The truth is that I never shook my shadow
Every day it’s trying to trick me into doing battle
Calling out ‘faker’ only get me rattled
Wanna pull me back behind the fence with the cattle
I copied this from a daily email I get from Richard Rohr. If you like this, I’d suggest subscribing here: https://cac.org/about-cac/newsletters (on the right sidebar)
It is not about becoming spiritual beings nearly as much as about becoming human beings. The Biblical revelation is clearly saying that we are already spiritual beings; we just don’t know it yet. The Bible tries to let you in on the secret, by revealing God in ordinary time and place. That’s why so much of the text seems so mundane, practical, specific, and frankly, unspiritual! Maybe that is why Catholics never read it very much! It was not usually inspiring, but filled with prostitutes, adulteries, murders, polygamy, gang rape, and frankly just a lot of contradictions. Just like everything else. Just like life. Just like me.
We have created a sad kind of dualism between the spiritual and the so-called non-spiritual. We just couldn’t see God’s new unity or dare to believe it until God put them together in one human body called Jesus (see Ephesians 2:11-20). As many have said much better than I, we are not human beings trying desperately to become spiritual, we are already and essentially spiritual beings—and our problem has always been “What does it mean to be a human being?” I suspect that is why God had to model the answer in at least one human being called Jesus.
Today is my birthday. It’s not a special one by any stretch, but this has been a special year. I think by using the word “special,” I’m being overly generous. In reality, this has been a year of suffering, and not just mental suffering, but suffering in my closest relationship, suffering in my career, but most of all, suffering in my perception of myself.
I think birthdays are a time when we look back at the past year and always ask, “Could you have seen all that coming?” Of course the answer is no- we can never see what is around the bend, and it seems the bigger the bend, the less we see it coming. This is both comforting and concerning. I’d never want to know what is next, but if I didn’t see all of the suffering of the past year, what could be coming down the pike for the coming year?
I digress. The point of this post is to reflect on some big lessons I’ve learned, and hopefully in some small way, lessen the suffering of someone who may be dealing with the same issues. Onwards:
Life starts with the mortification of the Ego- I’ve never realized how egotistical I am. Everything I do, even the things I do out of kindness, I do for my own gain. I have a need to feel like I am special in the world, so I do things to try and convince myself and everyone around me that I am special, things like start companies, attempting (feebly) to write books and generally act the part of someone more wise and put together than I really am. And all this because I want people to look at me and think I am a more special cookie then they are. I can’t stand the idea of blending in with the crowd and dying as a normal person.Now, there is nothing wrong with being special, and certainly nothing wrong with the things I do to be special. The problem is when I do those things to feed my ego, and not for the sake of doing them. I do those things so that I feel better about myself, because without feeling special I’d have to look at the reality of my feelings. And up until this point, reality has been too extreme to look in the eye. To see our reality is to see our brokenness, our utter despair, and that isn’t good for the ego, so I numb myself through video games, drinking, great food, tearing down other people, fun times and just about anything else.All this winds up being a classic paradox of life: because we feel so empty we do everything possible to fill ourselves up. We put on a show, flashing our peacock feathers, and hope we can not only convince those around us, but more importantly convince ourselves that we are doing just fine. We convince ourselves that as long as no one is like us, as long as we keep making money or art, as long as we do that one thing that makes us feel better, everything will be just fine. But we’re not fine. We’re constantly clawing for something to take hold.Boiled down, our drive to feed our ego is the only real sin. And thus, the path towards redemption or salvation (to use a Christian term), is not more prayer, more church, more singing and hoopla. The goal is less of myself so that my ego fades and the divine fills in the gaps. Certainly Jesus echoes this message over and over again.
The path, thus far, has been unbelievably painful. I’ve never felt worse than the moment I realized the depth of my selfishness. I use the word realize lightly, because the English language does not have a word to echo the importance of the “realization,” but it is more than the intellectual understanding. It is the assimilation of the information into the very fiber of your soul, so that the truth of the information is part of you, and you are then forever part of the truth.
Religion Cannot Contain God- This is a big one. Once I realized organized religion has been used as a tool to feed both the individual and corporate ego, it has made the notion of one religion being “correct” seem impossible, and furthermore the landscape of Christianity look outright dangerous. Corporate Christianity is so concerned with being right that it has lost sight of the widow, the orphan and the elder.I’ve certainly touched on this issue in different essays, but it is saddening to see the Church not as a vessel for peace, but as a platform for conservative values. I have no issue with conservative values, but I do take issue with the church being reduced to a bullhorn.I’m also not saying that everything in every religion is right (what an arbitrary term for what is ultimately a mystery), but I am suggesting that God is not Christian, or Muslim or Hindu. God is everything. God is breath, God is in a Buddhist prayer, and in Christian communion. God is the grass, the leaves and the river. God is the source of all that is love, grace, peace and hope in our world. This sounds hokey, I know, but this reality is powerful, because God is not just in heaven but here on Earth. God is not only in the saved but in all people, including the sinner, and they are as special, beautiful and beloved as I am.
I am forever in debt to my wonderful wife, who has shown more of the divine this year than I could hope in a lifetime.
More to come, another year to live.
More work: http://www.claussonne.com/
Melancholy is the happiness of being sad.
Had to do another post. Loving this. Check out his site here: http://www.monohr.com/Sogar.html
“Fiction is one of the few experiences where loneliness can be both confronted and relieved. Drugs, movies where stuff blows up, loud parties — all these chase away loneliness by making me forget my name’s Dave and I live in a one-by-one box of bone no other party can penetrate or know. Fiction, poetry, music, really deep serious sex, and, in various ways, religion — these are the places (for me) where loneliness is countenanced, stared down, transfigured, treated.”
Modern life, too, is often a mechanical oppression and liquor is the only mechanical relief.” — Ernest Hemingway