Wednesday, December 31, 2008
A popular current TV program is about ghost busting. It depicts a team of guys who spend their nights in creepy places deemed to be haunted. The spirits they encounter in those places are typically malevolent – angry, frustrated, vengeful. Well, who wouldn’t be upset at being stuck in such ugly places?
The idea of discarnate spirits abiding on earth and terrifying other humans has tremendous psychic appeal. Probably every culture recognizes ghosts, goblins and ghouls in one way or another. In America we celebrate Halloween with zeal, and there is even a cartoon called “Caspar the Friendly Ghost.”
But the resonance people feel with the departed dead may have less to do with an “us versus them” perception than a “we are them” one – although deeply unconscious.
A “ghost” is by definition incomplete – not fully present. Otherwise it wouldn’t still be hanging around in this realm. It is a portion of some entity, a fragment of consciousness or energy that is unbalanced and unresolved. As such it cannot help being basically unsound and what we would call evil.
What makes ghosts fascinating is the fact that most of us with living physical bodies are pretty much like them. Our lives are haunted – and yes, by malevolent spirits. Watch the news, read a book, take in a movie - you will see virtually nothing but dysfunctional people with evil intentions.
Then bring the concept home and take a look inside – if you dare. Consider the self-seeking, unfeeling spirit that has been directing your course for so many years - and ask whether or not your life is haunted.
But there's hope . . . the exorcist is coming.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
“I had a dream,” said the man as he gazed at the water flowing far below. “And I can’t understand it.”
“Dreams are mirrors,” said the clown, who stood next to him at the bridge railing. “You don’t understand it because you don’t understand your life.”
“That’s why I’m stranded here on this bridge, midway to nowhere. I don’t get it. I don’t get anything.”
“Not knowing can be a sign of courage and maturity.”
The man paused, then began to relate his dream: “Someone was making a picture of everything in my life,” he said. “But there were too many things, and things that didn’t fit. So this person who was making the picture told me some of the things had to be removed. I was wondering how to do that, when we heard a VOICE. This voice carried authority and it said to both of us,
Make a choice.
"So then the artist found a way to include everything. But I . . . "
“You didn't get it,” the clown said, finishing his thought.
“Well, it's your typical ‘choose between alternatives’ dream, right?"
The clown smiled.
“But it doesn’t make sense!” The man was growing agitated. “The voice said everything had to be included, but it also said to make a choice! How can you do both? Besides, there’s no way to figure out what to include or exclude in my life – it’s impossible!”
The clown’s gaze was upon the water. “So you think this is a ‘you can’t have both’ scenario?”
“That’s what it has seemed like for quite awhile.”
The clown put a gentle hand on the man’s shoulder. “Your dream is NOT about choosing between alternatives,” he said. “Even mutually exclusive ones.”
“What is it, then?” asked the man in surprise.
“Those 'alternatives' are important elements of your life picture. They are needed and that’s why the voice said they must be included. You can’t be whole without them. This isn’t about choosing one situation over another or trying to deny responsibilities or connections or relationships. All of those things are expressions of you that need to be accepted, brought together, integrated and harmonized.”
“Then why did the voice say to make a choice?”
“The choice is in whether you will accept the way of wholeness and surrender to embracing all of yourself. Or whether instead you will continue to resist and fight and tear yourself into pieces and put the pieces into separate piles of what is 'acceptable' and 'unacceptable.'”
The man sighed and took a deep breath. “There’s room for my whole life?” He felt peacefully perplexed.
The clown chuckled. "I think you are starting to understand now," he said, walking away.
Monday, December 29, 2008
In 2008 “loss” has been very palpable. The Dow Jones Industrial average has lost 36%, the S&P 500 40.5% and the Nasdaq 42.5% - this stock market decline being the worst since 1931. Housing values have also lost $2 trillion in value with about 12 million Americans currently owing more on their mortgages than their homes are worth. The number of homes going into foreclosure is around 2.2 million, in part because two million jobs have been lost and a million more job cuts are expected in 2009.
I also was laid off from career positions – twice, and consecutively. The life I had envisioned consisted of increasing gains with nothing much ever going wrong, and finally entering old age peacefully with praise and honor.
Piece by piece, all of those expectations disintegrated. First it was financial stability, then long term relationships, finally even core beliefs – loss bit into all, and is not done biting.
If loss never took away outer things, the world as we want it to be, ourselves as we think we are, it would be possible to live in an imaginary state forever, satisfied with imperfection and incompletion, never motivated enough to break free.
But there is a time to grow and a time to wither – this is obvious in nature. The Bible also speaks of a “time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away” (Ecc 3:6).
Looking back, the times which have been most excruciating in terms of loss are also the most memorable and inwardly transformative. Humans have tremendous inertia to resist the loss experience, to begrudge it, to just endure it and hope it will end soon so we can get on with the “gain and growth” side of the cycle.
But the heart longs for this experience of outward loss. Until that happens, its needs remain deluged and unrecognized in the doings and activities of exterior existence.
Jesus said, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it” (Luke 9:24).
It is not easy to welcome Loss and offer it a seat of honor at our table, especially since this is not a mere conceptual proceeding but rather one with teeth that usually hurt. But it is the pathway to freedom and salvation that has been established in the universe.
Therefore we may reasonably hope that our planet, our country and ourselves are currently being offered the greatest possible gift, in the form of . . . Loss.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
The Blank Canvas of 2009
Usually the yearly transition means no fanfare for me. I stopped making New Year Resolutions long ago because they were always so forgettable - and in fact immediately forgotten.
This year there is a difference, though there won’t be a “resolution” in the form of forgettable words.
The year 2008 was dramatic and dynamic, with so much to grow from. Surely 2009 will bring things into awareness that are both old and new, familiar yet completely unexpected.
How will we be with the revelation of this New Year and its challenging opportunities?
