Sunday, July 12, 2009

How to engage our lives is the question. 07/12/09

The church is the great destroyer of lives, the subversive supplanter of civilizations. Or would be, if it believed it’s own message, which is “Wake up! Live the life that is yours to live!” If everyone lived his or her own life it would transform the world. If any of us did it, it would shake the foundations. That’s the revolution, living your own life, the life that is yours to live—which is not to be confused with the life you want to live, would like to live, wish you could live. What the world most needs is for you to live the life with your name on it. The church as it ought to be would be enabling us to do that.

How to engage our lives is the question. How to live the life that is ours to live. There are many distractions to take our minds off the business of sitting down, shutting up, being quiet, looking and listening, watching and waiting.

We wait for the path to appear before us, for the white rabbit to grace us with a glimpse, even as we work to pay the bills and mow the lawn. We do the things that need to be done while we wait to see what NEEDS to be done. Waiting is a test of our faith, courage and resolve. We have to believe in something. I recommend the path and the white rabbit. We wait for the path to open, for the white rabbit to appear.

We look and listen our way to where we need to be. We don’t think our way there. We listen for what’s next. We look for what needs to be done. We don’t think up these things. We spend our time waiting to see, to hear, and then acting upon the obvious. Of course! Why didn’t I see this, hear this, before?

We have to live out of our feel for what needs to be done even if it makes no sense and seems to be a waste of time. Everything hangs on our doing what needs to be done—on what we say needs to be done—whether it matters to anyone else, or makes any discernible difference in the way the world works, or not. Our task is to do what is meaningful to us. It doesn’t have to mean anything to anyone else.

Gandhi said something along the lines of “Of course your contribution will be insignificant, but it is essential that you make it. No one can do it for you, and if you don’t do it, it won’t be done. Nothing is more important than that we do what is ours to do.” I couldn’t have said it better.

But we cannot look for recognition and results, outcomes and payoffs, to provide us with the necessary motivation for doing what is ours to do. The motivation is entirely internal. We do what we do because we need to do it—because it needs us to do it! The external recognition, acknowledgment, appreciation, etc. is quite beside the point and can distract us from the essential focus which is doing what needs to be done—what we need to do—no matter what. Our response to the lack of external reinforcement is “Oh well,” and a return to the matter of attending the internal directive. The absence of external reinforcement can be seen as a test of our resolve to align ourselves with the inner directive no matter what.

The problem is that the life that is our life to live—the work that is our work to do—isn’t what we think it should be. The life we get is not the life we have in mind. We are always called beyond ourselves. It is never our idea for ourselves, for our lives, we are asked to serve. We are here for more than our own life, our own pleasure and happiness. We have to trust ourselves to the life that is ours to live even when it seems like it is all for nothing. Joseph Campbell says, “We know when we are on the beam and when we are off.” Being on the beam becomes tedious and boring and it looks like nothing is happening and we are going nowhere fast and we long for excitement, and adventure so, off the beam we go.

We are always looking for the exit. It doesn’t take long for us to be done with this life and be ready for something else. We look for things to help us escape our life. We hate our life. We want out of our life. We want some other, better, finer, easier life instead. Happiness is always another life. But not the life with our name on it. We aren’t about to go to Nineveh. We have to be really desperate to go there!

We look for things to take our mind off the life we are living. Romance. Wealth. Prosperity. Winning the lottery, you know. Dreams of how it will be when we have it made. We need to look for things to engage us with our life. For things to deepen, expand, enlarge our lives. For things that will enable us to live our lives. But, that’s the last thing we want to do.

We’re playing a game called “We’re not playing a game!” The game we are not playing is designed to keep our mind off the life we are not living, the life that is our life to live. The problem is how to get us together with the life that has our name on it, that is our life to live. We want the excitement and the glory of Gay Paree. We want to enjoy our lives. We wouldn’t mind living the life with our name on it if could also be the life we have in mind, the life we wish we could live.

Sad to say, the adventure we get is never the adventure we have in mind. The beam we get is never the beam we want. We have to trust ourselves to the beam, and do the work that is ours to do, and let that be that. But wait. We don’t know what the work is that is ours to do, right? We would do it if we knew what it was, but we don’t know, so we can’t do it, right?

I don’t buy it. We know what we have to do (or are afraid we might know), and what we have no business doing. Boarding the boat, Jonah knows Nineveh has his name written all over it. All this talk about not knowing what to do with our lives is just an excuse to keep us from doing what we don’t want to do. When it comes to not living the life that is our life to live, any excuse will do. It’s another way of boarding the boat, or another way of missing the boat, same thing.

Our only hope is to go on doing it our way. Boarding the boat, or missing it. Sailing away from Nineveh as fast as the wind will blow. Our salvation is the great spiritual truth that no matter how far we go, or how long we’re gone, we’re just walking around the block. This is another way of saying, “Nothing is wasted.” Everything works together to wake us up. If we can wake up, we will wake up.

The process requires us to help one another see the way we see. I'm here to help you see the way you see. You're here to help me see the way I see. From seeing the way we see comes all things. When we finally see our way of seeing for what it is, we start listening and looking, asking, seeking and knocking, watching and waiting. And, at that point things change.

Things change when we begin listening within for the voice that knows what it is talking about. This is what being still and quiet and attentive does for us, it opens us to the truth of our lives, of the life that is ours to live. What carries the force? The ephemeral weight of necessity? That is so negligible that we can dismiss it, discount it, overlook it, ignore it, not know it when we hear it yet is so powerful that it runs the universe by its authority and holds the world in its hands? That is the voice that knows what it is talking about. And it is our place, our responsibility to hear it and align ourselves with it. Everything depends on it. Everything is on the line. Everything rides on our knowing “the time of our visitation” and doing right by the moment at hand in a “Thy will not mine be done” kind of way.

The spiritual practice of listening deeply connects us with our spirit which knows more than we do about who we are and what we are about and the life that is life. But when the path opens and the white rabbit appears, we have to follow. We can't be saying, "That wasn't what I had in mind!"

“(We) can do all things through (that which strengthens us),” is the old scriptural formula for living out of the power within us. It is not a power for our good, but for the good of the whole. The boon is not for us but for the world. If we can come to terms with that, we have it made.
The talk of prosperity and abundance feeds the cultural/capitalist bias toward what’s in it for me. The subversive counter to that orientation is the idea that we have what we need to do what needs to be done, which has nothing to do with having what we want. What we want has no necessary connection with the life that is ours to live. “You have your life as a prize of war” (Jer. 45:5). Our booty is our life, is the experience of being alive, is the knowledge that we did what was ours to do. In a “Well done, good and faithful servant” kind of way.

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