I was contemplating these words from Joseph Campbell the other day: “
"Myth is what we call other people’s religion.” “Every religion is true one way or another. It is true when it is understood metaphorically. But when it gets stuck in its own metaphors, interpreting them as facts, then you run into trouble.”
So I offer a thought, which isn’t all that peculiar. One of the oldest and most powerful institutions influencing culture from time immemorial. The one that presents itself as a path to the Divine, the source of all life and meaning is the very same that creates the experience of separation based on a proprietary interpretation of a story.
At the same time how many people perpetuate this same story because their own wounds that keep them hostage to these very stories. Relationships begin and end because of these stories; people suffer alienation from their own life and body because of these stories. Wars are fought because of these stories.
So we have those who wound and those who are wounded being denied the experience of living a life in full self-expression and authentically. Or as James Joyce states in Ulysses of living within close proximity to themselves. Emerson spoke of living lives of quite desperation. What is lacking in both is curiosity.
To live authentically is to live our lives open. This requires curiosity. When we stop being curious, we become judgmental. We are vulnerable when we are judgmental, when we are certain. In one of my favorite scenes in one of the early episodes of Ted Lasso our hero finds himself in a pub with friends when one of the characters attempts to humiliate Ted by challenging him to a game of darts. Ted steps up and begins a small discourse on a quote he had learned from Walt Whitman when he was younger and harassed by some other boys. Be curious not judgmental. He brings this home when he says a curious person would have asked him if he every played darts. He would have replied yes, every Sunday with his dad. He then proceeds to turn the tables. He handily wins the game.
To live authentically is to live without certainty. It is to live curiously, to be open to novelty. One of my spiritual heroes, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, Made this statement:
"There are hardly proofs for the existence of God, but there are witnesses.”
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel
These witnesses whose very presence seems to radiate an inner light filled with kindness, generosity, patience and love. A witness is a story teller. They have encountered something and how they attempt to relate to it is through art, music, metaphor and silence. How could God be contained within an event?
Lets consider this for a moment. Have you ever encountered a witness? Perhaps you, yourself are a witness to something deep and transformative. Beautiful or sublime. Have you attempted to convey this experience? To tell the story?
I believe if we truly pay attention, the earth herself is telling an amazing story. Just to contemplate the starry world is to enter into a cosmic story. Let us consider these words from Howard Thurman:
“Listen to the long stillness: New life is stirring New dreams are on the wing New hopes are being readied… God is at work.”
This is the Season of Promise Howard Thurman
“God is at work.” This is our mantra for the season. Take a moment now and think of something that brings you great joy. It fills you with curiosity and hope. Now say; God is at work. And, if you are stuck on the word God, chances are you are stuck in the story you have about this word. What is your good? Use that. If love is your good then say Love is at work. If peace or prosperity is your good then use that word.
Now think of something or someone who is challenging you right now. Now say God or whatever your good may be, it is at work.
Perhaps you may begin to feel a subtle shift in the energy. In Tolkiens masterpiece; The Lord of the Rings, there is a section in which the Riders of Rohan are rushing to the aid of Gondor. To hasten their journey the are guided through the forest by these very elusive and exotic mountain folk. As they exit the secret paths and thank these people and are ready to ride on, there is this scene with their leader;
“Ghân-buri-Ghân squatted down and touched the earth with his horny brow in token of farewell. Then he got up as if to depart.
But suddenly he stood looking up like some startled woodland animal snuffling a strange air. A light came in his eyes.
‘Wind is changing!’ he cried, and with that, in a twinkling as it seemed, he and his fellows had vanished into the glooms,
never to be seen by any Rider of Rohan again.”
Excerpt From The Lord of the Rings
J. R. R. Tolkien
The wind is changing! We can feel this ever so subtly when we pay attention and are not distracted by the apparent conditions of the time. The wind is changing. I want to offer you a spiritual tool you can begin to use. Shortly before his death in 1968, Thomas Merton wrote these words:
“We can no longer rely on being supported by structures that may be destroyed at any moment…They are good and they should help us, and we should do the best we can with them. But they may be taken away, and (then) what do you do next?
Thomas Merton Dec. 10 1968
Then what do we do? This is the world in which we live. Are you spiritually prepared for this? Can we be a witness, a story teller of hope in these times even as the wind is changing? Juergen Moltmann writes this;
“But the ultimate reason for our hope is not to be found at all in what we want, wish for and wait for; the ultimate reason is that we are wanted and wished for and waited for.’
Here is the tool: say these words often; I am wanted, wished for and waited for. Say them upon rising and before going to bed. Say them when you are filled with joy and when you are afraid. Engrain them in your mind so they become the truest thing about you…because they are. This is the timeless wisdom that is known by the witnesses that Heschel speaks of. It is the essence of the great spiritual literature, The Bible, the Quran, the Bhagavad Gita and on. It is the Tao and the mystical teaching of the Druids. It is what the earth, the starry world and the cosmos are speaking.
In closing, I offer you these words from the twelfth century, Rhineland mystic, Meister Eckhart;
A Great Overflowing
If you desire to know the immeasurable sweetness of God, give up every hope of deserving it since this is beyond you; instead, concentrate on making your soul open to this gift and when you do this God cannot resist filling you to the point of a great overflowing -which, once filled, flows out to everything around you, until it returns to the source from which all comes.
Book of Secrets
God is at work.
I am wanted, wished for and waited for.
Grace and Peace,
Rev. Dr. Guy