We all have sold ourselves short and sold ourselves out for something. Maybe it was for money, or Mother, or Father, or Husband or Wife, or the Children. Maybe it was for status, social acceptance, recognition, adoration. Maybe it was for the title The Most Responsible Living Person, or The Greatest Living American. Maybe it was for our idea of Who We Ought To Be. Maybe it was for security, stability, certainty, comfort, peace, happiness. The list is long. Adam and Eve sold themselves out. We all sell ourselves short, sell ourselves out. The theological term for our inescapable propensity to sell ourselves out is “Original Sin.”
Our sin is our failure to be who we are, who we are built to be, who we have within us to become. It is to settle for less than we can be. Our life’s work is now to redeem our failure to take up our life’s work by becoming who we are. But the way back to Eden, to our true home, to the locus of our natural self, is blocked by the angel of death with a flaming sword, which means that in order to live we have to die. Or, as Jesus put it, “Those who seek to save their lives will lose them, and those who lose their lives (in the service of life—he said, “for my sake and the gospel’s”) will find them.” There you are. The good news is that it is no more difficult now than it was then. The bad news is that it is no easier! We are always at the point of giving self up for what seems better, easier, than self. It is always hard to be who we are. The delight of the forbidden fruit is always there to distract us and to save us from the work of being who we are.
The journey is to recover what was abandoned. We have to go back and redeem what we left behind, what we rejected of ourselves. We have to live what we can of the life that is our life to live. If gestures and fragments are as close as we can come to the life that was to be ours, then gestures and fragments it will have to be.
Carl Jung said something on the order of, “We always are who we have always been, and we always are who we will become.” There is always something of us as we were meant to be apparent in who we have become. We never completely sever ourselves from the gift, the genus, and are never far away from who we are called to be. We are always a mere perspective shift away from the truth of our own souls. The tragedy is that we can be that close and not know “the time of our visitation,” and not recognize the one who is with us always, and not hear the one who is calling our name.
There is always that within us which believes in us. Which seeks after us. Which calls us to wake up and be who we are. But we think we missed our chance back there in Eden, back when we “coulda had class,” when we “coulda been a contender,” when we “coulda been somebody, instead of a bum which is what (we are).” And we think if we can’t be now what we “coulda” been then, why try? What’s the use, or the point? So we turn our backs on ourselves again, and perpetuate the sin of Eden, and do not allow ourselves to become who we are, who we have within us to be, because we can’t do it “right,” the way we wish we had done it back then, when we had the chance and didn’t know what we had.
We still don’t know what we have, and again walk away from the chance to do what we can with what we have to work with. Our sin is a failure of vision and nerve. It is a failure to be ourselves, a failure to believe in our-selves, a failure to do what is ours to do, to the extent that it can be done within the terms and conditions, context and circumstances of our lives.
We are always limited, always restricted by, bound to, the time and place of our living. There is always something that isn’t quite right, something to have to work through, around, something to overcome. We failed to be who we are back then with good reason. There were obligations, you know, duties. There was no money for med school or law school. We were in love. That list is also long. There is always a reason to not be who we are. Always something we have to confront, stand up to. There is always a dragon blocking the path, a Cyclops in our way. And, there is always that within us which believes in us, and calls us to believe in ourselves, and hopes eternally that we will have what it takes to do what needs to be done and become who we are in the time left for living.
Will we believe in that which believes in us is the question. Will WE believe in ourselves is the question. The hardest thing is to believe in ourselves, in our gift, our genius, over time, over the course of our lives. Will we trust ourselves to the gift, to the genius, to the Self we are capable of being—within the terms and conditions, con-text and circumstances of life, within what remains of the time left for living? We give up too easily, quit too soon. The Self/Soul is eternal and timeless. The time is always NOW for Self/Soul. It is never past, over, too late. Self/Soul does not understand the concept “too late.” Self/Soul is always calling us to be who we are NOW! “Dance however you can!” Self/Soul exclaims. “If you can only blink your eyes or wiggle one toe, blink or wiggle in rhythm to the music, and if you can’t hear the music, imagine it!”