Will we be taken off guard by desiring certainty and comfort when life is presenting what feels like uncertainty and discomfort?
Will we glibly speak of things not yet experienced or assimilated?
A canvas awaits that will be painted by our interaction with the universe. A brush stroke will be made by the "painter," followed by another by THE PAINTER. Back and forth we will go, creating either a “work of art” or a “work o fart.”
My resolution for this new year of 2009 is to be with this living composition - and to strive to bring awareness of the Gift of trust into each brush stroke.
God will make his strokes, and no doubt some will seem too scary or demanding.
In response I will make mine,trying as best I can to respond faithfully and truly to the life shown in His.
Hopefully together this back and forth between us will gradually form an image that is authentic. Not syrupy with some sort of conceptual notion of how life should be, but as honest as I have learned how to be.
For now I contemplate the image yet unseen that will begin to take shape as the promise of the days unfolds.
Friday, December 26, 2008
There’s an old song which goes, “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth.” It is amusing, of course, and slightly absurd. If a person could have ANYTHING at all, reasons the egoic mind, why would he only want his two front teeth?
We assume that he wants the teeth BACK because they are missing - but maybe that is not the case at all.
Whether or not the songwriter intended it, there is a more universal message here about the wisdom of desiring what is intended for us alone. No one else could have this boy’s two front teeth, so he is asking for what only he can receive.
The Christmas season lasts for twelve full days. This is the time of the Gift, of bestowing and of receiving. And the gift that human souls truly want is not to be found in a department store or purchased with any amount of money. It is something uniquely intended for us alone, something only we can receive.
What is this Gift? Perhaps it could be described thus:
To know as an unshakable reality that we are in God’s keeping and that nothing in our lives is accidental or arbitrary. To realize we can stop trying to protect ourselves or make things “better” because only that which is for our ultimate good will be allowed to happen.
Such a stupendous gift is experienced by us as “trust.” Trust that all is well, even a “well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 14:4).
We have the choice and the responsibility to trust that the gift has in fact been given, especially in those moments where fear arises and threatens to consume everything and cast us into the shadows again.
So to the Great Giver let us offer our deepest appreciation and thanks for the most perfect Gift of all.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Christ and Antichrist
In this season in which the birth of Christ is celebrated, we might recall another archetypal player in the divine mystery, namely the Antichrist.
The Mayan Calendar ending in 2012 has differentiated two distinct camps of expectation: those who anticipate the beginning of a new Golden Age of bliss, and those who anticipate extreme planetary distress and destruction.
Against these another camp is finding its voice and articulating the idea that 2012 will initiate the Age of Satan. In this period, according to their model, Antichrist will be Satan’s henchman, commissioned to assume total earthly power and subjugate virtually all humanity. This viewpoint also embraces planetary upheaval as a necessary element of Antichrist’s reign.
It must be admitted that many religious traditions describe a satanic, destructive entity capable of ensnaring the unwary and initiating global catastrophe. The Christian Scriptures in particular are quite detailed in this regard and speak both of Antichrist, and of unprecedented natural calamities befalling an unbelieving mankind.
The same Scriptures also make it clear that all this unpleasantness is temporary. Christ Himself is supposed to return -- both to restore order and to justify those who have been faithful to truth in spite of tribulation.
This third “Antichristian” camp may have something valuable to contribute to the 2012 contemplation. J.R.R. Tolkien’s Ring Trilogy derives its plot energy from a culminating battle between light and darkness at the conclusion of a mythical “Third Age” of the earth. Now, according to the Mayan Calendar, we are at the endpoint of the Fourth Age. The Bible speaks unequivocally of a final battle to occur between Christ and Antichrist at Armageddon - in which evil is to be defeated once and for all.
There are those professing exact knowledge of the future satanic world ruler who have no qualms about identifying him. This is more information than the Bible offers, where only the inscrutable and mysterious “666” points to Antichrist. Many names have been associated with 666 throughout history, and though those thus associated may have been antichristian, they were evidently not Antichrist.
The tale of Antichrist’s antecedents, according to such supposed insiders, is a conspiracy of astonishing detail. It spans centuries of dark plotting and generations of careful planning. One begins to feel clammy just reading the complex intrigues.
If these suppositions are true, one might ask why generations and centuries of conspiratorial effort should be directed at putting ultimate evil into power for just a limited time. For the Bible offers many assurances that Antichrist will have a “short” reign of only seven years, and thereafter be defeated.
The most meaningful explanation is that world domination is only a means to an end. The ultimate goal is the subjugation of human souls, which would remain thereafter in Satan’s power and control. Frankly, this is a threat that should be taken seriously.
One might claim: “I believe in Jesus Christ (or Allah, or Buddha or whatever), therefore I will be impervious to Antichrist’s influence if and when he appears.” Unfortunately, conceptual belief is no defense against evil – either in the committing or receiving of it. Human history has demonstrated this fact beyond all doubt. Whatsoever the mind conjectures it can quickly un-conjecture, especially when experiencing pain or any stimulus above its comfort level.
In addition, there are varying concepts about what is morally “right” or eternally “true.” This in itself undermines the argument that belief provides either a refuge from demonic deception or a valid claim for preferential treatment from God.
Conceptual belief is a mental activity – it consists of thought forms residing in the mind. And “mind” is characterized mystically as being of the AIR element.
There is a popular notion that Satan resides underground, but the Bible plainly indicates that air is his actual realm: “In time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience” (Eph 2:2).
For further substantiation of this, consider that the conclusive battle between Christ and Antichrist is to occur in AIR - the field of mentality: “And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon. And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is done” (Rev. 16:16-17).
This airy realm is called a “heaven” and Satan’s power therein will be diminished or obliterated after Christ’s victory: “And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken” (Mark 13:25). After this Satan will be cast out: “And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven” (Luke 10:18).
