about how things ought to be on it and wander stupefied and agog among the lights and action of Gay Paree.

It is all practice. We are practicing being who we are at the level of soul, bringing ourselves forth into the world. We are aren’t here to get anything, have anything. We are here to be who we are and bring ourselves forth into the world. To live the way we would live. To do it the way we would do it. To keep faith with ourselves. And to enjoy everything about the experience. Everything. And to want, when it is over, to do it all again.

We have to find what works for us, what assists us in doing the work that is ours to do, in doing what is asked of us, what needs to be done, what needs us to do it. We have to find what enables us to do that, what helps us engage our lives. This is where this gathering comes into the picture.
This gathering is here to equip us to be who we are, to be ourselves, to be who we are doing what is ours to do, to bring us forth, to birth us, individually, personally, to introduce us to ourselves, and invite us to come alive, not by stepping in the black footprints, but by intuiting the next step and the time to take it all the way to the Land of Promise.

We have everything we need, but we have to access it. We have to be open to it. When life calls for it, we have to be able to stand aside and bring it forth. We have to trust it and allow it to show us who we are, what we are capable of. In order to do that, we have to work the program, engage in the practice. We can’t play shortstop without having played shortstop. If you know what I mean.

What is helpful? What is useful? What do those questions mean in a world where nothing is wasted, where every experience has the capacity to open us to the truth, to connect us to ends worthy of us, to wake us up and re-store us to ourselves? Hitler and Gandhi were both agents of revelation, realization, enlightenment, so in that sense both were equally helpful, useful. One was the servant of suffering and death, the other the servant of grace and peace. What is truly helpful and useful wakes us up graciously, kindly with compassion and peace, smiles and says, “It’s about time you were waking up.”

Sunday, May 03, 2009

05/03/09, Living Organtically

Our lives have an organic or an artificial base. We bring forth what is within, or we impose restrictions and align ourselves with what is without. Organically, we are seen as having everything we need, and are encouraged to incarnate what is within and find ways of exhibiting ourselves appropriately in the world. Artificially, we are seen as blank slates to be written upon, lumps of clay to be molded into who we ought to be according to some external conception of the Ideal Self. We meet encouragement and suggestions or commandments, restrictions and regulations. We become our natural selves or we become somebody else’s image of who we ought to be. Our inner peace and development depend on the luck of the draw, on the environment that receives us when we emerge from the womb, and on the environments we live in throughout the life that follows. We live in search of an environment that is conducive to life. Or capitulate to death and live out our days with hollow eyes and an aborted soul.

The outer world has to be conducive to the birth of the inner world. We need a world that is receptive to our coming forth. Vulnerable souls need a welcoming environment. Or, a protective presence that can deal with any environment. Enter Ego! An Ego that lives in right relationship with Psyche/Soul is exactly what we need to bring ourselves forth into the world. We might think of Ego as The Guardian. A Guardian whose task is to Protect and Serve the Soul, but a Guardian that can be seduced, corrupted, by the lights and action of Gay Paree (or by the fruit of a forbidden tree). A Guardian that is aligned with the world’s idea of what it means to live successfully is death to the soul. You see where this places us. “Is you is or is you ain’t my constituency?” Soul wonders. Whose side are we on?

Whose side ARE we on? How come we keep complicating things for ourselves and getting in our own way? Why are we always shooting ourselves in the foot? Refusing to cooperate with the deeper leadings of Soul? We’re burning daylight here. We have a life tied up at the hitching post while we peruse the sights and sounds of Gay Paree, or whatever passes for Gay Paree. We distract ourselves with Wonderful Nothings, console ourselves with comforting choruses of “Poor, poor pitiful me,” and wait longingly for deliverance while our lives stomp and snort impatiently, and the day drags on.

Oh, but it’s too late now, isn’t it? If we were going to live, we should have started in our twenties. No one can live with their best days behind them. Everyone knows that. After a certain point, it’s all over and you just have to hang it up and tie another one on. That’s what they make beer for. The white rabbits are dancing on the table and we are drinking to missed opportunities and lost dreams. There is a country song in here somewhere.

Figuring out what Soul is asking of us when we have an interest in doing something else is as diffi-cult as anything in the Book of Difficult Things. We are in our own way, and have to constantly decide whether to make way or give way. It is easy enough for us to read our dreams as indicating our opposition, even refusal, to engage in the work of soul, but to see where our cooperation is needed in our daily life—to understand where we are actually being obstinate and obdurate—is beyond the scope of ordinary awareness. And so, the need for developing our sensitivity to, our discernment of, the movement and whispers of Soul. But, why would we?