Self/Soul doesn’t cut us any slack, doesn’t grant us any excuse. Self/Soul is a “harsh taskmaster,” demanding always demanding that we be as much of who we are as the terms and conditions, context and circumstances of our lives will allow NOW—and demanding always demanding that we push against the limits in order to see what we can get by with, and not give up too easily or too soon in the service of the life that is our life to live.
We begin the work of recovery, of redemption, with the question, “What does our soul want?” Clues exist in the places we are most alive, and in the places we are most dead. In the experiences that are most meaningful and in the experiences that are least meaningful. In the things that catch our eye, that nod to us, wink at us, speak to us. In our dreams and dreads. In the things we feel drawn to (not like alcohol or gambling or strip clubs and other forms of addiction and distraction, but like music or books or tools or conversation and other forms of engagement and enlargement). We have to do the work of participating in an inner dialogue with soul, with that which is deepest, best and truest about us, and find ways of expressing the inner truth of being (who we are) in our outer lives (who we also are). The sum of the spiritual journey is here, in negotiating the relationship between inner and outer.
This is not something we can read in a book (“Five Weeks to Holistic Living,” for example). This is the work we engage in over the course of our lives, merging inner with outer, becoming who we are in the time and place of our living. It requires us to learn the language of soul and participate in regular conversations with the mystery of being. In this work, we are all you have. You are all we have. We remind each other of the strength we have within.
In this work, everything is on the table, or off the table. Either way, it’s the same thing. Nothing can come between us and our life’s purpose, our soul’s intention, the life that is ours to live, “God’s will” for us and our life. Complete integrity of being, oneness with purpose and life, expressing, bringing forth, what is ours to express, bring forth, is IT. Is LIFE. Anything less than that is some stage of death, of dying. How alive are we willing to be is always the question. “Thy will, not mine, be done.”
Easy to say, hard to do. The truth is that no matter how much we wish we were engaged in our own spiritual development, we are always looking for something to save us from that work. Escape and entertainment fuel our lives. We are always running away from something. Hiding from something. Hoping that something will leave us alone. Where do we ever square up to it, stick it out, stare it down? Where do we ever face what must be faced out of the resources and resolve we find within? We are always looking to be saved, to be rescued, trying always to reach the land flowing with milk and honey. Where do we ever stop running and make a stand?
What are we looking for that we don’t have? What is the source of dissatisfaction, disenchantment, dismay, conflict? What is it going to take for us to, here it comes, get ready, be happy?
What it takes is the right combination of outer and inner. Outer is what it takes to meet the physical requirements for life—food, clothing, shelter, tools. Tools are important because that is what it takes to bring forth the inner. Inner is what it takes to meet the spiritual requirements for life, to bring forth, incarnate, express the mystery of being, of who we are, within the visible world. We live to make the invisible visible.
Our work is making our peace with the context and circumstances, terms and conditions, of our lives. Our work is to bring forth what is within no matter what. Life gets to do anything to us, no holds barred, anything goes, and we get to bring forth what is within and honor one another, and live with grace and compassion for it all. That’s the deal. If we want something else, we are standing in the wrong line.
Carl Jung says, “All our troubles flow from being separated from our instincts.” But, if we lived only on the basis of instinct, we would be in trouble as well. Jung goes on to say, “Too much of the animal distorts the civilized person, and too much of civilization makes sick animals.” We live to find the right mix between our instincts and our duties, obligations, and responsibilities—between the requirements of life on the spiritual level and the requirements of life on the physical level. Too much of one and not enough of the other and we are in trouble.
We are here to serve the genius, the gift, the vision that is our vision, the life that is our life to live—regardless of how well that is received and valued. We must receive it. We must value it. We must believe in it, align ourselves with it. Our faith you might say, isn't so much in the God "out there" as in the gift of God "in here." The challenge is to serve that gift and let the outcome be the outcome. May we all have what it takes to do that and go on doing that day in and day out, "for better or worse, in sickness and in health," for the rest of our lives!