However, before the satanic defeat there is prophesied to be a worldwide falling away from truth. "Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition" (2 Th 2:3). The victims of the "Son of Perdition" will be anyone whose identity or sense of self comes from the air of their own mind – in other words practically everyone.
Protection cannot come from any conceptual thought or belief, for this occurs in the mental realm. The only possible escape will be through wholesale reformation of the consciousness in which one dies to the personal “self” that is vulnerable to fearful threats and coercion. St. Paul says to “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Php 2:5). This mind that “was also in Christ Jesus” cannot simply be a modification of one’s former mentality or addition to the existing belief structure, but something radically different.
St. Gregory Palamas calls it a transformation into being authentically human - by becoming consciously divine. It is an awareness that is knowingly unified with God, a partaker of the supernatural life here and now on this earth. To a person with this awareness, Antichrist is irrelevant.
Monday, December 22, 2008
Part of waking up is remembering where we lost things long ago – and finding them again.
My daily routine starts with sitting in my favorite place - an old fashioned, squeaky rocking chair. It had belonged to my beloved grandmother. She died sitting there comfortably - one leg dangling over the rocker arm and a cup of coffee nearby.
So I sit in this chair with a book on my lap and breathe deeply. It doesn’t take long before something begins to happen.
This morning there is a strange achy feeling in the arms and I suddenly hear my father yelling, “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about!”
Oh my God, a long lost memory surfacing from the recesses of my poor body - that has striven to shield me all these years! I could even hear the tone and timbre of my father’s voice all over again, the angry arrogance of his impatient demand on that little boy.
I re-experienced the cringing as tears were stuffed down inside, the fear and uncertainty produced by finding oneself in an alien universe where natural feelings weren’t permitted.
And a wave of grateful sympathy washed over me for the humble flesh and bones which have obediently received the anguish of my life on this earth and hidden it from awareness . . . until now.
I don’t blame my father – he was obviously in pain as well. The same cruel words had no doubt been spoken to him. There is nothing like a child’s unhappiness for triggering that which is still hurting within us.
And so, these many years later, tears flowed freely that ought to have flowed then. And the body sighed with relief and release.
But all this made me wonder – did Jesus cry as a child? In all the vast religious art concerned with Christ’s nativity, is there even one depiction of the baby weeping?
If not, it may be a reflection of the illogical and insensitive presumption that, being divine, Jesus had no need for anything and therefore should never cry.
Personally I would like to believe this thesis false, and that the infant would have behaved very much like you or I in that regard - though certainly not because of parental neglect or meanness.
After all, the most poignant, and shortest, verse in the Bible is this: “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).
Sunday, December 21, 2008
The End of Fear
Fear rolls in during the dead of night.
Fear of what? Of death? No, that we will have to endure an existence of pain.
When fear arises conceptualization can do nothing about it. We descend into the pit again, the heart freezing and the mind freaking.
Fear suggests we might "get hurt." But we HAVE been hurt, over and over, and mostly by ourselves. Nobody else could inflict so much damage because nobody else has the key to our secret sense of unworthiness.
Of what are we supposedly unworthy? What is this ultimate hurt that myths hint at - the wound that cannot be healed? It is the primal heartbreak . . . the loss of unconditional love.
This loss can only mean we are not worthy of being loved. Unable to bear such pain, self awareness withdraws into an ego that conceptualizes everything and feels nothing.
From this hell no redemption seems possible. Therefore fear is an ever present companion.
Until finally . . . Christmas comes.
The birth of Christ occurs in a cave. Not just any cave, but one used as a stable for animals. Holiness is born in the presence of “dumb beasts” that are patient and accepting, present and unassuming. The child’s bed is a manger, the wooden structure in which the animals feed. Divinity finds rest and peace among simple creatures.
This is not merely a historical tale to celebrate with food and decorations, but a truth for souls to experience. The body is one with those dumb beasts, patient and unassuming. It offers its flesh as stable and manger for the holy one’s birth. In cavernous dark warmth, humbly receptive to God’s infinite love, the body will wait upon the Christ child. It will worship not by display or pretense but through the genuine act of loving attention.
Christ born within changes the ancient dynamic of primal heartbreak. We were born into a conditional world and felt the loss of unconditional love - loss that has been carried and suffered throughout the years. But now unconditional love is born into us.
This is our rebirth into the beginning of authentic humanity – being “born again.” The primal pain finds at last a refuge of healing, a point of balance and integration.
This inner event is both reflected and hidden during Christmas. Beneath the season’s glitzy glitter a sacred mystery lies unseen by the world. God comes in humility – as usual – and one must go the distance, follow the star, take off the “kingly” robes in order to meekly enter the cave in which divinity awaits.
Bringing our poor gifts we receive in return the unspeakable gift . . . the birth of Life Eternal.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Bridge People and Balloon People
They departed without fanfare or notice, pulling up stakes and leaving where they had thought they belonged. Sometimes the place they left was a physical location, sometimes it was an emotional quandary or a mental condition. Quietly, in the dead of night, they were gone.
They left without a plan, with no intended destination, feeling stupid and uncertain, convinced they were ignorant and wrong, unsure of an outcome. Yet somehow they moved with uncanny precision, guided instinctively, subconsciously and surely. Until they found themselves at last on a bridge.
Bridges everywhere filled with these wanderers, who sensed that this was their new home, at least for the present. They were transitional beings . . . the bridge people.
Being on the bridge wasn't easy. It required a focus of attention and intention that hadn't been possible before. What really occurred in this experience wasn't exactly clear, but something changed within. It generally hurt a lot and there were tears - until finally something just “let go.”
Their hands would start to relax after years of clenching. The strings which had been held so long would slip through the fingers. And the balloons hovering above would slide out of reach and float up into the sky.
Someone watching from the shore would have been astonished at the great flights of colored spheres being released from the bridges as one by one the balloons drifted away.
