You wouldn't trust me to sweeten your coffee for you. Why would you trust me to tell you what to do to live a meaningful life? You wouldn’t trust me in a matter of no consequence, why would you trust me, or anyone else, in a matter of ultimate consequence? Why would you trust anyone but yourself to know what to believe, think, do? It's your life. Live it!
Ah, but, I hear the objection welling up from each of you: “How do WE know what to believe, think, do?” How do you know when your coffee is sweet enough? When it’s time to eat, or go to bed? No one can tell you those things. We can be trusted to know what is right for us. We know when apple pie is called for and when it’s a glass of wine that is just the ticket. We know when it’s time for a walk around the block and when we have had enough of anything. The same thing applies to the deeper questions.
We know what we need, what needs to happen, what is needed in the situation as it arises. All it takes is paying attention, observation, awareness, seeing, hearing, understanding to know what is called for. We find our way to the answers that matter by way of resonance, instinct, intuition, the tug of heart, the movement of soul. Even external rules, orders, decrees, and demands have to ring true. Resonation is the key that turns the lock to knowing what to do.
Our path has to resonate with our heart, our heart has to resonate with our path. We have to sense what is right for us—all things considered—and do it. In every moment, the future is in our hands, and we do not have time to waste, so, we must listen carefully, imagine fully, observe completely in order to take everything into consideration and know what truly needs to be done, and do it. To live knowingly, with awareness and perceptivity, with vision and grace and compassion is as basic, and as spiritual, as it gets. Eyes that see, ears that hear, a heart that understands, and the courage “to get up and do what needs to be done” are all it ever takes. That is the spiritual path, and the way of a True Human Being.
The path of the heart is a seeing, hearing, understanding, knowing, being, doing path. It takes effort to live the way life needs to be lived. We have to concentrate, focus, pay attention. It's easier to follow the leader. Go where you're taken. Do what you're told. Maintain the routines. Honor the traditions. Step in the black footprints. Ask no questions. Make no waves. Happiness. Death. We are happiest, it seems, when we are dead. To be alive, we have to lay happiness aside and live as those who are open to the moment and what the moment is asking of us, even when it is asking hard things of us.
When we live open to the moment and what it is asking of us, there are no rules to keep, no formulas to apply, no recipes or black footprints to follow. “Eat when hungry, rest when tired,” is a Zen rule suggesting that we listen to our body and follow its lead. Yet, Zen masters often ignore their body’s signals, and sit zazen through hunger, drowsiness, and the ache of joints and muscles. Always the question: “How do we know when to do what? How do we know where to draw the line?”
The best answer is arbitrary and subjective, but, we want to justify our actions with precedents, probabilities and iron-clad rationale. Yet, there are no absolutes that cannot be over-ridden. “Thou Shalt Not Kill,” says the commandment, but the Jewish authorities kill Jesus, saying “It is better that one man should die instead of the whole nation.” By what authority do we over-ride absolutes? What is the seat of wisdom? What guide do we follow? When do we acquiesce? When do we overturn? Who is the decider that decides? Our own arbitrary and subjective self, that’s who! After we take everything into account, we have to choose when to acquiesce and when to overturn.
Sometimes we eat when hungry, rest when tired. Sometimes we push past hunger and weariness. Sometimes we indulge ourselves, sometimes we deny ourselves. By our own authority. We decide for ourselves how our lives are to be lived. We say where meaning is to be found, of what our joy consists, what is important, what needs to be done and left undone. We are who we have to please. We Have To Learn To Listen To Ourselves. That’s the task of life: Know Thyself. To thine own self be true. Or, as Jesus says (in Luke 12:57), “Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right?” What other choice do we have? May we choose wisely, and hold ourselves accountable, and deal well with the outcome of our choosing!
In ascribing meaning, assigning value, and deciding what it takes to live a meaningful life, we bring the world we perceive into being through our perception of it. “In the beginning was the word.” Whose word? OUR word! Our word creates the world. Red does not reside in the apple. Red does not exist apart from the eyes that see, and say, “Red,” into existence. Beauty comes into being in the act of being perceived and declared to be beautiful. We paint the world with meaning, and bring it to life.
Our place is to witness the world into being, to produce the WOW that sets it apart from the dreariness of unnoticed marvels. Our gift to the world is amazement, appreciation and praise. We acknowledge the wonder of every sunrise and rainbow. We sing the world into being. Thanksgiving is what we do best. We are the thankful ones. May it certainly, and always, be so!
Maybe any living thing with half a mind gets out of itself from time to time and notices, knows that there is more to it than meets its eye in its own little world, knows that there is a bigger world, and loves it, relishes it, delights in the wonder and the joy of it. I hope so.
I know for sure that we are capable of that. And it is our shame that we don’t do it more often than we do. That we don’t do a tail dance, like dolphins, on ocean waves, and wheel through the air, like red tail hawks, for the pure pleasure of it. That we don’t rejoice, and aren’t glad, more often. The numinous calls for that, requires it. Our place is to respond—to see, to know, to be moved, to give chase, and see where it leads.