No one knows beforehand which way is The Way. We have talked before of the dilemma: “Is it a White Rabbit, or a Red Herring, or a Wild Goose?” We don’t know. We cannot know without giving chase. Maybe the chase takes us to the path with our name on it. Maybe it takes us away from the path with our name on it. Maybe going away from the path with our name on it is what we need to get to the path with our name on it. It takes going to know. If we find that we are on The Path, great. Then we only have to stay on The Path. If we find we are off The Path, great. Then we only have to get on The Path.
The work to get on The Path and the work to stay on The Path is the same work. It is the work of seeing, hearing, understanding and deciding in the moment of our living what must be done to be who we are here and now. Our motive is not to serve our advantage, not to gain the edge, not to improve our market share or turn a handsome profit, but to be who we are here and now. The most we can do for one another is to live our own lives—facing what must be faced and doing what must be done to be who we are here/now.
Recognizing that, we are here to help you do that. “We” (Those of us in this gathering of sojourners) are here to help “you” (individuals comprising the “we”) live your life, that is, the life that is truly yours to live—to find the path, the way, the beam, the life, with your name on it. And, in order to do what “we” are here to do, we can’t be getting in “your” way and giving you more stuff to do than is helpful and necessary.
The church as we have known it piles program stuff on top of program stuff upon its members so as, it appears to me, to justify existence and prove that it is doing something. But “doing something” is not to be confused with being helpful. The Mandala program, which you will be hearing more about in the next few weeks, is a good approach in that it is a time-limited offering and no one is expected to participate beyond her or his own personal interest level. Where education in the church is concerned, there is no graduated series of steps to mark progress in spiritual development. There are no graduate degrees in spirituality, or spiritual acumen. Yoda is always also Hans Solo, and the only difference between Yoda and Hans Solo is that Yoda knows there is an identity between them that Hans Solo does not recognize. So don’t think of the church as the place where you go to learn what you need to know. It is the place that sustains and supports and encourages you as you learn what you need to know.
Always the concern is to be helpful, and to be aware of what is helpful and what is not. How can we assist people in the living of their lives? The people we are here to help need to take the lead. Our children, for instance, will tell us what they need to be who they are if we listen to them. Here’s where you come in. You have to help us help you. We have to help the others help us. There is no programmatic substitute for doing our own work, the work of listening and looking for our own path, the work of living with integrity and authenticity. No one can do that for us.
To live with integrity and authenticity is the heroic task. To live with integrity and authenticity is to live aligned with that which is deepest, best and truest about us—to live the life that is our life to live. It is to align ourselves with who we are and live a life that serves our destiny. This is our work, the work we are here to do and the work we are here to help one another do.
In order to do it, to find the way that is our way, to find the path that is our path, to find the beam, the life with our name on it, we have to be alert to IT and to NOT IT. The catch here, of course, is that we cannot have 100% IT all of the time and we cannot allow ourselves to be saddled with 100% NOT IT very much of the time. Too many of us are living lives that are NOT IT too much of the time.
It is hard to know IT or NOT IT initially. This is the problem of whether it is a White Rabbit, a Red Herring, or a Wild Goose. We don’t know at first. We have to live with it to know if it is IT or NOT IT. Once we know NOT IT we have to find the exits. But, there is a catch here as well: Exits themselves can be IT and NOT IT. Cocaine and alcohol addiction are NOT IT exits. Suicide is NOT IT. Addiction to mind-numbing religion is NOT IT. Perhaps your mother married your father to get away from her family. Perhaps that was not a smart move, NOT IT, as they say. Exits are not always the way out they appear to be.
There is another problem with exits. Exits that are IT can appear to be NOT IT because of what they ask of us, or because we are afraid. Fear keeps us in NOT IT long past leaving. To off-set fear, we need resources and courage. Jung says, “Only boldness can deliver us from fear,” but. That doesn’t mean that we hurl ourselves into everything we fear! Being afraid of something can be QUITE IT. Boldness that delivers us into NOT IT, is not the kind of boldness we need to associate with. We have to know when to be bold and when to be afraid. We have to live with our eyes open, seeing, hearing, understanding and knowing when to do what in order to be who we are here and now.
Running from one NOT IT to another is NOT IT, though we may pass through a string of NOT IT's on the way to IT, and IT is never 100% for long. IT generally always involves trade-offs—we give up this to get that—making IT appear to be NOT IT. Other times, we see IT so clearly that we will give up anything to have IT. If living in the mountains or the west, for instance, is IT, living there will off-set what we give up to live there.
So we have to practice knowing IT and NOT IT. Make lists. What's on your IT list? Your NOT IT list? You spend most of your time doing things on which list? Live so as to increase the amount of time you spend with things on your IT list. The NOT IT stuff will consume you if you don't draw lines.
Who helps you with IT? Who opposes, resists, prevents your drift toward IT? Who is on your side? With you? Against you? Whose side are YOU on? The catch here is that your own deep purpose is not YOUR purpose at all. Your purpose is to loll around the pool or maybe drive to the beach. Enter the problem. IT, that which is truly IT, is too often NOT IT for you. IT asks hard things of you. You don't cooperate with YOU. To live with integrity, we have to reconcile ourselves to our deeper SELF and cooperate with purposes that are not consciously created.
We have to cooperate with ends that are our true ends even though they aren't appealing to us at all. The beam is the beam whether we like it or not. How often do we resist, oppose, refuse that which is calling our name? “Not me, send Aaron!” we say. “Anywhere but Nineveh!” we say. “Let this cup pass from me!” we say. Whose side are we on? How do we get to be on OUR side? How do we align ourselves with the deep drift of our psyche, soul? Who is charting our path on the sea? The work of aligning ourselves with our SELF is the work of spiritual development, the work of life. Individuation, Jung called it. It is the work we are here to do and to help each other do.
This work is the hero’s task. The hero’s task is to live linked with the self we are called to be, aligned with our destiny. It is to be who we are, to do what is ours to do, and to live the life that is ours to live, here and now. This is why we are here—here in the sense of being alive in this world, and here in the sense of being gathered in this space with these people. This is the covenant that is the ground of our lives, to take up this work, this work of being who we are here and now. It is the work of seeing, hearing, understanding and deciding in the moment of our living what must be done to be who we are here and now and do it. It is the work of helping one another do this work.
A covenant is a binding agreement. The covenant that we make here in this place called “Covenant” is the covenant we make with ourselves and one another to do right by ourselves and one another. We covenant to be who we are, to live out our life as our life needs to be lived out, and to assist each other in doing that work. We covenant with ourselves and one another to be the right kind of company, offering the right kind of help in the right kind of way. We covenant with ourselves and one another to live in ways that are good for ourselves and for one another, to be who, and to do what, our life—the life that is truly our life to live—is asking us to do in each here and now. Together we work to be who we are individually, becoming who we are built to be, for the true good of all. Amen! May it be so!