But no one was watching from the shore because the people there were always only looking at one thing: their own balloons. With gaze turned upward, they constantly admired and defended what they thought themselves to be - those airy things bouncing on strings just above their heads.
On the shore entire “lives” were lived through and for the balloons, and the worst possible scenario was the thought that any of those fragile things could pop. But where they really were and who they really were - none of this was known to . . . the balloon people.
There were many superficial differences between the bridge people and the balloon people, of course. They were labeled according to sex, country of origin, belief, culture, age, etc. But ultimately they were either:
In the world but not of it
Of the world but not in it
Friday, December 19, 2008
Walking along a darkened, snowy street at night, I saw a house with an upper window lit. Sitting upon the sill was a silver Christmas ornament, gleaming with the reflection of a few small, twinkling lights.
Chilly snowflakes fell down the back of my neck - but I felt warmed with a sense of Christmas cheer. The room within, of which nothing was visible, seemed inviting beyond measure.
The person living there could not know the immensity of the gift that came to a stranger through their simple statement of faith.
In the world at large Christ now seems so far away. The newscast is a constant drum beat of mankind’s ills, which continue to grow relentlessly. New records of fright and fear are set on a daily basis:
December layoffs exceed one hundred thousand; in November half a million jobs were lost. The current recession is the worst since World War II. U.S. homes have lost $2 trillion in value during 2008 and no bottom is in sight. Some 11.7 million Americans now owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth. The International Council of Shopping Centers forecasts that 148,000 retail establishments will go out of business and 6,100 chain stores will close this year. The Federal Reserve has cut its key interest rate to an unprecedented level of between zero and 0.25 percent. In November consumer prices fell by 1.7%, the greatest amount since the Department of Labor began publishing in 1947. American household net worth also dropped by the largest amount on record based on data going back to 1951.
In this atmosphere of global economic stress and uncertainty, holiday cheer seems hard to come by. But then, it is always difficult to honor Christ and allow him to come into this world.
The traditional Christmas pageant plays out in Churches year after year: Joseph knocks at the door of the “Bethlehem Inn” and is told there is no room. But this ancient story unfolds within our own hearts as well.
What Christ is and represents is something the mind of man can neither comprehend nor accept.
The unwelcome divine child born in the presence of dumb beasts will later be charged as an unwelcome savior and killed as a criminal. This also we must find room for in our hearts.
For in that death Christ descends into hell and rescues Adam and Eve. My Adam and Eve . . . and your Adam and Eve.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
I started this blog with the idea that I would try to recap the latest 2012 buzz appearing on the Net. But soon realized I couldn’t do a very complete job of that given my other responsibilities in life.
Then I thought the blog would just be a record of my perceptions and reflections as the world moves closer to the end of the Mayan Calendar. That made sense, after all – maybe my perceptions and reflections aren’t all that original or profound, but this is just a dairy of an ordinary life. Kind of like “Living in Aberdeen” except probably quite a bit more stressed out.
The problem with this is that I am actually a very private and reclusive person who seems to be in a near perpetual state of inner turmoil. Therefore writing each blog entry is something like a minor miracle, and I have almost given up trying to do it numerous times.
But then I tell myself - well, this is your experience. If you don’t chronicle it, no one else is going to. And who knows, maybe sometime later the whole progression will make a lot more sense.
So this morning an idea came about a continuation of the man on the bridge tale. I saw that all the people had big clumps of balloons which represented who they thought they were - their life stories bobbing above them on strings. And when two people would meet on the street they wouldn’t speak directly to each other.
The first guy would look up at his balloons and yell something like, “How are you today?” One of his balloons would sort of move around with that message.
And then one of the balloons in the other guy’s bunch would move in response to this question. And that other guy would also not be looking at the actual person in front of him but up at his own balloons. And he would yell back at them, “Oh not so good. I’ve got diabetes and my wife ran off with another man plus I just got laid off from work.”
And with each of these statements a different balloon would start bobbing around, which would make a succession of balloons respond in the first man’s group and so forth. And that’s how they communicated – or didn’t communicate.
But I didn’t get far enough along with the idea to make it into a complete story. Some days are just like that.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Be Good and Believe
When I was young Christmas was a magical time of hope and wonder. The gifts were exciting of course, but they weren’t the whole show. What was more important was the sense of heaven being close, of Santa Claus descending from the ethers and bestowing his literal presence upon this earth. Even then I grasped that he was a real and eternal being.
Santa Claus is a Dutch or German derivative for “St. Nicholas,” a saint who lived in the fifth century. He was what the Christian world calls a wonderworker – someone capable of miracles in his own lifetime and even thereafter. His tomb in Bari Italy has been producing copious amounts of “Holy Myro” ever since he was laid to rest seventeen centuries ago. This sweet smelling fluid (thus the name, holy myrrh), which has brought healing to untold numbers of people, was analyzed by scientists at the University of Bari and confirmed to originate from the saint’s relics.
In spite of such evidence of the reality of sanctity, the world steals our faith in eternity. What is "Christmas" now for most people – adults and children alike - but a time of trouble and perplexity. We feel required to buy things no one really needs and do things no one really wants to do, because the celebration is all about THIS WORLD.
A good example of this is the ad that appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post and the DC Metro showing a shrugging Santa (as though Santa could be black and female) with the words, “Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness sake.”
The problem is that if there really IS nothing but this material world, then there really is no reason to be good, or even to endure life at all with its many difficulties.
Unfortunately, the typical reaction to such a message is not that it is a flawed and incomplete conception of the cosmos, but rather an assault on someone’s personal faith – that faith also being essentially materialistic. For instance, Patti Maquire Armstrong, author of Catholic Truths for our Children, wrote in response to these ads that her faith “is about our Daddy in the Sky loving us and waiting for us to be with Him in Heaven one day.”