We don’t want to go where Soul needs to be. Soul seems to be a master of taking things in stride, of biding its time, of waiting things out, of keeping the pressure on, but it also seems to thrive on encouragement and the least amount will do. But without some indication of our willingness to recognize and express the leanings of our Soul, Soul breaks out of its bondage with explosions of Shadow-truth, and we are left with messes beyond imagining to clean up, if we can. If we don’t chase the white rabbit, she will come driving six white horses to run us down, and that will not be pretty.

But becoming who we are, in light of who we also are, is no picnic. This is no walk in the park. It is not for sissies. This is the Search for the Holy Grail, the task of life, the great adventure we all crave as children and shrink from as adults. The monsters, they be real. Who wouldn’t seek the safety of the womb, of Mother’s lap, of the same old same old, of fundamentalist religion, of the black footprints laid out before us to the grave?

No one would volunteer for this work. Or, volunteering, no one would stick it out. It has to be forced on us. We have to be conscripted. Dragged out of our beds at night and thrown into an initiation ritual against our will. This was the place of those primal rites of passage, to force growing up upon us, because not one of us would have what it takes to do it on our own. Yet, we have developed a culture in which we have to do it on our own. No one kidnaps is in the dark and thrusts maturity upon us. This is the task to which all are called but few are chosen. James Hollis says, “Childhood dependency must be relinquished for adult self-possession and creativity. The longing for a trouble-free existence must be put aside in favor of the mature meeting of responsibility. Such changes constitute not only the quickening of consciousness but a form of election. All are summoned to grow up, not all are up to the task.” And why would they be? What do “adult self-possession and creativity” have to offer against “the longing for a trouble-free existence”? Surely, you see the problem!

What exactly do we get out of growing up? What’s in it for us? Why not remain infantile forever? We are leaving Mama’s arms for what? What is better than Mama? Who thought this up? Besides, what’s a soul good for in this world? What’s a soul going to do for us? Get in our way! That’s what. Keep us far from that happy shore, storm-tossed, at the endless mercy of the wine-dark and trackless sea!

All we want is “that happy shore,” and it’s blissful promise of a trouble-free life. In other words, Mama. But the truth is: “We are born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.” That was Job’s take on things (5:7) 2,500 years ago, give or take. He couldn’t find any buyers then, or now. We don’t want to hear it. We want to hear, “Come to Mama, baby. I’ll take care of you.”

See how many surrogate Mamas you can identify roaming through the culture, promising freedom from worry, fear, and trouble. All we’ve ever wanted is freedom from worry, fear and trouble, and we’ve created a culture to provide it for us. Of course, there is one small catch. We have to believe The Lie: “I’m your Mama.” And, we have to hand over our lives. That happy shore is the land of the Sirens--another name for Mama. The terrible thing about Mama is that we can’t be safe in Mama’s arms and be alive. Mama kills the babies. Mama is a Death Eater in disguise, devouring the souls of those she shields from the worries, fears, and troubles of life, rendering us safe, soulless and as empty as gourds on dry ground.

We save our lives by realizing that we have what it takes apart from Mama. We don’t need a trouble-free existence. We have what it takes. If you are going to believe anything, believe that you have what it takes. Believe that you have what you need. Believe that you can stand naked and defenseless before IT, before the way things actually are, and be okay, and be just fine. Don’t hide behind your made up shields, clutching your contract with life, saying, “Look here, look here. It says right here if I do this and this and this, that will happen!” Life will laugh and say “That has no validity—it’s only a joke you’re playing on yourself! You don’t get what you deserve in this league. You get what you get. Now stand up and let’s see what you are made of.” So, stand up, and look Life in its ugly red eye, and smile. You have what it takes. All it takes is trusting that you have what it takes. And, you will never know what you have if you don’t live as though you have it.

How to enlarge ourselves and be true to ourselves is the trick. Enlarging ourselves pulls us beyond ourselves. Being true to ourselves chains us to our idea of ourselves that we have become accustomed to over time—an idea that has to be shattered again and again as we show ourselves who we also are by dealing with situations we have never encountered. We cannot restrict our idea of ourselves to who we have been, to who we have shown ourselves to be through the process of living our lives up to this point. We have to expand our idea of who we are and be true to more than we can imagine we are capable of. We surprise ourselves. We don’t know who all we are. We are here to find out, but it is not easy.

We need the help of Soul. “Look,” we say something on the order of, “Look, you have to speak up if you expect to get my attention. You have to make plain what you want. You can’t be coy and subtle and expect me to get it. I need your help here. What do you want? Signs and signals are crucial. Signs and signals. It’s the least you can do.” Of course, the least we can do is read the signs, and follow their lead!