God lives in the sky? The Scriptures are at pains to convey God as eternal, omniscient, spirit and love. But the contemporary definition of God as a physical entity residing somewhere in the material universe is common among people of many denominations.
Tim LaHaye, author of the popular “Left Behind” series of books and movies, says in Revelation Unveiled that “Somewhere, high in the heavens, out in the universe, a throne is set, which is the throne of God . . . Although the heavens are filled with stars wherever the telescope can reach, it seems that behind the North Star there is an empty space. For that reason it has been suggested that this could be the third heaven, the heaven of God, where His throne is.”
Children prefer to believe that God lives not far away in some remote corner of the cosmos, but here now – that he is invisibly present as a spiritual reality. His world is populated by saints such as St. Nicholas as well as angels and beings of great beauty and power whose presences can be felt and experienced.
Children also believe this other world can be reached not after death (if we’ve been “good”), but whenever we are able to find the way back to authentic childlike faith.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Belonging to Love
It grew cold and snow began to fall. The man felt chilled to the bone, or rather chilled to the heart. For it seemed he had no living organ there, at least none that did what he thought it should do.
Wasn’t love supposed to come from the heart? He recalled those for whom he had declared love in times past. Where were those feelings that had seemed so strong and overwhelming at the time? Could something so transient really be called love?
If love was desire, then for him it had run its course long ago. He desired nothing more from this world.
Love that merely entices and excites, love that seeks or must be sought, love that is fervent and binding, love that is jealous, makes labels and gives rights of possession, love that can justify blame and guilt – this was the love he knew . . . and hated.
“Better to be alone forever,” he thought, shivering among the snowflakes.
He considered true love to be as distant from him as the dark masses of swirling clouds overhead, as far as the mountaintops on the horizon, even unto the very stars glinting down from galaxies light years away.
True love was an essence so subtle that it eluded all attempts at capture and could only be perceived through absolute surrender, even death.
At the same time he believed this love to be so enormously strong and powerful that the foundations of the universe and all life rested upon it without strain or effort.
Raising his arms, he gazed past the clouds to the constellations above, swirling in galactic delight throughout the eons – silent witnesses to the etheric immensity of love.
“Oh to belong to this,” he sighed.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Michael Brown writes about the importance of “mirror work.” We should look at ourselves in the mirror and express praise and appreciation, even love.
So I got out a little travel mirror and took a gander. But instantly it had to go down again – I wasn’t prepared to see, let alone say anything affectionate about, THAT image!
Never mind the bed head and chin stubble – those things weren’t a problem.
It was the eyes. Fear, grief, anguish – and who knows what other murky stuff – were all lurking there. The sight of this was shocking and unbearable.
After a moment I considered that the image was, after all, me. It was the “me” that lives and breathes in this world and is desperate to find the truth. That is why the fear, grief and anguish show so clearly – they are right on the surface of this present experience.
And so here I was just going to abandon the poor suffering creature yet one more time. I was going to pretend ignorance, like children who cover their eyes thinking that because they can’t see you, you can’t see them.
Sighing, I picked up the mirror again. With effort, I stared at the caricature that stared back and pondered whether there was any way to express affection for this disturbing image.
But that was beyond my ability. Words like “you are wonderful and I love you” were simply impossible.
On the other hand, it WAS possible to speak to the reflection in compassion.
“I can see you are struggling,” I began. “And I’m really sorry things are so hard for you right now.”
A little miracle must have occurred at that point because I DID feel sorry. My heart warmed to the soul who wants to be whole and is willing to go through hell to find its rest and peace.
“I just want you to know,” I continued to the mirror, “that I won’t forsake you. We’re going to get through this, and I will be with you all the way. I believe you can do it.”
Then there were a few tears, and the unexpected realization that . . .
I really did love that person after all.
Friday, December 12, 2008
The outlook is bright
• Drought will become more prevalent globally.
• At least 36 U.S. states expect to face water shortages within five years.
• Water conditions worldwide are predicted to become worse.
• By the 2020’s up to 250 million people in Africa may lose access to clean water.
• Twenty to thirty percent of the world’s plant and animal species are on the brink of extinction.
• There has been a four-fold increase in the number of forest fires.
• There has been a six-fold expansion of acres burned in the United States by fire.
• Insect infestations have killed millions of acres of forests in North America.
• Flooding by rising sea levels may put hundreds of millions of people at risk.
• Melting arctic ice could release enough methane to create a runaway greenhouse effect.
• Financially, during 2008 global stock markets have lost half their value.
• Every major asset class – stocks, real estate, commodities, even high-yield bonds – has suffered double digit percentage losses.
• Over $30 trillion of paper wealth has been destroyed worldwide.
• Net worth of Americans declined by $2.8 trillion, or 4.7%, in the third quarter of 2008.
It would be easy to list more points - unemployment, foreclosures, etc. In short, the world is in pain.
Specialists talk in terms of economic cycles – of how long this recession will last and the fear that it may become a depression.
Psychically, it is already a depression. The world is a depressing place. Either people are suffering in the most tangible ways, or they are using the buffer of wealth and privilege to sedate themselves away from reality.
And reality is becoming increasingly evident. Coming into stark relief is a human culture not only self-destructive, but so insane as to make its own environment unlivable. Humanity is like a sick person who vomits and defecates in his bed.
But the outlook is bright. When pain becomes unbearable, there is more motivation to change.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
The Man Machine
A current showing on the History Channel expects mankind to become more and more machine like in the future. According to the program’s analysis, this starts by integrating machines as synthesized body parts, a process already underway in the real world with pacemakers and joint replacement, and made palatable in the popular mind by such movies as “The Bionic Man” and “Robocop.”
It is supposed that the body could eventually be replaced so completely by metal and plastic parts that there would be a blurring of the demarcation between man and machine. The only organ remaining might be the brain, which science conceives to be the sole source of human personhood. Eventually even this could be replaced by computers capable of “thinking” a million times faster than a man. Ordinary people might find themselves put into zoos to be observed as archaic curiosities by the robotic creatures they had invented.
This speculative theme is very common. But while formerly it remained a fanciful conjecture in the realm of science fiction, now it is going main stream. A recent remake of H. G. Wells classic tale “Time Machine” depicts a future in which humanity has evolved into two types: brute beasts that must be controlled, and huge brains that control them. The idea that a supersized thinking mentality is both destiny and “salvation” to the human race is reinforced continuously in movies such as “Star Trek” and “Minority Report.”
To the ego that conceives of itself as the imperfect god, there is no other logical path but to become a larger version of its own computational, unfeeling self. It has no awareness, let alone understanding, of the multidimensional aspect of existence. It does not know that the body is no mere machine that can be replaced indifferently by synthetics.
The ego relishes the idea of a metallic, post-organic future where nothing can decay or die because it senses its own impermanence and mortality. But the mind of man has already made a hell of this earth. Enabling it to think a million times faster would do – what?
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
The Bridge Clown
There was on the bridge a clown with balloons that bumped and bobbed upon strings from his white-gloved hand.
Seeing this, the man approached. “I should like one of your balloons,” he said.
“Have you not enough already?” asked the clown, pointing into the air.
Glancing up, the man discovered scores of balloons overhead, their strings converging into his firmly gripped hand.
“Where did those come from” he asked in surprise.
The clown laughed good-naturedly. “Look closer,” he said. The man squinted until he saw, filmy and indistinct within each balloon, a scene from his own experience.
“They are your life,” said the clown. “All that’s happened – whatever went right, whatever went wrong, the things you can’t remember, the things you can’t forget . . . those balloons are you.”
The man gazed at the colored spheres hovering in the sky, peering intently into the remembrances portrayed there. Sometimes what he saw made him smile, but mostly tears gathered in his sad eyes.
“Now,” whispered the clown, as though confiding a great mystery, “If you would leave off being aged and become a child again, let them go.”
At this the man quavered. The thought of releasing the balloons of his life was terrifying.
“If I do, what shall be left to me?” he asked fearfully.
“Only that which the wind cannot blow away,” answered the clown.
The man considered. After a moment he selected a small, limp balloon that had lost much of its air. The scene therein was so indistinct as to be nearly invisible. “Maybe I won’t miss this one much,” he reflected, and let the string go.
At first he felt dreadful anxiety watching the balloon he had held so long drift higher and higher until lost from sight. But once it was gone his heart was lighter.
The clown nodded sagely at him. “Now you know what few come to know,” he said.
Then a strong breeze arose, buffeting the many balloons and tugging at the man’s arm. His fist felt tired and sore from clenching the strings tightly. How long had he been doing this? For always, it seemed.
And recalling what the clown had said, he sighed . . . and loosened his grip.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Ships Beneath the Bridge
Many ships passed beneath the bridge, gleaming with mysterious cargoes in the night. Always moving, moving, moving. Ever going someplace else.
The bridge let vessels pass beneath without hindrance. But the treasures floating below were inviting, and sometimes one of the bridge people leapt down onto them and sailed away.
One night as he watched such a ship, the man heard a voice coming from the far shore. He looked up and saw his father.
“Where are you my son?” his father called.
“I am here, father – upon the great bridge,” the man replied.
“What do you seek there?” asked his father.
“I seek . . .” But the man knew not how to answer. Then he heard another voice coming from the near shore. Turning, he saw his mother.
“Son,” she called to him from the distance, “Why have you thus dealt with us? Behold, your father and I have sought you sorrowing.”
A great love filled him for these people so dear. And he said, “How is it that you sought me? Knew you not that I must be about my father’s business?”
But they understood not the saying he spoke to them.
Monday, December 8, 2008
The View from the Bridge
From the bridge he had a clear view of the sky, and it seemed God was breathing there. The fulminating clouds were like the lungs of life, livid with oxygen and the spirit of being - flaming in the heavens and bringing warmth to earth and water.
He breathed deeply in response and the spirit flowed into him, shooting fire into his depths and igniting the anguish that clung to his secret shadows. It burned and seared, yet he rejoiced in the pain and wept tears of gratitude.
Looking within, he saw his heart at last. Illumined by the flames, it was a darkened bitter fruit seemingly decayed beyond hope. His tears flowed in earnest as he took the first bite and swallowed.
And remembered the words of Stephen Crane . . .
In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said, "Is it good, friend?"
"It is bitter -- bitter," he answered;
"But I like it
Because it is bitter,
And because it is my heart."
Sunday, December 7, 2008
His home was a bridge. Not the kind of bridge that links land on both sides so predictably that a person might not even notice the crossing. But the kind that can suddenly disconnect - part of it going high into the air and isolating one shore from another.
That part – suspended away from everything . . . is where he lived.
How did he wind up in such a precarious place? People liked to say, generally with derision in their voices, it was from choices he had made. They had counseled him to choose otherwise and when he didn’t, they were hurt or angry.
They were partly right – he had taken every feeble and faltering step voluntarily. But at the same time he didn’t know for sure how it had happened.
He would lie awake at night on the hard steel wondering why he was there. The water lapping below would remind him that he had no home, and he would weep.
But sometimes when the moon was full with pregnant beauty, an impression of unseen grace drifted down. He perceived his isolation to be a strange blessing, for the rift in comfortable connections exposed the ancient pain lurking in his heart.
He had always sought the solace of others as distraction from the subtle agony within his own breast. On the bridge he had nothing to turn to but himself. However hard a task, this must be done.
But what of the near shore and the far shore? Yes, someday the bridge might allow passage again. Yet he had begun to understand that peace must first be made with uncertainty and loneliness, and belonging nowhere, and to no one.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Once upon a time, there was a person who sensed that his life was out of balance. He needed something, but couldn’t get to it. And he thought that if his worldly circumstances could be ordered in a good way, then balance and stability would surely come.
So he married, had children, developed a strong professional career, and became wholeheartedly active in his chosen religion. He was respected, and for a long time he thought, “I’ve made it.”
But his inner life was still disordered, an unconscious realm of unresolved energies. Usually he was able to ignore these, but sometimes they pushed up into his everyday life in disruptive ways. Gradually the discontinuity grew stronger between the outer representation of who he was and the inner reality.
Finally very difficult things began to happen. After years of apparent success in the world, he was laid off from his job. He discovered he did not believe as before concerning God and the universe. His relationships with people – including marital ones – stressed and began to change.
Concepts about how life “ought to be” were not enough anymore. He could no longer pretend that things were OK as they had been. Not only that, the immensity of his outward confusion and discord was beyond his ability to think through and mentally figure out.
He at last discovered that the only relief came through accepting without resistance his experience of pain. And with that surrender came the first dawning awareness of . . . inner balance.
This tale is surely generic. Many could relate to it without changing the details much. If it has a "moral" perhaps that could be stated as:
Inner discord that isn’t faced eventually manifests as outer discord that cannot be ignored.
Attempting to relieve pain by manipulating outer circumstances is an unconsciousness behavior that permits inner imbalance to remain unhealed.
There is some risk in extrapolating from microcosm to macrocosm, but let us consider this from a global perspective. The latest news is that more jobs were lost in November than in the past 34 years, bringing this year’s total job loss to 1.9 million. That is a lot of people out of work, with more to come.
Also, unemployment is driving the foreclosure crisis to record levels – presently at 1.35 million. One in ten borrowers in America are either delinquent or in foreclosure.
The government is striving mightily to figure out what to do about this unprecedented crisis. It is struggling with how to stop the acute pain that no one wants to feel, how to restore stability and complacency. Will this effort succeed? Perhaps not in the way that is expected.
It could be the message of these times is that regaining true balance comes from engaging the inner person, whether that be an individual or a nation.
The pain is there for a reason – to make the discontinuities inescapably evident, beyond ignoring. Accepting this is difficult, but perhaps it can lead to actual transformation, both individually and collectively.
Friday, December 5, 2008
Wealth in 2012
What will be the meaning of wealth in the year 2012 when the Mayan calendar draws to a close?
As the global economic crisis has spread there have been extreme drops in stock markets worldwide, accompanied by hand ringing about the incredible amount of “wealth” that is being destroyed.
But what really changes from one day to the next other than numbers representing share prices? The businesses have not been destroyed. Their buildings, people and products remain intact. The big change is in how people feel about those businesses.
What is wealth after all? We might say it is the ability to get or have what one chooses. But why is this important? Perhaps because purchasing power gives a person a sense of control over their feelings.
Buying a new car may make us feel better about the person we imagine ourselves to be. Driving it someplace may fill us with sensations of pleasure. This is probably true for most objects in our life. We want things not for what they are but for how they make us feel.
If external circumstances determine impressions about prosperity, then a rich person is one who can change outward situations drastically enough to affect their feelings. A poor person is one who can’t.
This kind of prosperity, wealth from the outside in, is obviously limiting. Since most of humanity totally believes in it, there are rich as well as poor people.
It is also unfair since the material world is by definition finite. Every war is ultimately an effort to steal somebody else’s stuff. Peace movements, with their mantra of “stop war now,” are futile so long as wealth is experienced in terms of externals.
If a global shift in consciousness is indeed occurring, one aspect of it could be a radically different sense of prosperity. The current economic crisis may not actually be destroying wealth, but rather the concept of wealth as something that comes from outside the person.
When people are able to generate the feelings they want from inside, then outer circumstances will not have to be altered. External objects will not be required in order for a person to feel happy.
There is an ancient story about people who live through the last days of this age. It is said they will walk down roads upon which gold is strewn everywhere, but will not bother to stoop and pick it up.
This is not an image of insanity, but rather just the opposite. It is a depiction of those who have found the true wealth - that which comes from within.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
The Magic of Words
I feel distrustful of words. They are dangerous things. They can either obscure or clarify entire fields of consciousness.
In this moment I am feeling something, a trembling within, some combination of release and bondage, maybe even a small inspiration. It leads me to reach out to someone, to seek a connection, some faint contact across the prism of life. And so the words come.
But after a moment I see those words not as a bridge but as a fence. A huge fence like a screen, upon which my feelings have stuck and become amalgamated into a picture that no longer seems alive.
An ominous dread settles into my soul, the darkness of a solitary criminal carving his initials on the cell wall – markings that will never be seen except by the uncaring eyes of the dungeon master.
How often do I look to that screen to see what is written on it? And whatsoever is there I believe is the totality of me.
No, I do not trust those words any more. They have made a story that would break the hardest heart, as it has surely broken mine.
Yet they capture me over and over with their magic, with their spell of seeming. I look and believe, and then the heart falters. And I plead, oh God, please make that story end. Make the words stop telling that story because it is beyond my strength to bear.
But there is no other story.
Finally I turn the calendar page and read today’s message: “Every concept grasped by the mind becomes an obstacle in the quest to those who search.”
Surprising insight from the Christian tradition, this counsel of Gregory of Nyssa seems aimed exactly at my struggle with the power of the mind and its conceptual words.
But it possible to have no concept of oneself? To forget personality, to abdicate and abandon the sad and pathetic story of “me”?
An odd question coming from someone who says, “I am Nesia.”
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
It is interesting to cruise the electronic noosphere (aka the World Wide Web) and see what people are thinking about the Mayan Calendar ending in 2012. There is a large contingent of doomsayers, some of whom claim expert knowledge of cataclysmic events expected to occur. They speak of immense solar flares neutralizing earth’s protective shield, the magnetic poles reversing, huge meteors plummeting and even large segments of the crust slip-sliding around while the oceans inundate every continent.
Needless to say, not many people would survive such devastating scenarios. One author’s recommendation? Get a boat and lots of survival gear. He admits life on earth would be hell for a long time after, but the upside is that the few who made would get to start a new society - and maybe they would make a better job of it than what we have seen in the past.
Scriptural references to the last days are every bit as brutal, though not couched in modern scientific jargon. St. Peter says “the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10) and the Book of Revelation seems to gloat over the vast numbers of dead bodies to be strewn around the planet. These casualties will be brought about by a succession of plagues, natural catastrophes and human conflict.
Biblical prophecy may sound far-fetched, but it should not be discounted. Once Jesus’ disciples were expressing admiration for the immense Jewish Temple of their time and he replied, “As for these things which ye behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down” (Luke 21:6).
This must have been hard for the disciples to imagine, since that structure had taken forty-six years to build and was huge. But only seventy years later Emperor Titus fulfilled the prophecy exactly. The temple was burned to the ground and today not one stone of it is standing upon another.
A blue-ribbon panel assembled by Congress has just concluded that terrorists are likely to use a biological weapon of mass destruction somewhere in the world by 2013, and that the effects of this would be way beyond 9/11. This possibility fits both the Mayan calendar time-frame and Scriptural indications.
What’s more, the official word is that the U.S. is presently in recession, and the world at large in deep financial straits. The pleading of auto executives now willing to work for one dollar instead of twenty million sounds like the shock portrayed over fallen Babylon – a “city” which could well symbolize today’s global materialistic culture: “And they cried when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, what city is like unto this great city? And they cast dust on their heads, and cried, weeping and wailing, saying, Alas, alas, that great city, in which all were made rich . . .” (Rev. 18: 19).
Nevertheless, to focus attention on descriptions of death, deprivation and destruction is to miss the salient point of end times considerations: namely that if such calamities do occur it is to bring closure to things that are not going to continue in the new age of the new world. And that any people who die are most likely the ones who aren’t willing or prepared to live in the new age of the new world.
One of the biggest messages of the Bible is to be alert and prepared, after all. “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come” (Matthew 24:42). And the appropriate survival gear for the experience of this “return” is not to be found in boats or bullets, but rather within a humbled and broken heart.
So whenever the doomsayers begin to sound too convincing, let us remember that, “Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And great earthquakes shall be in different places, and famines, and pestilences, and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven. But there shall not a hair of your head perish” (Luke 21:10-18).
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
But this morning I want to acknowledge Michael Brown. The story of how he learned the Presence Process has been an inspiration to me. He had a very painful illness and discovered that the discomfort abated as he became more present in the Now.
My condition is not physical, but rather emotional – at least that is how it feels. And frankly, I regard myself as a sick person whose ailment manifests in an outwardly turbulent life.
Michael says that he experienced “daily bouts of indescribable agony.” Maybe we all get the type and intensity of suffering that is needed to help us change – I don’t know, and don’t want to philosophize about something so difficult.
But the point in even attempting this blog was to say that I believe and hope that healing is possible – not just for Michael, but for the many others of us that also suffer daily bouts of indescribable agony.
Maybe we call it Presence or the Now, maybe we call it Jesus Christ, maybe we don’t even have a name – just a feeling inside of longing for an ancient all-embracing Love.
Whatever it is, may we find it - and may it find us.
Monday, December 1, 2008
The Galactic Underworld
As stated in a previous entry, we are currently in Day Six of the Galactic Underworld according to Carl Johan Calleman. The Galactic Underworld is supposed to last from January 5, 1999 to October 28, 2011, and be thematically described as: “The evolution of galactic consciousness,” characterized by transcendence of the material framework of life, telepathy, living on light and genetic technology.
The ninth "Universal" Underworld is yet to come. It is the last and the shortest, lasting only 260 days - starting February 2011 and ending (as do all the underworlds) on October 28, 2011 (per Calleman). The Galactic Underworld is intended to prepare and unify people for the Universal Underworld, which should bring about an enlightened state for all mankind: “The evolution of cosmic consciousness – no limiting thoughts, timelessness, no organizing boundaries.”
“Prepare and unify”? Hmm. For me a more accurate description of the sensation would be: “Cut into tiny pieces, beat with a meat cleaver and subject to intense heat until thoroughly burned.” But maybe that is how “preparation” feels to certain people.
Though a firm believer in the proposition that “with God all things are possible” Matthew 19:6), I have noticed that even things that are predicted and prophesied can appear in unexpected ways. Therefore I don’t have the comfortable conviction that God will effortlessly bestow cosmic consciousness on the world at large within a few short years.
It is certainly true that fault lines can appear in history and bring sudden developments that seem like miraculous non-sequiturs to what was before. But somehow these are generally things that no one – or almost no one – had been thinking about - whereas "enlightenment" or whatever you want to call it has been in the background of human aspiration for as long as anyone can remember.
Given what’s going on in the world right now, terrible killings in Mumbai, people being trampled to death by frantic Walmart Christmas shoppers, Detroit automakers on the verge of bankruptcy, worldwide economic collapse with millions unemployed, etc., it is hard to visualize the kingdom of heaven suddenly appearing on earth or the New Jerusalem descending from the sky.
Such things may very well occur – but will they happen “on schedule” and according to preconceived notions? Sure, the Mayan calendar ends in 2011 or 2012 (depending on who you ask), marking an extraordinary conclusion to a vast span of planetary time-keeping. But it is also quite possible that nothing will seem different the following day – at least outwardly.
As usual, I think the transformative work has to be done within each person, and if it doesn’t happen there, it just doesn’t happen. So, if angels DO appear, they may well end up tapping their toes while waiting for lots of people to get with the program.